Talking about race in West Marin

10/25/2018

For the last year and a half, I have hosted twice-monthly conversations about race in America and in our lives. We select a book to read and, through respectful listening to one another’s reflections on the writer’s thoughts on difference, acceptance and denial, we illuminate our shared condition and provide a safe space for healing, even transformation. 

The endeavor received an infusion of energy last month through the support of a local business owner, Camille Ptak. She recently answered a few of my questions about her excitement for the group. 

 

What brought you to this project? 

“I wanted to get involved because of my own experience moving to this community.  I am biracial and in an interracial marriage. I have experienced subtle acts of prejudice where I feel judged or expected to act in a certain way because of my race. I’ve experienced racial stereotypes projected onto me and other types of racial micro aggressions. 

I was the target of a racially charged encounter in Inverness when a resident repeatedly screamed the N-word in my face. This occurred after I had made numerous requests to stop using that loaded slur around me. I love West Marin and hope that being a part of this project will help make it an inclusive community where all people feel welcome.”

 

What is it that you would like to see in the book group? 

“I would like a safe place for people to connect through literature and share their own experience in a way that will be heard. Often racially charged encounters do not come with a repair. I find that sharing my experience with someone else helps the healing process. I hope there are others that want to read the book selection and join us for discussion.”

 

What do you think or feel a discussion around race might offer in West Marin?

“My own ability to articulate my feelings about race has grown in the last few years. I have learned to listen in a more curious way, which allows me to express my thoughts in a way I hope is more likely to be heard. It is important to generate conversation rather than debate. We all can learn from each other if we have compassion while understanding that we are different. I hope these books can start a discussion that allows us to embrace the differences between us in a fruitful way and create a more inclusive and welcoming community.”

Our autumn book selection is “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo. We will meet on Nov. 1, Nov. 15 and Dec. 6 at the Dance Palace. Point Reyes Books is offering a 15 percent discount on the book, and copies are available at the Inverness and Point Reyes Libraries. For a schedule of upcoming conversations, including book information and discussion notes, frequently asked questions, and safe space guidelines, visit talkingaboutracebookclub.com.

 

Marc Matheson, an Inverness resident, has worked at various local nonprofits.