The Legacy of White Privilege & Collective Trauma in the US

Lab Cycle Oct 2020 - July 2021 Report

Facilitators

Jennifer Krier & Adriana Mascolli Fontes

Trainees

Hannah Sadtler, Christine Gericke

LANGUAGE

English

Description

Our intention for this Lab was: 

(1) to own our participation in maintaining the status quo that perpetuates racism rather than noticing racism as an external event outside us (ie perceiving we are part of the systemic racism); 

(2) to build resources and resilience to expand our capacity to stay present and curious in the discomfort of the difficult conversations around racism, to listen without “running away” or becoming defensive when others share. 

We intended to create a safe space and deep context for participants to explore their White Identity and white body trauma. We connected with whiteness and racism from our internal/ emotional landscape and body sensations. We worked on building capacity and developing skills to hold the process. 

We gathered 9 times over the course of 8 months. We started with 25 participants in the first meeting and 22 participants stayed engaged until the closure of the lab. 

We suggested the following pre-read for participants: White Fragility – Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism, from Robin Diangelo; My Grandmothers’ Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies, from Resmaa Menakem. Reesma’s book was an inspiration and reference throughout the lab.  

We explored the following questions:

The following questions guided us in our Lab discussions:

  • What constitutes the historical background to White Identity in the US?
  • What constitutes the historical background to racism in the US?
  • How does the trauma of slavery, Native American genocide and immigration influence the construction of White Identity and the process of ‘othering’ e.g. between White and Non-White?
  • What are signs that we can notice in our culture that reflect and reinforce the consequences of these traumas?
  • How do these traumas show themselves in times of crisis (e.g. Covid-19, climate emergencies, social justice movements, global conflicts)?
  • Can we collectively create a coherent we-space and a process of witnessing that leads to an integration and eventual healing of these traumas?

Stages of our process as a group:



1. Synchronising & Resourcing
We introduced several of the Transparent Communication principles in our group (the four sync, speaking from the experience rather than about the experience, attuning to the other person while staying in contact with self). We introduced some basic references in terms of trauma language and symptoms and then developed practices for self and co-regulation, and journaling. We spent time finding and connecting to resources, such as connecting to the land, ancestors, grounded parts of the body. We created a group folder for participants to share resources.


2. Meeting the Collective Trauma Landscape
We invited participants of the lab to identify and collect events for building a Collective Timeline of White Privilege in the US. We witnessed the timeline in different formats - in the large group, in small groups, and in diads. We explored a range of ways to presence and process the trauma material/reactions including journaling/scribing, somatics and movement, viewing and responding to visual material and video, discussion in diads, triads and the large group.


3. Exploring Individual & Collective Conditioning
We had participants explore and share their “racial autobiography” as a way of revealing individual and collective conditioning around race, whiteness, and privilege. We also witnessed and explored things that were happening in real time, such as the Derek Chauvin trial, covid vaccination disparities, the Israel-Palestine violence.


4. Listening to Ancestral Roots & Voices from the Field
One aspect of the racial autobiography project was to consider what participants had learned about race, whiteness and privilege from their ancestors. We also connected with the ancestors as resources who had wisdom, compassion and support to offer to our field.


5. Integrating & Restoring
Towards the final stage of the lab we invited participants to express personal openings and learnings from the process. We also created space to reflect on the seeds that were planted individually during the lab; (how did they feel that as an impulse for movement? ) and as well to reflect on the openings we experienced in the group. We created our own ritual of integration and restoration through movement, that we practiced consciously at the end of each lab.


6. Transforming & Meta-learning
As facilitators and trainees, we needed a few extra sessions to integrate what we were learning/had learned from the process of the lab. It was interesting to observe that when we were not in the official structure (ie when the lab had completed), we were able to touch more, whereas during the formal running of the lab we were mostly aware of witnessing and experiencing distance and frozenness.
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Moments of Challenge

  • Trouble with the terms we used to talk about this trauma field and our participation in it (whiteness, white privilege);
  • Facilitators going into patterns of feeling pressure to perform well and to do things themselves (sometimes forgetting to turn to the team or participants as resources and co-creators);
  • White people claiming whiteness is scary – so much fear in owning positioning – the “I’m not a white person” reaction hidden under the scolding towards “it’s hard” – its so much easier to attack than to feel the fear or pain;
  • The surveys shared a noticing that men were talking more, but this was not openly addressed in the group.  The team brought this feeling into group awareness.
  • We felt we spent eight months with limited capacity in a field with a lot of frozenness; 
  • So much effort, intention and care went into planning, holding, attending and participating in the lab and yet we felt it was difficult to see what moved or what emerged from this lab; 
  • Even after several rounds of building group cohesion and intimacy, the experience of feeling disconnected from the group was constantly named – “When I speak I am not sure if anyone feels me…”  “Transmission and having no clue about whether that transmission was received or not” – “no one can feel me” – “I don’t feel seen or heard”…
  • Breakdown of the team at the very end several months after the last session, when previously unspoken feelings were surfaced and expressed.
  • Relating to the surveys as an evaluation process.

MOMENTS OF GRACE

  • Moments of playfulness – when co-regulation practice – a bubbliness sometimes in small groups and when people were doing new things;
  • Creating intimacy in small groups is important vs how safe it felt in the big group;
  • Horses in terror metaphor really landed and brought more intimacy and connection around the struggle that we were all dealing with;
  • The way the group stays connected through so much disconnection – when I speak I am not sure if anyone feels me;
  • Still there is so much openness and not fracturing – how did we do that?  I don’t know many groups of white people that don’t really splinter at one point;
  • Lots of coherence, capacity, and mutual acknowledgment amidst the team during the formal process of the lab. Up until the second to last team meeting, team members felt they had stayed connected, open, related;
  • Ability to integrate and include team breakdown by most team members, and a feeling that the energy of the lab had completed;
  • Conflict in Israel and Palestine opened up conflict in the group around where participants’ loyalties were.  The conflict was not resolved during the meeting but at the end people on both sides talked and connected – “I really get that we can be in the polarization, or we can be in the not knowing together.”
  • Naming resistance and anger invited others to be present with whiteness

INSIGHTS

  • We have more awareness of how much frozenness there is in the white trauma field;
  • Running away, distancing and hiding as prominent themes in this trauma field;
  • Many, many examples of the process of “aloning self” in the context of this field.  Facilitators noticed a tendency to default into doing things by themselves; trainees at times articulated feeling at the edges or outside of the group process; participants expressed ambivalence about identifying as white, resistance towards doing work around white identity, and not feeling, or wanting to feel, connected to other white bodies.
  • Awareness that the lab experienced a very subtle pressure for presentation over presence – a pressure to produce rather than trusting there is a self-healing impulse that will carry us if we can receive it;
  • How to facilitate such a deeply unconsciously afraid field.  How do we do that work and feel ourselves and others and still carry the group forward.

Our Lab Team

Jennifer Krier

Jennifer Krier

is a licensed clinical social worker, certified somatic psychotherapist, coach, cultural anthropologist and author. Jennifer’s relational and embodied approach is informed by somatic psychology and coaching, talk therapy, trauma, attachment and child state work, and yoga. Additionally, Jennifer offers executive coaching with Mobius Executive Leadership and Seven Stones Leadership Group. Listening deeply, creating safety, including the energetic and mystical dimensions of healing, and encouraging authentic self-expression are cornerstones of her practice. Jennifer has studied with Thomas since 2015 and is a near graduate of his second US-based Timeless Wisdom Training.

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Adriana Mascolli Fontes

Adriana Mascolli Fontes

is a seasoned executive coach and facilitator with more than 20 years of working experience in organizational and leadership development, and team and individual coaching. She combines business experience with practice in designing and facilitating holistic group learning experiences. She is a senior facilitator and coach with Mobius Executive Leadership and Sangha Leadership Group, a certified ICF coach (International Coaching Federation). She is trained in Somatic BlueprintTM (near graduate) and Inherited Family Trauma. Adriana has been studying with Thomas Hübl since 2014, she is a graduate of the Pocket Project Program and near graduate of the Timeless Wisdom Training Program in the US. She is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil and currently lives in the Bay Area in the US.

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Facilitators: Jennifer Krier & Adriana Mascolli Fontes; trainees: Hannah Sadtler, Christine Gericke
Language: English

We are inviting participants that identify themselves as white to come together to do our work. We understand that a foundation element of current times is for us, white people, to do our deep work around our identity – to understand and feel what we have not before. By that we mean to sit together, to do practices, to explore and witness what becomes available to us in relation to our white identity, including the many ways in which we avoid being associated with racism. The intention of this work is twofold: (1) to own our participation in maintaining the status quo that perpetuates racism rather than noticing racism as an external event outside us (ie perceiving we are part of the systemic racism); (2) to build resources and resilience that will expand our capacity to stay present and curious in the discomfort of the difficult conversations around racism, to listen without “running away” or becoming defensive when others share (bearing to witness the truth while staying present to our own experience). We invite you to walk these steps along with us, trusting they will lead us to learning and growth and will guide us to take action for transformation.

We intend to create a safe and deep context for participants to explore their White Identity (e.g. by noticing and gaining more clarity of our own experience and participation in racism) – while understanding that this is a crucial step towards creating cross-race dialogue and engagement. We will be creating space to explore white body trauma in the US racist system that prevents us from being present, taking actions and creating change. Connecting with whiteness and racism from our internal/ emotional landscape and body sensations, we may allow new information to come to our awareness and build capacity and skills to hold the process – (i.e. facing what is present and witnessing what is present in the moment – instead of going into unconscious defensive moves …and when those happen, notice them and include them). We intend to create together a group timeline of white identity in the United States.

We will be exploring

  • What constitutes the historical background to White Identity in the US?
  • What constitutes the historical background to racism in the US?
  • How does the trauma of slavery, Native American genocide and immigration influence the construction of White Identity and the process of ‘othering’ e.g. between White and Non-White?
  • What are signs that we can notice in our culture that reflect and reinforce the consequences of these traumas?
  • How do these traumas show themselves in times of crisis (e.g. Covid-19, climate emergencies, social justice movements)?
  • Can we collectively create a coherent we-space and a process of witnessing that leads to an integration and eventual healing of these traumas?

Participants are asked to commit to

We would like to invite our lab participants to commit to start and advance on the following pre-work (that can be finalized through the lab duration):

  • Do a research on your own racial autobiography that includes your Personal timeline of your own understanding of race and your Ancestors’ timeline around relationship with race
  • Read the following books:
    • My grandmother’s Hands (Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies) from Resmaa Menakem
    • White Fragility from Robin Diangelo
  • Learn and honor the principles of Transparent Communications as the base communication form we will use for this exploration
  • Sitting and considering the following questions throughout our exploration:
    • How do I participate in the integration of this trauma and how do I perpetuate it?
    • How have my ancestors participated in this trauma?
    • How do I participate in othering?
    • How is my privilege or lack of privilege entwined with this trauma?
  • Ensure to be free from the influence of drugs.
  • Assume confidentiality – all personal sharing within this Lab will be kept confidential and names of other participants will not be shared, nor will they be described.
  • Assuming self-responsibility for your health – this Lab does not provide therapy or treatment.

Max. group size: 20 – 30

Time: Gatherings of 120 min, 9-11 am Pacific Standard Time, 12-2pm Eastern Standard Time (Please check here to find the time in your location)

Dates: Nov 19, Dec 3, Dec 17 2020; Jan 21, Feb 18, Mar 11, April 15, May 20, Jun 24 2021

Specifically invited: We would like to invite participants that have done substantial personal work in order to have a solid foundation for collective trauma exploration. Participants have to identify as white.

Lab Team

Jennifer Krier
is a licensed clinical social worker, certified somatic psychotherapist, coach, cultural anthropologist and author. Jennifer’s relational and embodied approach is informed by somatic psychology and coaching, talk therapy, trauma, attachment and child state work, and yoga. Additionally, Jennifer offers executive coaching with Mobius Executive Leadership and Seven Stones Leadership Group. Listening deeply, creating safety, including the energetic and mystical dimensions of healing, and encouraging authentic self-expression are cornerstones of her practice. Jennifer has studied with Thomas since 2015 and is a near graduate of his second US-based Timeless Wisdom Training.

Adriana Mascolli Fontes
is a seasoned executive coach and facilitator with more than 20 years of working experience in organizational and leadership development, and team and individual coaching. She combines business experience with practice in designing and facilitating holistic group learning experiences. She is a senior facilitator and coach with Mobius Executive Leadership and Sangha Leadership Group, a certified ICF coach (International Coaching Federation). She is trained in Somatic BlueprintTM (near graduate) and Inherited Family Trauma. Adriana has been studying with Thomas Hübl since 2014, she is a graduate of the Pocket Project Program and near graduate of the Timeless Wisdom Training Program in the US. She is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil and currently lives in the Bay Area in the US.


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Applications for this lab are now closed due to high interest.