Your Arlington neighbors recommend Challenging Racism: Learning How

Recommended as...

"Challenging and inspiring"

​      "Life-changing



​                        "Helpful"

                            "Not as scary as it sounds;)"

Word Cloud from Question #13 in the Challenging Racism: Learning How 2018 Alumni Survey.

Alumni "willingness to recommend" percentage is from Question #12 of that same survey ( 71% Very Likely 19% Likely to recommend to a friend)

From alumni answering the question "My biggest takeaway from the class is..."

"It provided me with the context and diction for things I was witnessing and experiencing, but not fully absorbing or comprehending."

 ​"There is no perfect conversation; the important thing is to keep talking.  I know that I should ask and answer questions until I understand what the other person means."

​"People's behaviors are influenced by their experience and, in general, most people are trying their best with extremely varied types of exposure and experience.  The more we can open ourselves up to conversations with people who are "different" than we are, the better our chances of success in relationships, in school, in work and in the world."

"It is important to talk about race, about inclusion, about bridging gaps.  When we ignore race, we fail to see the big picture." 

"Understanding that everyone has all sorts of sad and terrible experiences and if we don't accept them we shouldn't expect others to understand ours. Once we understand how to accept them we can then learn how to deal with them better."
"Everyone has a story to share, which deserves to be heard and appreciated."

"Invested in working to close the achievement gap." 

In their own words...

"I signed up for the Challenge Racism class because I wanted to talk more about race and privilege.  Our facilitators were world class professionals.  They knew the material and had years of experience facilitating discussions regarding race.  Our discussions were current, thought-provoking, and challenging.  Our facilitators modeled storytelling and active-listening and created a safe space for both.  Telling stories and listening to stories was a central part of each session.  Each participant seemed engaged, challenged, and stimulated by the conversation.  I highly recommend this course to any member of our community." ~ George

"I found the readings, film clips and facilitator-led conversations in the Challenging Racism course to be eye-opening and thought-provoking. They helped me finally understand micro-aggressions, White privilege and the role of racism in poverty. I learned that we all are affected by institutional racism and that unconscious bias is therefore inevitable. Now, rather than feel shame and act defensively when these thoughts arise, I use my energy to recognize and challenge them.” Despite my own substantial scholarly research on affirmative action prior to the course, I was surprised to discover examples of major white affirmative action programs that I had not been aware of." ~ Carolina

"As a recently naturalized Muslim American of mixed Italian and Arab heritage, I have been on different sides of othering, racism and privilege all my life. And yet, I took a lot out of my participation in Challenging Racism as it practically connected it to my presence in Arlington, the town I moved to 8 years ago. By so doing, I was able to appreciate the systemic roots and structural underpinnings that perpetuate it not in the abstract but in the local systems I was interacting with daily. This allowed me to discover the many ways I can take responsibility to changing that reality, not least with my 12 year old who asks me questions about differences she witnesses at school and in different neighborhoods. It also equipped me with the kind of knowledge to effectively challenge the assumptions people I engaged with have about race issues in our country because I understood the source of their misunderstanding. It also illustrated the ways in which privileged segments of society (myself included) engage in a superficial approach to tackling racism that are less about changing the system and more about feeling good about one’s self. Finally, Challenging Racism made it real for me by making me bear witness to the experiences of my Latino, Asian, and African American colleagues. That, by far, was the most effective in enrolling me join the fight to challenge racism. I strongly recommend the course be propagated across the county as I believe that once we get a critical mass of citizens equipped the way Challenging Racism equipped me, then we will in fact tip the balance." ~ Nizar

Alumni of Challenging Racism: Learning How about the value of the conversations to them in their professional work. As they all work for federal agencies, they cannot sign their names to these testimonials. 

“I have been a director at a federal agency since 2009. The agency is trying with some success to hire and retain a more diverse workforce.  However, it is clear that people of color or who are LGBTQx sometimes feel isolated, which makes our efforts less effective. Taking the Challenging Racism course has given me a better understanding of where this sense of isolation comes from and has given me experience talking about race in particular but also about differences among people more generally. 

With this greater understanding and practice I have been able to engage people more effectively and build trusting and productive relationships with my staff. I have also been able to model an inclusive approach to meetings and other aspects of our work.

The results are tangible. Recently, a woman of color joined my team to lead one of several related projects. Her background and skills will be a great asset to the team but she has not worked in this area and it is a complex environment with tons of acronyms and technical language that take a while to master. We had an all hands meeting to coordinate the projects and I introduced her and welcomed her to the team and said her expertise was going to be invaluable to our overall success. During the meeting and afterwards, almost everyone made it a point to greet her personally and welcome her to the team. I found out later that several also followed up afterwards with individual meetings to discuss the work and offer things to read and other help to come up the learning curve in this esoteric area.  A week later I met with her to see how things were going and she said she was feeling very good about the project and the team. “

White male, SES level of responsibility, Arlington resident, participant in Challenging Racism: Learning How 2017-18, name withheld from this document because of government ethics requirements. 

“As a member of the Senior Executive Service in the federal government, I oversee a civil rights office and considered myself a self-aware, inclusive manager. However, taking the Challenging Racism course opened my eyes that much wider to seeing the ways white privilege impacts the workforce and employees, even when white managers don't intend to do or say things that could feel racist to colleagues of color.  I am now much more open to the perceptions of employees of color, instead of my former reactions that merely denied racist intent when employees told me that something I had said or done felt racist to them. For example, I am more intentional about including diverse faces (to include a range of races, faiths, LGBTQ+ and disability status, and national origins) in the graphics and photographs we use in our internal and external materials, in the employees we hire and speakers we ask to come to our staff conferences, and in my approach to who I include in high-level meetings and asking employees of color to provide feedback on that diversity.  

 Also, when I provide performance feedback, I am more reflective of whether I am unconsciously holding employees of color to a higher standard than white employees, and I can talk to them about their perceptions of unconscious bias with a mind more open to that possibility. I intentionally bring up the subject of white privilege to let employees know that I welcome such conversations and perceptions.

 Finally, several years ago, an employee of color told me that  I was a racist during a difficult conversation.  I replied very emphatically that I was "not a racist." Because of  CR, I now understand that racism is a continuum, not a binary "racist or not racist" switch.  All white people are somewhere along this continuum, and the important thing is that we are intentionally moving towards the anti-racist end of the scale. I will never again say "I am not a racist."  Instead, because of my participation in the CR course, I say, "Please tell me more about how what I said or did made you feel as a person of color, so that I can be more aware of the unintentional impact of my words and actions.

White female, SES, August, 2019, Arlington resident, participant in Challenging Racism: Learning How in Winter/Spring, 2019. Name withheld from this document because of government ethics requirements. 

“I have been a Senior Executive in a federal agency for the past 10 years and I participated in the Challenging Racism course five years ago. 

I use the skills I learned from Challenging Racism every day in my position as a manager of a diverse staff, tasked with producing objective, fact-based analyses.  I am involved in recruiting, hiring and developing staff, while overseeing the production of numerous studies.  I believe I am more effective in carrying out these responsibilities because of the deeper understanding and useful tools that I acquired, and continue to receive, from my work with Challenging Racism. 

For example, I am an active participant in my team’s Diversity and Inclusion committee and frequently share resources from Challenging Racism with other members.  By modeling inclusive behavior, guarding against unconscious bias, and coaching others on how to have difficult conversations, I have been able to contribute to what is has been recognized as a positive, inclusive culture in my team.”

Female, self-identifies as Mexican- American, Participant in Challenging Racism: Learning How in 2014-15, Arlington resident. Name withheld from this document because of government ethics requirements. 


90% of Challenging Racism: Learning How  alumni are “very likely” or “likely” to recommend the program to a friend.