Unlearning Circles

This was wonderful. Oddly, I feel refreshed. I was afraid I’d feel beaten down and guilty, but instead I feel awake and curious. ~ Anonymous participant

August 8, 2020 @ 10 am 
2020 Series: White Supremacy Culture
Unlearning Circle: Perfectionism 

UWSA’s first Unlearning Circle in the winter of 2017 was created as a place for white people to do the work of reflection and community self-education. As we continue to gather to critically examine our own participation in cultures of dominance, we build our capacity to show up as individuals and as a city-wide community network for Black, Indigenous and people of color-led anti-racist efforts in a positive and accountable way.

In July 2020, UWSA held the first in a multi-month Unlearning series that will explore how people, and white people in particular, have been racialized and socialized in white supremacy culture. We ground these circles in the work of Tema Okun and others, such as Kenneth Jones, and Daniel Buford of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, who have outlined these characteristics. Our discussion will focus on how these aspects shape our cultural norms: how we think and act, and how they show up in our institutions and our communities. 

We begin this series with a reflection of white folks’ internalized sense of urgency because, over the past month, many white people are “waking up to racism.” With so many white people urgently wanting to become “anti-racist”, how can we, as white folks, harness our energies to support the racial justice work led by communities of color who have been fighting white supremacy for generations?

Past Unlearning Circles: 

Saturday, June 27, 2020 @ 10 am
2020 Series: Violence Perpetuated by White Supremacy Culture
Liberal White Women and the Violence of White Supremacy

Register for the June 27 Unlearning Circle
Our Group Agreements
More About Undoing White Supremacy Austin

UWSA’s June Unlearning Circle will focus on liberal white women’s role in perpetuating the violence of White Supremacy, especially on Black bodies.  White people imagine danger into the bodies of Black people, when the inverse is actually true.  Resmaa Menakem, a cultural trauma navigator, has observed that “the myth of the fragility of white bodies and the corresponding fear of Black ones lives on.”

White people like Amy Cooper regularly call upon police to sustain their sense of white superiority and control over others. White supremacy still protects white bodies and inflicts violence on Black-bodied people.  White women have been both active participants and willing beneficiaries in upholding racial terror throughout our country’s history.  Liberal women’s voices speak out for all humanity whilepreserving their comfort under the mantle of “niceness”.  This gaslighting prevents bold, informed action to end the impact of the White Supremacy Culture.

This path is an opportunity for white identifying people to explore white supremacy culture and our role and responsibilities in undoing racism. We welcome and recognize the gift of the presence of any People of Color who choose to join us.

Recommended reading, listening, and/or viewing to prepare for our conversation

NPR’s On the Media: The weaponization of white womanhood (Radio Show)


Dame Magazine: White Women Aren’t Afraid: They Want Power over Black People


New York Times: How White Women Use Themselves as Instruments of Terror


White Noise Collective Interview: Definition of White Womanhood and Systems of Violence

White Womanhood & Systems of Violence

Vox: How Southern Socialites Rewrote Civil War History (7 min video)

Washington Post: Amy Cooper and George Floyd represent two versions of racism black Americans face every day. Central Park and Minneapolis are not isolated incidents.


UWSA relies heavily on the Principles and steps of Undoing Racism promulgated by The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB). As our nation is in upheaval because of the violence perpetrated by White Supremacy Culture, we will explore the role of white liberal women in this experience.

This series is based on the PISAB principle of Identifying and Analyzing the Manifestations of Racism:  Individual acts of racism are supported by institutions and are nurtured by the societal practices such as militarism and cultural racism, which enforce and perpetuate racism.

To help predominately white spaces and communities like churches, workplaces, civic organizations, schools, neighborhoods, and friend groups learn to grapple with race and whiteness in a constructive, helpful, and soul affirming way, we’re calling on the wider community to join us in forming citywide “un-learning circles” within existing community spaces.

We envision dozens or even hundreds of spaces full of people seeking to understand their own biases, structural racism and its effects, deepen their connection to their own capacity for empathy and compassion, and find tangible ways to be active collaborators in racial justice. More than a book club, different from an academic class, people gather with those they already know over brunch and have honest, brave, and authentic conversations about race in the effort of unlearning together. We think community is key to keeping each other accountable and staying in this work for the long term, building horizontal structures of support rooted in relationships rather than pyramids of dominant power. For these reasons, we are calling on folks to gather where they already find community, and do so as peers committed to the struggle rather than teachers and students.

Unlearning Circles can take many forms: from an ongoing environmental or reproductive justice lens, to a parenting focus or a faith-based foundation, they are all predominantly white spaces talking about internalized racism, white supremacy and structural racism through a praxis of thinking, feeling and doing.

*** A note about these spaces ***

The nature of our organization and the work we do means that this conversation is facilitated by white people, about whiteness and racism within predominantly white spaces. We understand these spaces as only one piece of a multiracial effort to dismantle racism. This work and these spaces are in response to the current and historical call from black leadership for white anti-racists to organize their own people, and provide material support to their organizing efforts.

While we recognize that the way we as a group navigate this work means that our audience is other white folks, we welcome all who wish to attend, this space is open to all. Our mission statement is included at the end of this document, for those who want to know more.