What began as an attempt to create a formalized advisory board of primarily people of color to establish accountability for an all-white organization dynamically became a working multiracial alliance dedicated to challenging the dominant model of one-sided accountability in the racial justice movement. Members of the Racial Justice Alliance (RJA), ranging from community organizers, progressive artists and human relations facilitators, developed a critique of one-sided accountability, pointing out ineffective and inauthentic relationships between white anti-racists and people of color and diminished capacities for effective anti-racist action on the part of white activists.
RJA has developed a paper on Transformative Alliance Building (TAB) called Powerful Partnerships and has developed a workshop intended to facilitate an investigation of alliance-building practices and introduce the TAB model for multiracial audiences. Contact us for more information.
Read below to learn more about the Racial Justice Alliance and the Transformative Alliance Building model.
How is AWARE-LA in alliance with people of color?
AWARE-LA recognizes the need to maintain close relationships with people of color and build multi-racial alliances. For that reason, AWARE-LA initiated the development of a multi-racial, Racial Justice Alliance (RJA) that includes AWARE-LA members and people of color from various social justice networks in the Los Angeles area. The work developed within this workgroup now resides in the Active Resistance workgroup.
How did the Racial Justice Alliance develop?
As an organization, AWARE-LA began building alliances with people of color after its first two years of existence, in 2005. This first effort involved creating a multi-racial group intended to produce a one-day racial justice dialogue in Los Angeles. This group did not sustain itself and disbanded after less than one year. Following our attendance at the 2006 White Privilege Conference, the leadership team of AWARE-LA agreed that it was time to build a Racial Justice Accountability Board (RJAB) to serve as a mechanism of accountability to people of color and a space to begin developing its formal, multi-racial work. However, as people of color attended initial dialogues, many were uncomfortable with the model of accountability to which AWARE-LA members were accustomed. These folks of color bristled at the idea of being an approving body and named problems with the use of one-sided accountability guidelines.
The RJA members called on the AWARE-LA leadership to take responsibility for holding themselves accountable for their own process and expressed dissatisfaction with the idea that people of color should carry the burden of monitoring white people’s anti-racism work within the white community. Essentially, the folks of color said they trust AWARE-LA’s ability to work with white folks and if the sole purpose of the RJAB was to hold AWARE-LA accountable, then they wanted nothing to do with it.
The AWARE-LA leadership team returned to the multi-racial group proposing to work toward “Accountable Alliance Building.” Again, the folks of color questioned the model. After much discussion we understood that if white folks’ primary emphasis is on one-sided accountability to people of color, we will continue creating superficial relationships that lack deeply honest, meaningful dialogue.
This experience prompted us all (AWARE-LA and RJA) to look more closely at the dynamics existing within what we experience as the social justice movement’s most prevalent form of accountability relationship. With full recognition that there may be people who already create healthy, productive alliances in their own communities, we found it necessary to formally describe the development of healthy and productive alliance relationships for ourselves. We call the model Transformative Alliance Building.
(This historical outline is an abbreviated excerpt from our Powerful Partnerships: Transformative Alliance Building chapter.)
What has the Racial Justice Alliance accomplished?
In April 2008, a multi-racial group of RJA members developed and presented a workshop on our Transformative Alliance Building model at the White Privilege Conference in Springfield, MA. This workshop invited participants to identify core principles of alliances based on deep trust, explore issues related to one-sided accountability that limit trust building across race, discuss AWARE-LA and RJA’s model of Transformative Alliance Building, and imagine implications of the model and possibilities for developing mutually accountable alliances that involve deep trust.