Ground Rules for Race and Justice Work at LRC

These Ground Rules are not static and continue to be refined over time particularly as we seek to decenter expectations of “comfort” and silence as strategies for non-engagement.[1]

  • Recognize: We recognize that we must strive to overcome historical and divisive biases, such as racism and sexism, in our society and ourselves. Each individual is responsible for identifying their privilege and the unearned benefits of that privilege as they are conferred by, and perpetuated within, racist systems and structures.
  • Acknowledge: We acknowledge that we are all systematically taught misinformation about our own group(s) and about members of other groups. This is true for everyone, regardless of our group(s).
  • No Blame: We agree not to blame ourselves or others for the misinformation we have learned and to accept responsibility for not repeating misinformation after we have learned otherwise.
  • Respect: We agree to demonstrate respect when speaking and listen respectfully to each other without interruptions.  Examples of this may be using wonder or “I” statements when speaking about our own experiences, and having only one person speak at a time. However, respect does not mean we should ignore problematic statements. Calling in and calling out are valid approaches and can be done with care and respect, with the goal of helping each other learn.
  • Intent and Impact: There may be a difference between intention and impact; when an action or statement impacts a person negatively, we will be focused on addressing the impact.
  • Humility and Learning: We acknowledge that we may be at different stages of learning on the content and discussion topics. We also acknowledge that we are all responsible for our own learning and it is not up to BIPOC to educate people of privilege.
  • Individual Experience: We agree that no one should be required or expected to speak for their whole race or gender. We can’t, even if we wanted to.
  • Trust: Everyone has come to the table to learn, grow, and share. We will trust that people are doing the best they can; we all make mistakes and have bad days; when these occur, let’s challenge and encourage each other to do better. We acknowledge once again that we may be at different stages of learning on the topic.
  • Safety: We recognize that we all have a right to safety, but not to comfort in these discussions. It is important for us to understand the difference between feeling unsafe and feeling uncomfortable. We agree to challenge ourselves to work through the discomfort and vulnerability necessary to pursuing equity, and to be brave in this discomfort.  We agree that discussions had, and personal experiences shared, in the course of this workgroup’s activities will remain within the boundaries of the group in which they were shared.  We also agree that personal experiences belong to the individual, and we agree not to challenge a person on those experiences.
  • Share the Air: Share responsibility for including all voices in the discussion. If you have a tendency to dominate discussions, take a step back and help the group invite others to speak. If you tend to stay quiet, challenge yourself to share ideas so others can learn from you. If you are sitting in silence, consider what might be behind your silence and how you may want to share.
  • Not Experts: The facilitators are not experts; they facilitate the process. They and everyone in the group are here to learn. Everyone has an opinion. Opinions, however, are not the same as informed knowledge backed up by research. Both are valid to share and it’s important to know the difference.
  • Ask for help: It’s okay not to know. Keep in mind that we are all still learning and are bound to make mistakes when approaching a complex task or exploring new ideas. Be open to changing your mind, and make space for others to do so as well.
  • Restorative Approach:  We expect members of this community to be mindful of other members’ feelings and opinions.  If a member causes harm to another member of this workgroup, we expect the person who has done the harm to take responsibility, and work to rebuild the relationship with the person or persons harmed.
  • Language:  We will use a common language in this workgroup, including the use of the phrases “Person of Color” (POC), “BIPOC” (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color), and First Nations, and addressing individuals how they personally identify.  If a member uses an inappropriate term, we agree to make them aware of their mistake and provide alternative language.

NOTE: In addition to the original sources cited in the footnote, these ground rules now include collective input/revisions from: the AHS interdepartmental Trauma and Resilience Team, the Vermont Child and Family Trauma Workgroup, Resilience Beyond Incarceration, the AHS DCF Family Services Division Racial Equity Workgroup, Vermont Works for Women, and WAVE (Working to Advance VT Equity).

[1] The original ground rules were developed with a variety of sources (From Iowa SU and Ground Rules and Tools for Productive Discussions (NCAR); also from the ISU Principles of CommunityCenter for Research on Learning and Teaching (UMichigan), Library Juice Academy, and Is Everyone Really Equal.)