The night before THATCamp, I told Michelle that I didn’t think anyone would come to our panel. Too many people had told me stories of conferences where panels about race and/or ethnicity only attracted people of color. We joked that we might be the only two people in the room.
Our panel was originally scheduled for this room:
I got there a few minutes early so I could get my head in a space to have a “productive conversation” about the kinds of “strategies” we (the few I thought would be in attendance) might have around the silences that seem to dominate the conversation about racism and feminism.
But so many people wanted to attend the panel that we ended up moving here (to the main conference room):
Michelle, who has more experience with public conversations about race than I do, said to me “this is too big” and suggested that we split the group of about 45 women (2/3 of the conference) into smaller groups. It seemed like a good idea, but I thought we could start big and then turn to smaller groups.
I had other ideas about how this could unfold. Michelle did too.
They seem less important this morning than what happens now that we’ve started this conversation, in this particular space.
After the conference, Kim Hall, Michelle, and I met over drinks to discuss, among other things, what could happen next with all of the ideas, energies, frustrations, and hopes that were in that room. I wish I had facilitated the discussion differently (asked a more focused question, started where I ended, invited other participants to begin by sharing their experiences), but I think the Session Notes offer a terrific opportunity to continue the conversation.
I think they provide a fairly accurate account of how things unfolded (it’s great to see other conference attendees still filling in the gaps), and this post is an invitation to folks to read them and share their thoughts and reactions.
In order to keep the Session Notes focused on the conference, it’s probably best to write in the comments section here. Or you might write something on your own blog and link to it in the common section here (or send the link to me via twitter @triciamatthew)
In the spirit of that invitation I’ll share that one thing I’ve been thinking about since the panel was that I talked about wanting “strategies” without clarifying who I had in mind. It really depends on your subject position though, doesn’t it? If, for example, you’re a woman of color navigating this terrain, it might be useful to know about Jay Smooth’s very popular video about how to call out racist behavior (if you’re a white person who struggles with hearing that something you’ve said or done is problematic, this could be useful for you too). It’s a good place to start. What I was hoping for was a similar resource that can be a good place to start for white feminists, something that goes beyond “Unpacking the Knapsack,” that speaks specifically to feminism and racism. I know a few attendees had ideas, so I hope they share them.
Many, many thanks to everyone who attended. I know it wasn’t an easy conversation, but I am encouraged by the number of people interested enough in this persistent (pernicious) issue to attend the panel and thankful to all whose shared their ideas, stories, and questions.