Caste The Origins of Our Discontents

Cedar Valley Community Book Read

This community event is hosted by the Cedar Valley Antiracism Coalition CVAC.

Find information about:

‌This year CVAC will host three groups for those who have not been able to find a reading group. We’ll use Zoom as our platform for doing so. Information for joining these groups is below. 

Volunteer to lead a group. The group can be one that you have already set up via your place of employment, friends, neighbors, relatives, etc.; or you may indicate that people interested in joining a group may sign up for yours. 

The Facilitator Role

Although the task of facilitating may seem daunting, it really is a lot of fun and you do not need a lot of prior experience to participate at this level. What you need are desire to learn, willingness to lead, a commitment to reading ahead, and a little bit of courage! Diversity, particularly when it comes to race, can be uncomfortable. But don’t worry – we’ll be with you every step of the way.

Here is what I have found helpful in the four years we’ve been doing the annual Diversity Book Read at UNI.  This guidance is simple and straightforward. Take a look at what is offered and feel free to engage with me and other facilitators as you move along. 

  • Facilitators don’t have to know everything. 

  • One of the primary goals of the facilitator is to help each group member access the book. By that we mean that you help everyone to learn and understand the concepts. This can be done by asking others in the group to respond when questions are asked, letting everyone have a chance to share, and offering opportunities for someone other than the facilitator to lead the discussion. 

  • Facilitators also need to help the conversation flow. Sometimes passionate people take more than their share of time to talk, or tend to respond to each question. It is okay to say, “Let’s hear from those of you who haven’t contributed yet.” Another way to get everyone talking is to arrive with multiple questions based on the chapter(s) you’re reading. Pose the question and ask each participant to respond. 

  • Facilitators should be prepared. They have to read ahead (we suggest at least one chapter), come prepared with questions based on what is in the chapter at hand, always be on the lookout for related material (such as videos, articles, even television show snippets) that can be presented at a group session. 

  • Facilitators should remember the panel discussions being facilitated by Rev. Abraham Funchess. He will be interviewing various groups about the book. Remember to use these recorded sessions as ways to kick off your own discussion. The panel discussions will be on the book read Facebook page. 

  • It is very helpful to have facilitators work in pairs. 

  • Give homework that causes participants to review their own world. Example: Looking for stories about people of color in the newspaper, or on the news 

  • Start the first meeting with introductions and then ask the group to come up with a list of ground rules for how they will operate during discussions. This gives everyone “buy-in.” 

  • Check in with other facilitators on our Facebook page.

You can read about questions they have posed, what is working and what isn’t, ideas for sessions, etc. You also can share any questions you have and offer ideas as well. 

Panel Discussions

Each Thursday in October at 7 p.m., the Antiracism Coalition will host a panel discussion, live streamed via YouTube (links will be posted). Panelists will speak about the reality of racism in our community, how it manifests and how it is being challenged.

Date Moderators Subject Link
October 7 Abraham Funchess and  Denny McCabe Education Zoom Webinar Link - Oct 7
October 14 Abraham Funchess and Randy Pilkington  Social Sciences Zoom Webinar Link - Oct 14
October 21 Abraham Funchess and Matt McGeough Law Enforcement Zoom Webinar Link - Oct 21
October 28 Abraham Funchess and Joy Briscoe

Lending and Real Estate

Zoom Webinar Link - Oct 28


Open Zoom Sessions

These sessions are free and open to all. If you are interested in signing up for one of them, please fill out the Common Read Zoom Sessions form. You will be able to indicate which sessions/dates you plan to attend. A link to the session will be sent to you. That link will be specific to you and cannot be shared. 

Facilitator Dates Time
Dr. Mark Grey Wednesdays,
October 6
October 13
October 20
October 27
10 a.m.
Rev. Scott Kober Wednesdays,
October 6
October 13
October 20
October 27
Noon to 1 p.m.
Mr. Denny McCabe Tuesdays,
October 5
October 12
October 19
October 26
7 p.m.


Ground Rules

Forward: "This group is intended to be a forum for discussion of ideas and for learning about differing viewpoints, not for debate. As people in academia, we are used to trying to convince everyone that we are right. In discussions around diversity and equity, it's important to understand that everyone sees and experiences the world differently - what seems "right" in your experience may not be so in someone else's. Everyone is asked to consider different perspectives, for the purpose of sensitivity, learning, and growth. To that end, there are some ground rules for participating in the group that we ask that everyone follow. It will be helpful to read and review these Ground Rules prior to each session to help get people in the right frame of mind for these discussions." (1)

We will modify these as a group to meet our equity, diversity and inclusion needs.

Recognize: We recognize that we must strive to overcome historical and divisive biases, such as racism and sexism, in our society.

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, but to accept responsibility for not repeating misinformation after we have learned otherwise.

Respect: We agree to listen respectfully to each other without interruptions. Only one person speaks at a time. However, this does not mean we should ignore problematic statements. See information here on calling in and calling out. Both approaches are valid and can be done with care and respect, with the goal of helping each other learn. We acknowledge that we may be at different stages of learning on the content and discussion topics.

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.

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 exceedingly quiet, do expect that the facilitator will call on you in meetings to participate.

Not Experts: The facilitators are not experts. They are here to help facilitate the process. They and everyone in the group are here to learn. We also recognize that everyone has an opinion. Opinions, however, are not the same as informed knowledge backed up by research. Depending on the topic and context, both are valid to share but it's important to know the difference. To engage in deep learning, we will want to lean more toward informed knowledge and gain practice reflecting and speaking thoughtfully on difficult topics.

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. 


Diversity Exit Ramps

Be aware of Diversity Exit Ramps (or ways that people pretend to be talking about diversity but are actually skirting the issue). Identified and described by researcher Paul Gorski, these are sometimes used intentionally, but you are likely to be engaged with readers who use them because it’s what they’ve learned to do; their use is not meant to be offensive, though it may be just that. These exit ramps or detours are designed to stop conversations about race while creating the illusion of engagement or progress.  Instead of leading the conversation toward a deeper understanding of racial issues, these exit ramps are actually detours around the subject. Facilitators should be aware of them, and know how to redirect the conversation to a more productive direction.  Simply asking questions is a good start.

Pacing For Privilege 

What you will hear-----------------------------------------
“We need buy-in from everyone before we begin the training.”
“We must be careful not to alienate ‘XYZ’ (usually a group already with significant power). 

What it does------------------------------------------------
Ultimately prioritizes the needs of those already in power over those in need.
“This is really a Southern issue; not a Northern one.”
“I didn’t own slaves.”

How to respond-------------------------------------------------
“That’s true. But while we seek buy-in, we should still engage in ‘ABC.’
“What led you to that conclusion?”
“How have you benefited from white-supremacy structures like slavery?”

Let’s Celebrate Diversity!

What you’ll hear----------------------------------------
“Let’s put on a panel about the experiences of students of color.”
“Let’s put more funding in celebrating heritage months and allow students do the planning.”
“I have a black friend/relative/neighbor.”

What it does---------------------------------------------
Teaches white students about diversity (comfortable) but not race (uncomfortable). 
Allows white people to stop considering racial justice but get benefits of diversity awareness. 
Creates the illusion of diversity appreciation while entrenching inequity.

How to Respond---------------------------------------
“How can we do it without tokenizing the students?” 
“Can we build in resources to support the students?”


Poverty of Culture

What you will hear---------------------------------
“Their families don’t prioritize education.”
“The diverse kids have a hard time performing.”

What it does---------------------------------------------
Fuels misperceptions of others’ culture.
Justifies our needs not to create racially just schools. 
Blames students for shortcomings in the educational system.
Puts the burden on those who are most marginalized to catch up, instead of changing the curriculum to meet them. 

How to respond------------------------------------------
“What makes you think that?”
Adapt pedagogy to student needs rather than focus on deficits.
Ask, “What are we doing to help?” 

Deficit Ideology

What you’ll hear-----------------------------------------
“We just need to teach our students to have more grit.”
“We should do a program on growth mindset for our Bridge students.” 

What it does-------------------------------------------
Seeks to "fix" students of color—fortifying their grittiness, modifying their mindsets, adjusting their emotions because they obviously are wrong or lacking. 
Puts onus of change on the youth who already have been cheated out of an equitable experience.

How to respond-----------------------------------
“Is there a way we could put the onus back on the school? What can we change or correct to help?”
“Which students already have better access to higher-order and relevant curriculum?”