HOW DO YOU WELCOME PEOPLE INTO YOUR CIRCLE?
This morning I thinking a lot about how we host “welcome circles” in the Hike it Baby community. What these typically look like is people arrive at the hike, then the host pulls everyone in and introduces the ground rules to the hike and introduces themselves and child.
Someone in our Hike it Baby circle recently told me a story about how her husband witnessed a host welcome a woman (white woman) she didn’t know with a friendly greeting that was something like “Hi, we are going to get started on our hike in a few minutes here.” and brought her right into the circle. When he, the man (POC as well) walked up, she looked at him inquisitively and said “Are you with Hike it Baby?”
This made him feel unwelcome. How do we know? Because he reported it back to his wife and it came back to me.
HOW WE DEAL WITH MICROAGRESSION MATTERS
The typical way I have dealt with this kind of story in the past was to try to give the host/greeter the benefit of doubt and say, “oh, she just didn’t think he was part of the group because he was a man.” What I have been learning lately is when I do this, I am unintentionally in participating in microagression. And I am allowing this to go unchecked and I am part of the problem.
What is microagression? Here’s what Wikipedia says: Microaggression is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group. The term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals which he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflicting on African Americans. By the early 21st century, use of the term was applied to the casual degradation of any socially marginalized group, including LGBT, people living in poverty, and disabled people.PsychologistDerald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership”. The persons making the comments may be otherwise well-intentioned and unaware of the potential impact of their words.
Racism is a hot topic in many traditionally white circles, not just in Hike it Baby. It makes many of us squirm and get defensive. I have a friend who describes the uncomfortable parts of the race conversation as making her “sweaty” because she doesn’t feel equipped to talk about about unintentional racism. Let’s face it, for many people who identify as white, this is just becoming a regular conversation so many haven’t been trained to know how to confront it.
I would just like to challenge you all to take a moment to think about this starting today. What you do in your personal welcome circles, whether its a hike you are leading or casual gatherings in your life, matters. This is especially true when you are in the outdoors, as this is not a space everyone may be as familiar with as you are. When outside be cognizant of anyone who is arriving for a hike or gathering you are hosting. Welcome each person in the same way. Practice on your, so you know how you will welcome people into a circle. While you may not intentionally make someone feel uncomfortable, it happens. Being more aware and thinking about it, talking with friends about how to deal with different situations that arise in your community can help us all confront our own prejudices better.
HOW I AM MOVING FORWARD
Here’s a personal example. A few weeks ago we were in Salt Lake City and Mason saw a dad at our gathering and said out loud (so everyone could hear) “That man has dark skin mommy.”
In the past this made me uncomfortable because in the 70s and 80s, I was raised to not see race. This time I was able to say out loud “Yes Mason, he has darker skin than you. Remember we learned about melanin on that You Tube video?” I am trying to unlearn this behavior of not saying anything (white silence) and also learn how to talk with Mason more about skin color. I want him know it’s ok to talk about race and to explore it further because it’s an abstract concept to him as he becomes more aware of the world. I want him to ask me questions. I want him to understand that skin is superficial and all of us have the same beating heart, thinking mind, and color of blood. Our differences are learned and also coded into our DNA through traumatic experiences.
Race is an overwhelming topic and becomes even trickier when you have children in the equation. There is no wrong or right. There is only try to do better, learn as much as you can, accept when you have made someone uncomfortable, apologize and move on. Community spaces that are set up to be open gatherings with like minded people are the best place to start owning up and doing better. We are all in this together remember and there will be both good and icky moments as you venture into exploring your own inherent biases.
If you are interested in learning more about all of this, there are many resources, but a simple place to start is with Robin Diangelo’s book White Fragility and the many resources on her site.
And go deeper on this topic. Start by finding books to share with your kids by checking out this link. https://www.theconsciouskid.org/
And some links for you and your friends to explore:
Why Are White People So Bad at Talking About Race
Confronting Racism is Not About the Needs and Feelings of White People
The Sugar Coated Language of White Fragility
Books to Read:
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race
White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White
How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide
So You Want to Talk About Race
photo: Zion Adventure Photog