White Accountability and Organizing

PREREQUISITE: Participants should have taken one of the following workshops or have other foundational anti-racist education and experience: 

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Throughout history there have always been some white people who have worked for racial justice. But history also tells us that work has not always been as effective as it might be. When white anti-racist activists have not worked in accountable relationships with anti-racist people of color, the white activists have often gone astray, developing approaches and perspectives that have not advanced the cause of racial justice and equity. In many cases, real harm was done by well-intentioned but uninformed white activists.

Anti-racist activists and organizers have come to learn that white people need some basic understanding of what it means to organize other white people while working together with people of color. This requires white people to look at ingrained cultural habits that may unconsciously undermine the work. White culture emphasizes action over relationship. White culture also discredits leadership of color. And white culture asserts the primacy of personal freedom and individual acts over collective responses. These and other ingrained features of white culture can make racial justice organizing efforts ineffective, or worse, damaging.

Because white culture has trained white people not to follow the leadership of people of color, white anti-racists commonly feel confused and disoriented by the concept of accountability to leaders of color. They are likely to seek a rule book that lays out clearly catalogued steps to accountability. This workshop does not present a manual or recipe for accountability but seeks to ground participants in an understanding of accountability as a manifestation of responsible and committed relationship. Participants will come away with a clearer sense of principles and guidelines for accountability, as well as resources and tools for practicing accountability in their racial justice work.

Workshop Topics

The workshop touches on several topics in an introductory way, including:

  • the ally model and where accountability fits in
    levels of accountability – personal, workgroup, institution/organization
  • who are we accountable to?
  • accountability principles
  • ways white activists may avoid accountability
  • consequences of unaccountable behavior
  • white cultural practices that interfere with accountability
  • addressing common obstacles to accountability
  • accountability statements
  • personal accountability networks
  • transformative alliance building

Who it is appropriate for

This workshop is designed for anti-racists of all races who want to work effectively across racial boundaries. Portions of the workshop focus on white participants overcoming white supremacist conditioning to work in solidarity and community with their partners of color. The program is also beneficial for BIPOC activists who want to learn more about powerful alliances with white anti-racists.

The audience for this workshop includes: 

  • Individuals who are new to anti-racism
  • Members of anti-racist groups
  • Anti-racists who recognize they need more skill in accountable relationships
  • Community organizers
  • People in leadership positions in their organizations

What people are saying…

I thought the pace of the sessions was great and there were wonderful discussions. The transformative approach to accountability was really…transformational to me!!

Hannah Korn-Heilner

As a result of this program, I feel better equipped to practice accountability in my racial justice projects. I would recommend this workshop to others.
Blair Williams

I liked the resource list. I could come back later and absorb things more fully.
Sue Dietz

Great information. Presentation easy to follow. The Chapter 10 reading [from Accountability and White Anti-Racist Organizing] was great.

Kevin Trayner

Warm supportive feedback. Flexibility, e.g., going back to small groups when little was being shared in the large group. Good gathering of materials.
Ruth Yarrow

I have developed clear next steps with respect to practicing accountability in [a particular] racial justice project.
Joe Anzek

There was a lot of information that deepened my understanding of accountability and the barriers to it.
Elizabeth Quincy

I really appreciate that so many of the links to readings are available as text to voice documents.
Gerry Myers

As a result of this program, I am extremely motivated to practice accountability in my racial justice work, and I am confident I can apply the knowledge and information from this workshop.
Clara Haignere