An introduction into Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism Work With Youth
What is race? What is racism? And what does anti-racism work look like? These words and phrases are frequently bandied about, without much explanation or understanding of what they actually mean. We at the Yale Youth Ministry Institute are aware that the materials included here focus on the issue of racial injustice, with a specific eye towards racial injustices imposed upon the Black community in the United States. Of course, all people of color experience racial injustices. We are working to provide additional tools that will be useful for all communities, and we appreciate your patience and accompaniment as we work to add more resources that will help everyone do this important work.
The theory of racial formation is a theoretical framework that provides an illuminating view of the sociohistorical process of racial identity, both structurally and personally. Structurally, racial formation provides a way to begin thinking about how the broader patterning of race (i.e. racialized social structures) shapes the institutions, communities, and social worlds in which we live and act. Personally, racial formation offers insight into how we manifest these larger racialized social structures in our everyday lives, and within our bodies. Racial formation is defined as “the sociohistorical process by which racial identities are created, lived out, transformed, and destroyed.”
Critical race theorists seek to understand how race and racism function in order to “uncover the ongoing dynamics of racialized power, and its embeddedness in practices and values which seemingly do not have racial manifestations.” There are four key concepts of critical race theory (CRT) that are important for the curriculum: race as a social fact, racism is normal, intersectionality, and centering the stories of people of color. To be sure, these four claims are extremely strong. An honest assessment of American Christianity and its history of theologically justifying events all Christians should believe were immoral and inconsistent with the Gospel of Christ (e.g. coloniality, indigenous genocide, slavery, to name but a few) reveal a racist history that we must confront if we desire to heal a fractured Church.
As one digs more deeply into the work of anti-racism, the question becomes not what is wrong with those racists out there, but what is wrong with us? What systemic, structural problem do these acts of racism point to that needs tending? How do I contribute to that problem, and how does it manifest within me? How might I practice becoming compassionately anti-racist?
There are two training modules available. Racism and the Inner Self is a training module designed by the Reverends Jill Olds and Sharell Shippen to be the starting point for youth leaders who are just starting to engage in the question of anti-racism. Before bringing this important topic to a youth group, youth leaders are charged with doing some personal, interior work on the subject of racism:
- How do conversations about race and racism make me feel?
- How do I respond when my racism is pointed out?
- What am I to do with these feelings, and how do I respond in a way that is loving and that works for justice?
Dismantling Racism with Youth is a training module designed by the Reverends Jill Olds and Sharell Shippen for youth leaders, designed to explore how to raise these important conversations within youth groups:
- How might one even begin to talk about racism with youth?
- What are some steps that I can lead my youth group towards?
- How can I be thoughtful about anti-racism work as I create programs for my youth?
 Omi and Winant, Racial Formation in the United States, 103-159.
 Omi and Winant, 109.
 Crenshaw, xxix.