What's the goal of the project?
To create a space where people who identify as or experience passing as white can explore in community what it means to be white in their lives and in our society, but without friends or colleagues of color being put in a position of helping or teaching or ambassador-ing or holding space.
As the organizing artist, I wanted a space where I could inquire into the ideas I grew up with, and be supported in my challenges by others seeking to better understand their privilege, biases, obstacles, and roles. To get more voices at the table, these conversations would be prompted by illustrations by artists of color and white artists of their own experiences.
My hope is that this is one more step in building a supportive network among white people who would like to help work toward a more equitable city by first examining their impact. We can encourage and assist each other in working through blind spots, behavior patterns, and problem beliefs that can get in the way of seeing these ideals of justice realized and prevent us from building authentic relationships. After the dinner, we can continue to share resources and contribute to POC-led racial justice efforts.
How does a conversation among white people help systemic racism?
This is a work of participatory art about privilege, fragility, and calling-in. There are many groups doing more direct work locally. Dysfunctionalware guests are encouraged to get in touch with these groups and donate time or money.
It would be great if we white people would spend more time researching literature and other resources by POC and putting what we learn into action. But since things are often going ok for us personally in the racial dimension of our own lives, there isn't always motivation to sit down with this uncomfortable work. When the others in our lives think differently about race and privilege, it can be lonely not to have support for navigating our growing recognition of systemic inequality and what it means for us. A dinner brings people together to share resources, perspectives, common experiences. This project brings in people for whom the idea of white privilege is a relatively new one, as well as those who have spent a lifetime working on this and still want to get clearer.
This project is getting off the ground thanks to two grants from arts organizations, RAC and MAAA, and the help of MAPS (see homepage bottom). These are being used to provide dinner experiences to those who want to give input into the project, as well as to hire those with expertise to help with the project--artists, facilitators, organizers, designers, caterers, service staff. There is an effort to distribute grant money to people in those fields with identities whose resources have been historically looted by white people, and to white people actively involved in justice efforts.
Is this a safe space?
Dysfunctionalware is a space for people who want to challenge themselves. Dinner guests will be coming from vastly different sets of experiences and intersectional identities, and every single one of us has got a lot to learn. It should be an uncomfortable process. It is a practice in listening to understand, patience with self and others, vulnerability, reflection, discomfort, discovery, liberation. Facilitators are there to deal with intersectional issues.