“I’ve seen a need for more white women to be doing more work within racial justice. Too often there is a hesitation … and that annoys me,” says Sara Alvarado. “I’ve talked to racial justice teachers – specifically women of color – who encourage white women to do their work on their own with each other, as well, and to not always put the burden on people of color to be teaching them about their own whiteness and what it means for them in racial justice.”
That is part of the impetus for tonight’s “White Women Facing Their Racism,” which will be hosted by Alvarado and leadership coach Tanya Geisler at Threshold on Madison’s near east side. This event will be is an intimate interview and facilitated discussion where women who identify as white will have a brave and reflective space for sharing their stories and talking openly about race.
Alvarado is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker who spends a lot of time researching, writing and talking about diversity, inclusivity and race. She is the co-creator of Step Up: Equity Matters, a community organization committed to sparking conversations and creating change around inequities in the workplace and community.
“I’m the type of person who teaches through talking about my own journey and my own mistakes,” Alvarado says. “It doesn’t have to be perfect to make change happen.”
The hopes for this event is that women challenge themselves and inspire change as they put their privilege into action for racial justice in the world.
Alvarado contends that we can’t do better until we go within ourselves and be honest about whiteness. But does she find when white people get in these types of situations that they are sometimes afraid to openly talk?
“Oh, yes. That’s one of the reasons that it’s an exclusively white group tonight,” she says. “Even though I think that there are a lot of people of color who could sit in the room and they have the resilience to hear it because it’s what they live every single day, white women would be more hesitant to speak up in that situation because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We really need to explore how we were raised and what messages we’ve received and how we see it playing out in our lives … until we can actually speak that truth, how can we ever expect to change it?”
Alvarado’s co-host for this event is Geisler, a leadership coach who has coached hundreds of high-performers to combat the Impostor Complex so they can step into the starring roles of their lives and achieve their ultimate goals.
The first hour will be Geisler interviewing Alvarado. They will discuss a variety of topics and there will be time for group sharing. Lisa Baker will offer a grounding and reflective mindfulness practice and Sarah Sadie will offer dance movement. There will be journaling prompts from Desiree Lynn Adaway’s “Dear Sister (not just cister)” deck. The event, unfortunately, is full, but Alvarado says that they plan on doing more events in the future.
“We were really surprised by how many women wanted to come,” Alvarado says. “Originally, we had 30 [women] and then we had to up it to 35. I did end up capping it at 50. But we had way more interest than I was anticipating.
One of the goals of the event, Alvarado says, is to build racial resilience for white people.
“I want people to know that their silence is actually creating more of the problem. I hope people come away from the event with some tools in how to be in conversation with themselves and in different places,” she says. “Hopefully, it will have a snowball effect in them wanting to do more. This is just part of it. There’s the education that needs to come afterward … there’s a lot that still needs to happen. It’s hopefully a motivator for people to do more and prioritize it.”