ANTIRACISM
FORMATION

An Ongoing Commitment to Ending Racism in Our Community and Beyond

ANTIRACISM FORMATION

An Ongoing Commitment to Ending Racism in Our Community and Beyond

an·ti·rac·ism

/ anˌtīˈrāˌsizəm/
The policy or practice of opposing racism and promoting racial appreciation and inclusivity.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.

Psalm 139:13-14

Overview

We declare there is no room for racism at Princeton Theological Seminary. We commit to educating the entire campus community and beyond within a biblical and theological framework to face this present crisis that impedes us from loving God and neighbor. As we continue this journey this website will evolve. We invite you to explore resources and stories as they become available. Meanwhile, here is some information about our history and a video about the community we aspire to be now.

Updates

From our last community update, we have been moving steadily in implementing the action plan as designed by the Antiracism Task Force. Recognizing the unique challenges of the virtual spaces in which we find ourselves, considering high levels of anxiety, remote learning fatigue, and the circumstances surrounding us as a country and theological institution, I am grateful for the grace and flexibility of our prioritization and sequencing plans.

Updates:

  • After numerous conversations with all constituencies during the fall semester that allowed us to create an asynchronous curriculum, the Antiracism asynchronous module was released to all institution constituencies during the week of January 11, 2021. We are grateful for the guidance of Dr. Michelle Majors, Laurie Carlsson, Lindsey Trozzo, Kelsey Lambright, Mary Kyner, Thais Carter, and the Office of Digital Learning.

  • With the assistance of Mary Kyner, recorded two conversations that were integrated in the asynchronous module: Exploring Resiliency and Courage to Rise.

  • With the guidance of Lissette Gonzalez and Gregory Louis, and with the collaboration of students from varying cultural identities, the first three Wednesdays of the spring 2021 semester will focus on antiracism & spirituality. See Wednesday, January 21 worship here.

  • Regular and intentional partnership with the Chapel Office throughout spring 2021 to continue weaving the threads of antiracist reflection and racial healing into the fabric of our community. We are grateful for the partnership found with Jan Ammon, Martin Tel, Melissa Haupt, and our colleagues in Educational Media.

  • With the guidance of Carlos Acosta, Jenna Richards, Lena Zwarg, Alysia Green, Maci Sepp, and Martha Redondo, a podcast platform is being developed for a periodic “Daily Bread”-type of platform, centered on antiracism and faith. Megan DeWald is providing informative guidance in the implementation of this platform.

  • Dr. Michelle Majors and Laurie Carlsson are facilitating curriculum planning for spring semester synchronous formation with faculty, administration & staff, and students.

  • Dr. Michelle Majors, Laurie Carlsson, and Ann-Henley Nicholson met with the Alumni Association Executive Council’s (AAEC) Leadership Team (1/7/21) and the AAEC on 1/21/21.

  • Grateful for the coordinating efforts of Alysia Green, the current Resource List is being revised with additional resources contributed by various affinity groups, faculty, and the Institute for Youth Ministry. This resource will soon be uploaded to the Seminary’s antiracism microsite.

  • Currently, with the support of the AAEC, a synchronous curriculum plan is being developed for the development of the Antiracism Alumni Partners Network. A number of alumni have expressed interest in this endeavor. Our proposed plan for the Alumni Partners Network platform focuses on supporting PTS Alumni in building capacity and fluency of concepts related to racism – and more specifically, becoming anti-racist. Our plan, facilitated by Dr. Majors and Laurie Carlsson includes five monthly (one-hour) conversations February-June 2021 where alumni will gather together to expand their knowledge, and deepen their understanding of issues related to race and racism. In addition to the monthly meetings that all alumni in this network will attend as a group, Alumni Partners will also meet one-on-one with a designated alumni partner (buddysystem) to build on the concepts discussed in the monthly group conversation. This requires a total time commitment of 2 hours per month for alumni who are participating the antiracism.

  • The Board of Trustees will receive a brief overview of the Antiracism Formational Platforms. During the month of February 2021, the Board of Trustees will participate in a synchronous platform through small groups facilitated by Dr. Majors and Laurie Carlsson.

  • We have also received a Phase I Assessment Report from our consultants. This report provides the scope of work and a series of recommendations. On January 25, the AIT met to receive and review the report. The Phase I Assessment Report will then be submitted to Dr. Barnes and the Executive Council for their review and subsequently made available to the Seminary community.

  • On February 10, Dr. Majors and Laurie Carlsson will facilitate a synchronous formational session for 90 minutes with the faculty. It is projected that a second gathering may take place in March.

We cannot move forward in reviewing the following report without first acknowledging certain realities in our midst. These past few weeks, we have experienced many situations at the national and regional levels of how structural racism is disproportionately segregating communities of color. From access to opportunity and upward mobility by making it more difficult for Black, Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous people to secure quality education, jobs, housing, healthcare, and equal treatment in the criminal justice system.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi states the work of antiracism is to “Identify, Describe, and Dismantle.” Wherever you are in the continuum, the two pandemics demand that we reimagine our society, and indeed our Seminary, beyond our current structures and practices. As we move forward in implementing the Antiracism Formational Platforms, developing and designing a curriculum focusing on fostering relationships, increasing knowledge, and enhancing institutional capacity is paramount.

A Review:

  • Please review the mid-September Antiracism Implementation Team Review attachment which enumerates several implemented efforts since the Student Orientation and the first meeting of the Antiracism Implementation Team (AIT) of September 29.
  • Please review a forecasted Timeline Overview. This attachment enumerates the past and projected outline of events leading to the Spring 2021 semester.
  • An overview of our progress was submitted to the first meeting of the Faculty Advisory Committee on Diversity and the Historical Audit on Slavery Implementation Committee.
  • Our colleague, Ann-Henley Nicholson, forwarded an alumni survey on Wednesday, September 30. In less than 24 hours, we have received 100 responses to our antiracism alumni survey (and counting). Ann-Henley has prepared a report and analysis to guide our subsequent conversations. We are encouraged by our alumni who have indicated their willingness to serve as an Alumni Partner.
  • Michelle Majors, Laurie Carlsson, and I have met with the Communications Department and the Office of Digital Learning to develop a required asynchronous module for all Seminary constituencies with an expected rollout of October 30.
  • On October 6, the Executive Council met with Dr. Majors and Ms. Carlsson. On November 9, the Executive Council will participate in an Implicit Bias Assessment as we forge ahead in creating a curriculum that will incorporate adult learning principles, actively elevates the voices of historically marginalized groups, and unpack implicit biases and assumptions and racialized behaviors. The Executive Council is the first constituency engaging in this process while forecasting the participation among students, faculty, administration, and alumni soon in this academic year.
  • A meeting between Michelle Majors, Laurie Carlsson, and the Antiracism Coalition, a Seminary-wide student entity, took place on October 15, 2020.
  • A meeting between Michelle Majors, Laurie Carlsson, and the Student Government Association’s leadership took place on October 22, 2020.
  • The Antiracism Task Force identified regular and intentional partnership with the Chapel Office throughout the academic year. The purpose is to continue weaving the threads of antiracist reflection and racial healing into our community’s fabric. A cross-cultural cohort of students joined me in meeting with Jan Ammon, Martin Tel, and Melissa Haupt on Wednesday, October 14. Some of the possible ideas identified by the Student Platform Team included;
        1. a weekly “Daily Bread” email centered on antiracism and faith,
        2. hosting regular prayer gatherings after worship, and
        3. inviting people to stay for prayer/reflection if they can offer support and creativity for worship leaders who seek to address race/racism in their services, etc.
  • The AIT entered a direct approach to recognizing and understanding the team’s power dynamics while unpacking implicit biases, assumptions, and racialized behaviors. Before our scheduled meeting of October 26, 2020, the AIT’s functional cohorts (students, administrators/trustees, and faculty) met with Dr. Majors and Ms. Carlsson for an intentional engagement regarding power dynamics. These conversations aim for the AIT to develop and apply a racial equity lens to programmatic work. Building the AIT’s capacity is crucial, as the consistent development of intentionally antiracist practices is paramount to organizational transformation.
  • The Antiracism Support Student Partners Cohort in the Office of Multicultural Relations will continue to explore and access information from marginalized groups that will enlarge our Resource Lists.

Princeton Theological Seminary stands against racism in any form. As leaders, we hold ourselves accountable to ensure that the Seminary is a place where all are welcomed and valued, and where learners from all backgrounds prosper. Today we are announcing the creation and composition of the Seminary’s Antiracism Implementation Team (AIT) to work on developing and deploying the Antiracism Formational Platforms created over the summer by the Antiracism Task Force in collaboration with students, administrators, and faculty.  We have gathered students, faculty, administrators, and trustee membership to participate in the AIT this academic semester.

Our 
Antiracism Formational Platform(s) calls for boldness and inclusivity with the purpose of betterment for all! We must continue to seek ways to “practice what we preach and teach.”  Now more than ever, we are admonished to model our Living Together statements and live into the Antiracism Design Principles for the entire Seminary community. Therefore, the primary roles of AIT will be:

  • To focus on the successful execution of the Antiracism Formational Platforms across the Seminary
  • Refine and improve the strategies delineated in the action plan through useful assessment tools
  • Provide direction to the external consultants/trainers and receive their insights and expertise in the implementation of deliverables
  • To be accountable to the Executive Council by providing weekly updates and for major decisions

I am honored to serve with the following members of the AIT:

Students

Administrators

Faculty

Lissette Gonzalez-Sosa

Victor Aloyo, Jr. – Chair

Afe Adogame

Alysia Green

Kermit Moss

Eric Barreto

Gregory Louis

Ann-Henley Nicholson

David Chao

Sharon Park

Shawn Oliver

Sonia Waters

Jenna Richards

Ruth Santana-Grace: Trustee

 

Anna Stamborski

 

 

One key recommendation of the Antiracism Task Force (see attached) in implementing the action plan is to collaborate with an external consultant specializing in antiracism and transformational work. After a thorough analysis of minority-owned organizations specializing in antiracism training, capacity-building, consultation, and assessment, I am pleased to introduce Dr. Michelle Majors of Majors Leadership Group. Dr. Majors is the Principle and Lead Strategist at Majors Leadership Group, a national consulting firm based in Seattle, WA. As an alumna of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, there is a special place in her heart for the work that intersects at faith/spirituality and justice. Dr. Major’s approach to anti-racist formation is grounded in the motto: you can’t heal what you don’t reveal. With a Masters in Transformational Leadership and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Dr. Majors uses a multi-disciplinary approach to help organizations transform beliefs, behaviors, practices, structures, and cultural norms. Realizing that most often those who feel unvalued and do not belong are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), Dr. Majors’ work deals specifically and strategically with race, racism, and inequities that play out in a racialized way in the workplace. She is dedicated to supporting social justice organizations in solving their office culture, internal structure, and equity challenges and exploring new models for success. Using the appreciative inquiry model and other transformational tools, Dr. Majors will assist us in doing heart-centered personal development work while incorporating head centered organizational structures and strategies.

Her partner in this work, Ms. Laurie Carlsson, founder and lead consultant of Reverb DEI, will join Dr. Majors. Laurie has spent more than a decade working toward social change, including extensive experience in gender, LGBTQIA, and racial justice. Drawing from change management principles and anti-oppression curricula best practices, Laurie’s facilitation brings participants together through engaging activities and facilitated discussion. She has led sessions for the University of Washington, the Pride Foundation, Brooks Running Company, Keyword Studios, and The National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education. In addition to her work leading trainings and workshops, Laurie partners with organizations to develop DEI strategies that positively impact culture and center BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) voices.

The first meeting of the AIT will include Dr. Majors and Ms. Carlsson as we sequence and prioritize the order of required events throughout this academic semester. Your prayers and support for the AIT will be appreciated as we forge ahead, collaborating with every constituency of the Seminary. We welcome questions, insights, and recommendations at antiracism@ptsem.edu.

The Antiracism and Educational Platforms Task Force was commissioned by the Seminary to develop substantive and sustainable antiracism training to address racial bias and practices. The task force was comprised of students, faculty, administrators, staff and a member of the Board of Trustees. Together, the task force created these design principles for antiracism formation. View this timeline of the taskforce’s antiracism journey this summer. Read the summary of the task force’s work in this report by Victor Aloyo, Jr., task force chair..

Resources

From videos to articles to a list of influencers, review these resources for adults and youth to join the Seminary in a conversation about antiracism.  

FAQ

Princeton Theological Seminary stands against racism in any form. As leaders, we hold ourselves accountable to ensure that the Seminary is a place where all are welcomed and valued, and where learners from all backgrounds prosper. We commit to educating the entire campus community and beyond within a biblical and theological framework to face this present crisis that impedes us from loving God and neighbor.

Our formational platforms are the bold plans, policies, and principles by which we are shaping beliefs and behaviors toward inclusivity and the betterment for all. You can learn more about the Seminary’s perspective on and approach toward antiracism formation by viewing our statements and reading our Antiracism Design Principles.

Yes. Community focus groups were held and the Antiracism Formation Platforms are the result of conversations with all constituencies (students, administrators, staff, and faculty) of our community.

Simply put, a community that is more reflective of the Kingdom of God by:

  • Broadening our perspectives as we listen deeply to our community members and consider the history and culture of those who are racially different from us
  • Shining a light on the problem and promise of addressing race and racism in our past and present
  • Believing and working toward positive change in our society as we learn how to confront racism where we live, work, and worship

Skilled facilitators help us acknowledge and deal with the range of feelings (e.g., defensiveness, resistance, anger, righteousness, and moralizing) that surface in destructive ways. The facilitators invite us to engage in the emotional and spiritual work necessary to heal from hurt or misunderstanding.

Absolutely. Limiting the discussion to Black and White relations can render invisible the many other racial and ethnic communities that experience racism on a daily basis, including Latinx, Asian American, Arab American, Native American, and new immigrant communities. Unfortunately, yet understandably, Americans traditionally limit the discussion of race and racism to a Black and White paradigm due to the essential role that slavery has had on the economic and political systems in this country for more than 400 years.

As a first step during this initial rollout in the 2020-21 academic year, community members have the option to self-select to engage in caucuses or affinity groups. For those who elect to begin conversations with caucuses or affinity groups eventually move toward collective discussion with our broader community.

Having candid and collective conversation is not new for the Seminary. Since 2010, the Seminary has held ongoing campus-wide discussions called Courageous Conversations on the topics of race, gender, oppression, power, and stereotypes. The Seminary’s antiracism curriculum is a logical and intentional evolution of those important conversations that began a decade ago.

To advance racial equity, there is work for White people and people of color to do separately and together. Groups that use caucuses in their organizational racial equity work, especially in workplaces and coalitions, generally meet separately and create a process to rejoin and work together collectively. Accountability is a key principle when implementing this methodology.

Caucuses provide spaces for people to work within their own racial and ethnic groups. For White people, a caucus provides time and space to work explicitly and intentionally on understanding White culture and White privilege and to increase one’s critical analysis around these concepts.

A White caucus also puts the onus on White people to teach each other about these ideas, rather than placing a burden on people of color to teach them. For people of color, a caucus is a place to work with peers to address the impact of racism, to interrupt experiences of internalized racism, and to create a space for healing and working for individual and collective liberation.

At times, people of color may also break into more specific race-based caucuses, sometimes based on experiences with a particular issue, for example police violence, immigration, or land rights.

The Antiracism Implementation Team, together with the Seminary consultants, have been meeting consistently with all constituencies to determine and develop the various phases of our approach in both asynchronous and synchronous formats. The strategies being implemented are a result of active and empathetic listening coupled with substantive guidance from our consultants, who function with the appreciative inquiry model for transformative change.

There is no template for matters pertaining to race and antiracism that would fit every group, seminary, or community. The good news is that wherever you are on this journey, a new beginning is possible. Discerning what the conversation should look like in your local setting will entail an assessment and a “pre-conversation” dialogue about where you are as a group and how you got there.

We are constantly revising our antiracism microsite where additional resources are available on the Seminary’s antiracism formational platforms.

It is especially important that all participants in the conversation take responsibility for their growth and learning. Too often in conversations about race and racism, White people look to people of color for answers, approval, and acceptance. Skilled facilitators who understand the dynamics of racism can help ensure that people of color are not put on the spot to explain issues of race and racism, respond to the comments of White people, or speak on behalf of other people of color.

We have adopted norms and guidelines for the conversations that help safeguard the well-being, and foster the spiritual growth, of all who participate. It is not possible to guarantee participants that they will be spared painful or hurtful interactions. However, if adequate time and attention is devoted to the leadership, process, and content of the antiracism formational platforms, participants can be assured that these interactions will be addressed in a manner that is both just, respectful, and loving.

The Antiracism Formational Platforms are not intended to begin and end with words alone. Neither is it intended to be a program that simply imparts new information and knowledge about race, power, privilege, stereotypes, and justice. Because these will be courageous conversations, personal and social transformation are the ultimate goals. As new insights are gleaned, the Antiracism Formational Platforms can provide a context for people to challenge themselves and each other to ask: Now that we understand this aspect of racism more fully, what are we going to do about it? It is our conviction that racism is manifest in four realms – personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural. For our antiracism platforms to affect change that is lasting and genuinely transformative, our study, dialogue, and action must address all four realms.

It can be reassuring to everyone involved to know that getting bogged down and feeling overwhelmed are not unusual or insurmountable obstacles. Talking about race and racism can evoke strong feelings. In fact, the more authentic the conversation, the more likely it is that challenging situations will occur. Tensions, such as feeling bogged down or overwhelmed, can be important messengers signaling that it is time for the group to pause and ask: Why are we feeling overwhelmed? What is it about race or racism that bogs us down? If we are feeling stuck or overwhelmed, what feelings are below the surface that may contribute to that sense of being stuck or overwhelmed? What do those feelings tell us about what we need in order to stay with this process and move into deeper learning about ourselves and one another?

It is critically important that participants in the Antiracism Formational Platforms covenant stay with the process when it becomes uncomfortable, difficult, or painful. Far too often, in conversations about race and racism, White people opt out when they grow uncomfortable or overwhelmed. This is one of the ways that White privilege is exercised. When White members of the group decide to leave, rather than work through the feelings of discomfort, this can have devastating effects on the group’s efforts to create an environment that is authentic, compassionate, and inclusive. We therefore recommend that a covenant to stay in the conversation, and to learn from times of discomfort and tension, be talked about at the outset as group guidelines are developed. If individuals later have feelings of “flight,” the group will be more prepared to take the time needed to talk about what is happening and what is needed.

The responsibility for safeguarding the trust and the community that are being created must be shared by everyone taking part in the conversation. Facilitators cannot do this alone; the entire group needs to covenant together to stay with the process and work through times of tension and growth. By sharing this responsibility, the possibility of authentic relationships across difference will be nourished and enacted.

Glossary

In an effort to establish a common language around antiracism, this glossary from Racial Equity Tools includes a current list of terms compiled from a variety of sources for meaningful and productive conversations.

Engage

As the Seminary community travels this journey we welcome your insights. Please accept this invitation to connect with us. We are particularly interested in knowing whether you:

    • Would like to learn more about what it means to be antiracist
    • Have resources or information to share that will advance the work of antiracism formation
    • Are available to mentor a student or alum in their antiracism formation or help them survive and thrive in spite of discriminatory experiences
    • Have a personal story to share related to racism or antiracism

Your responses will be sent to antiracism@ptsem.edu and reviewed by Victor Aloyo, Jr., associate dean for institutional diversity and community engagement.