“This is geared toward students who already feel that Black lives matter,” said Steven Sawada, event organizer and graduate student.
He’s talking about the UW’s Racial Justice Organizing & Caucus, which will happen on Tuesday, Oct. 11, and Monday, Oct. 17. It’s highly recommended that attendees go to both events as they will be sequential.
Both Sawada and another graduate organizer, Gonzalo Guzman, said this event will be an organic, solution-oriented safe space. Both predict the event will last three and a half hours each of the two days.
Both Guzman and Sawada held sentiments that discussions and forums already held at the UW just aren’t good enough, as they are all talk and no action. That’s one of the many reasons Sawada formed the caucus, which has the financial backing of the UW’s Race & Equity Initiative Steering Committee. …
But there’s one thing organizers think will receive a lot of scrutiny: They plan on breaking up attendees by race to work in groups. Organizers predict that skeptics will see the tactic as divisive, but they insist it’s not about that. They believe that the safest way for attendees to unpack their feelings without judgement is with people who occupy the same identities.
“You can ask the questions that you’ll never ask in a mixed room,” Guzman said. “So it’s a great way to build legitimate collaboration where a lot of that stuff you can’t untangle or excavate in a mixed-race discussion regarding race and racism. Because you don’t have to work through all of those things like internalized racism, internalized domination, so on and so forth, that might come out in a mixed-race group.”
Sawada said all students, both undergraduates and graduates, are invited. But they want this to be a 201 course rather than a 101. The caucus is meant to be a safe space to process protests that have been going on and ask questions.
“It’s so unfortunate that the criticism and the dialectic around safe spaces on college campuses is so reductionist and, frankly, ridiculous” Sawada said. “It’s really about establishing conversational norms that are respectful, dignified, and foster an information-exchange between people’s perspectives and thoughts and analyses.”
Another task that this caucus wants to tackle is connecting students to resources. There are already people in the community working on things to challenge systemic racism and police brutality.
“We want people to plug in,” Sawada said. “We don’t want students to feel like they’re isolated, or feel like they have to create something from the bottom up if they want to make a difference. Or that the only thing they can do is go to a protest they see on Facebook.”
For Sawada, his political questioning, sense of security and safety, and his realizations of social constructs around race and multiple identities came about when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by police.
Sawada believes that every individual is on a journey, or an arch, of political awakening and social consciousness. Everybody is at a different place in their journey, and the caucus is here to help.
To ensure the Racial Justice Organizing & Caucus is a safe space, organizers ask that no media be present. They also ask people take a look at their website, which gives safe space guidelines.
The event will be facilitated by trained student professionals, including some trained in mental health.
“It’s not about an opinion,” Sawada said. “We are not trying to convince people that racism exists. Those people shouldn’t come.”
The caucus will be held at the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House. The Racial Justice Organizing & Caucus is Oct. 11 and Oct. 17, from 3-6:30 p.m. both days.