YWCA of Tulsa
racial justice and civil rights

Claiming Our Space

Claiming Our Space: Why a People of Color Caucus

As members of Mosaic, YWCA Tulsa’s people of color caucus, people often ask us about the purpose of our group. Part mixer, part sounding board, part support group, and part classroom, the goal of Mosaic is to create safe, accountable, and supportive spaces for people of color to explore their own experiences with internalized racial oppression (IRO) as well as privilege. We offer the following reasons for why we come together:
 
  1. Because of the history of white supremacy in the United States, the lived experience of people of color is different from that of white people. Still today, people of color contend with institutional and structural oppression, IRO, and microaggressions on a daily basis. 
  2. As leaders in the movement, we have called on our white allies to work on their internalized racial superiority (IRS) and privilege before partnering with us. We also recognize that we have our own work to do before coming together with white people to advance racial justice. 
  3. People of color-only sanctuary spaces create an opportunity for meaningful, unguarded reflection on the impact of racism on our lives, a rare experience for people of color in a mostly white community. This reflection is at once cathartic and healing, as we refuel through the validation of shared storytelling, build resilience against the racism we experience, and gain skills and tools to navigate the world in healthier, more life-giving ways.
  4. Meeting in a space without white people allows us to heal from the trauma of racism by letting our guard down and examining the pain of racism, gaining an understanding of how IRO makes us be in the world, and learning how to undo the harmful impact of IRO.
  5. Our caucus is a homecoming for us. The sanctuary space is one of the few times people of color can “turn off” the coping mechanisms of hyperawareness, second guessing ourselves and others, and guardedness that protects us from oppression. This disarms the distrust that we carry with us each moment to shield us from further harm.
  6. One tool of racism is to divide communities of color and pit them against one another. Coming together across racial lines creates a space for multiracial trustbuilding and unity, helping find common bonds to overcome the disconnect between communities of color created by IRO, IRS, and institutionalized racism.
  7. Like all sanctuaries, Mosaic is not an end, but rather a space to work through the process of healing and to recharge, enabling and empowering us to be effective in multiracial groups in the struggle for racial justice.
  8. While people of color have shared experiences of racism, we recognize that these manifest in myriad ways, and there is no universal experience of oppression. Skin color, gender identity, sexual identity, class, physical and cognitive ability, immigration status, language, and other identities intersect with race to create the totality of an individual’s lived experience.
  9. While we may discuss whiteness and the system of white supremacy that is enabled by racism, our space is not designed to discuss white people. We distinguish between the oppressive system of whiteness, a social construct, and white people, who are simultaneously privileged and dehumanized by IRS. 
Created by participants in the inaugural YWCA Tulsa Mosaic group, a multiracial collection of women of color living in Tulsa, in March 2012. We are grateful for the guidance of those who inspired this document, including Dr. Dee Watts-Johns (“Healing Internalized Racism: The Role of a Within-Group Sanctuary Among People of African Descent”); Robette Ann Dias, Emily Drew, and William Gardiner of Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training (“Racial Identity Caucusing: A Strategy for Building Anti-Racist Collectives”); and AWARE-LA, whose “But Why a White Space?” inspired this companion piece.