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YWCA’s Contact Plus Partners with Patrick Henry High School to Host Successful Forum on Race Event

By M’Angelo Harris, YWCA Minneapolis Contact Plus Youth Counselor
May 12, 2017
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Contact Plus, one of YWCA’s healthy life choice programs for girls and youth, partnered with Patrick Henry High School to present the Forum on Race. For the past five years, Contact Plus has collaborated with Patrick Henry High School for this event. The purpose of this forum is to engage youth about the impact of race in our everyday lives. The youth do activities, see performances and engage in meaningful conversations about race. Approximately 115 Patrick Henry High School students spent the day in workshops led by both YWCA Contact Plus counselors and Patrick Henry High School staff members in the school auditorium.

Learning About “isms”

Throughout the day, students learned about different cultural experiences while sharing their perspectives surrounding race and ethnicity in America. Many different races were represented, and the scholars addressed many forms of racism in a handful of videos and were asked difficult questions about racism and many other “isms”.

Race Stereotypes

First, the scholars discussed everyday race stereotypes. They had to guess which race was being stereotyped after hearing certain questions. For example, they were asked which race had the highest welfare recipient rate. Although the scholars all voted African American the actual answer was White Americans. Staff asked them how they came up with the assumptions and then gave them the data to support the actual answers.

Experience of Being a Minority

The scholars also sat through different videos about prejudiced behavior and how it affects individuals experiencing it. The closing video was by Jane Elliot, creator of the “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise. In the video, participants are labeled as inferior or superior based solely upon the color of their eyes and exposes them to the experience of being a minority.

Do you have to have power to be racist?

The scholars were asked questions after each video. A controversial topic during the Forum on Race was answering the question “Do you have to have power to be racist?” Many scholars battled back and forth on this question. The scholars later found out that if you don’t have institutionalized privilege and power, you cannot be racist. As a person of color, you can still discriminate against certain races, but that is considered prejudice because there are systems put in place keeping the oppressed group down and the controlling group well off.

A Successful Event

The goal of the Forum on Race is to have youth leave with a better understanding of the powerful impact that race has on our society. Thank you to Patrick Henry High School for collaborating with YWCA’s Contact Plus program for this important and successful event!