Heather Hackman

Healing the Impact of Systemic Whiteness to Transform our Future

Heather Hackman

Thanks to the work of Dr. Joy DeGruy and Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, as well as countless other People of Color/Native folks who have spoken truth to power, we know that the deep and long-lasting impacts of racial oppression do not merely register in the systems of our society but also land in the bodies of those targeted. This work has been incredibly important in expanding our notions of what racial justice looks like and feels like. However, just as there can be no “oppressed” without the oppressor, the exploration of racism as trauma for the oppressed also requires an examination of the generational and historic dynamics of Whiteness and how it, too, lands as trauma in the bodies of multigenerational White folks.

This day-long advanced session will undertake that investigation and explore the ways that Whiteness as trauma has disrupted the work of even the most well-meaning White folks as they strive for racial justice. There is a cost to Whiteness, as we know, but that cost is often laid out in moral or ethical terms alone. This session explores another area of “cost” via the impacts on the body of witnessing, participating in, and/or ignoring the dynamics of racial oppression propagated in our name. Elements that will be explored are the general dynamics of trauma, dissociation, and the distancing effect that Whiteness has on many White people.

Conceptually, the session begins with some grounding work and a few ways of getting into our bodies, it will then explore the narratives given White folks concerning their racial identities and the ways they live those narratives out. The session will then turn to the more nuanced and complicated aspects of White privilege and White supremacy and the ways they synergistically feed each other, thereby supporting the ubiquitous dynamics of Whiteness in the U.S. More specifically, the session will explore the “counterweights” to the work of Dr. DeGruy by leaning into three key aspects of “post-traumatic master’s syndrome”: 1) inflated esteem, 2) ever-present hostility toward / fear of People of Color / Native peoples, and 3) supremacist socialization. The session concludes with workaround resiliency tools and ways White people can more effectively show up during painful and complicated work for racial justice.

Experientially, while the session will explore some intense aspects of what it means to be White in the U.S. it is not meant as a therapeutic space for White folks. Instead, this session seeks to create a space where White people can more deeply, thoughtfully and honestly explore places where they feel “inexplicably” stuck in their racial justice work. Through personal writing, paired conversations, small group work, and physical engagement, this workshop is designed to help White people ground the content in their bodies and establish “movement” through those “stuck” spaces. Because the session is completely geared toward the experience of White people and therefore centers the White experience, it will not likely have significant resonance for participants of color / Native participants.

Importantly, this day-long workshop is best suited for those who already have a substantial foundation in both the knowledge and practice of racial justice. This is not intended to be exclusionary, but the depth and complexity of this topic, combined with the very short time we have to cover it, mean that we will not cover any foundational content regarding race, racism and whiteness content and thus participants need to have that knowledge coming in. Additionally, the session is quite interactive and asks participants to lean into discomfort and seek authenticity, thus it is also not well suited for those for whom personal reflection regarding racial justice issues is a new area of exploration.

Outcomes for this Deep Dive Institute will include:

  • Exploring the impacts on the body of witnessing, participating in, and/or ignoring the dynamics of racial oppression propagated in the name of Whiteness.
  • Explore the narratives given White folks concerning their racial identities and the ways they live those narratives out.
  • Explore the ways that White privilege and White supremacy synergistically feed each other.
  • Workaround resiliency tools and ways White people can more effectively show up during painful and complicated work for racial justice.
  • Create a space where White people can more deeply, thoughtfully and honestly explore places where they feel “inexplicably” stuck in their racial justice work.