In the waning days of January, Open Buffalo convened a 30-strong contingent of Queen City residents, neighborhood activists, and social justice fighters for a heart-probing workshop facilitated by trainers from the nationally renowned Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks) collaborative. Attendees were challenged to analyze the institutional racism embedded in America’s history, as well as its modern vestiges.
Putting concerned individuals and organizers in touch with knowledge and tools to dissect seemingly unmovable systems of injustice is key to Open Buffalo’s approach to growing local capacity for positive change. Participants arrived at the dRworks sessions (hosted by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo) with widely varied backgrounds and views, but left with shared vocabulary and new tools of analysis. Two such attendees recount their experiences below:
Western Regional Organizer, New York Civil Liberties Union
In the world of progressive nonprofits, it is not out of place for organizers and leadership alike to think about the ideas and implications of racial privilege in our day-to-day work. We do this work oftentimes because we see the glaring inequities in our society; inequities whose root causes are deep and weathered. Though we work tirelessly day in and day out to unveil and dismantle these systems of oppression, we do not often get a chance to really step back and examine the ways in which these said systems affect our own work, views, and communities. The Dismantling Racism training put on by Open Buffalo was a great opportunity to do just that.
As a white organizer in a beautiful (though profoundly troubled) city like Buffalo, I find myself distancing my own beliefs and actions as far away from “those white people” as I can, thus absolving myself from accountability in the creation and nourishing of dominant white culture. We sometimes, as white progressives, tend to divorce ourselves from the painful truth that though we recognize the privilege our skin color and ancestry bring to us, we still help to perpetuate systematic racism in ways that we may not even be aware of. The Dismantling Racism training was a powerful and uncomfortable reminder of the true reality of racism. A reminder that the threads of injustice have been woven into our nation, layer by layer, from the very beginning. A reminder that anti-racist work is not done solely by and in communities of color, but is work that must also be done with “those white people” in order to break the system down and rebuild on a much more just foundation. I am profoundly grateful to Open Buffalo and Dismantling Racism Works for enriching my own understanding of racism, how it operates, and how to continue to dismantle it moving forward in our work to create a better Buffalo.
Co-creator of the zine VENT
Open Buffalo’s “Dismantling Racism” workshop taught me that having open discussions about racism can be uncomfortable; especially when you're in a room with those affected and those not affected.
The workshop challenged me to be honest about how I feel about being an African-American. So, I drew from my experiences of living in Buffalo. It’s very segregated, and my blackness offends people here, depending on where I go. However, this not just a local issue.
I think that a new level of understanding on race and racism was introduced to a room of diverse peoples, which was beneficial. Why? Because it allowed people the opportunity to see the spectrum of how racism was defined, how it hindered, and how it has been normalized.
We did not create solutions for racism; we analyzed it instead, focusing on how it was created and how it can be present in schools, neighborhoods, and in someone’s actions. This knowledge was for us to absorb, tailor, and implement in dismantling racism in our lives, schools, work, neighborhoods, etc.
I believe that this was just the beginning of a conversation that is far from over.
Thank you Open Buffalo for bringing us together.