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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Undoing Racism at Guilford

One weekend. Twenty intense hours. Thirty Guilford students. Ten community members.These are the factors three women worked with as they led the training session Undoing Racism as a retreat at Guilford College Nov. 15-17.

Representing the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, trainers Monica Walker, Angela Winfrey and Suzanne Plihcik engaged participants in a variety of discussions and activities that seek to understand and finally dismantle institutionalized racism.

“I have never seen a group struggle to understand an issue this deep,” said senior Naz Urooj.

The training focused on racism within the U.S., primarily between blacks and whites, as a system rooted in history, society and institutions of this country. The definition of racism accounted for the combined dynamic of race, power, and prejudice.

“At times it was hard to swallow,” said junior Elizabeth Appenzeller, “but it’s important to understand the racist system that we all take part in.”

The trainers brought in a blend of historical facts and personal experiences to provide participants with a context in which to discuss racism. Participants also had the opportunity to share and reflect on their own experiences and perceptions within the context of the discussion.

First-year Tanya Madenyika reflected on an activity in which the trainers asked everyone to say something they enjoyed about being their race.

“I think for all of us in the room it was a difficult question,” she said, “because most of us don’t sit down and think about it.”

Another activity favored by many participants was the Saturday evening culture-sharing. Those who felt so inclined shared information about their culture with the group. In doing so, participants felt they got to know each other in a different way.

“[The trainers] told us, ‘think humanity’,” said Appenzeller. “By living in this system we’ve lost so much of our humanity,; but by sharing our cultures we regain it.”

Madenyika agreed that the culture-sharing portion was a turning point in the training.

“People shared things that were close to their hearts,” she said. “After that segment I felt I knew people in a deeper sense.”

Such moments didn’t come without a cost. Many felt challenged to the point of exhaustion. Recognizing this struggle, first-year Chris Lett said, “If it moves you that much, it can move you to make a change.

“I think people can take away what they learned and educate their friends and peers, and maybe even convince them to come to the next training.”

Participants and organizers agreed that they’d like to see more students go through the training. The number of underclassmen that attended the training is promising for “building the groundwork” of an on-going discussion at Guilford, according to Urooj.

“I think that the people who were in that room were the right group of people,” said Urooj, “and I have hope that they will continue this work.”

Four independent students organized the retreat. Seniors Micah Guindon, Brooke Lyle, Naz Urooj, and Rose Wilson solicited funds from various campus organizations and one community organization, The Partnership Project. They are planning to hold the training again next semester.

The funds generated primarily went towards hosting the event and insuring spots for individuals affiliated with those organizations to attend.

The following campus organizations donated funds: Bonners Scholars, Center for Continuing Education, Friends Center, the Multi-Cultural Resource Center, Office of African American Affairs, and Community Senate.

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