The national TRHT movement’s Framework provides a rigorous, holistic, and multi-level process comprised of five interconnected pillars that guide sustainable systems change. The two pillars of Narrative Change and Racial Healing & Relationship Building represent the “people-work” necessary to facilitate individual, interpersonal, and institutional transformation. The three remaining pillars of Separation, Law, and Economy represent the sites where racism resides, thrives, and is reproduced and embody the primary tools of systemic racism that must be upended in order to achieve sustained structural and societal change.
At the Duke TRHT Center, we have modified the form of the national Framework to highlight the dynamic interplay and overarching unity of the Framework components.
National TRHT Movement
Racial Healing & Relationship Building
Racial Healing & Relationship Building
Separation, Law, Economy
“Change the narrative, change the conversation, change the world.”
— Malala Yousafzai: Education Activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
As narratives are told about our collective history, some stories become dominant, while others recede from view or are hidden. Dominant narratives, particularly as they pertain to race and racism, then become powerful, incomplete, and inaccurate scripts that define and shape social positions, economic opportunities, and lived experiences.
By bringing to light the unheard histories and truths of those who have been silenced, the TRHT process restores the complete mosaic of narratives that exist among all people. In honoring these narratives, we acknowledge the complexity of the past while creating the possibility for an equitable future.
Included in the many avenues of influence in which to introduce narrative change are the entertainment industry, journalism and news media, digital media, publishing, school curricula, cultural institutions, and monuments and parks. Some of the areas in which the TRHT Center works are research, school (student and faculty) curricula, cultural exhibitions and institutions, and public media opportunities.
Racial Healing & Relationship Building
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the largest impacts on health derive from socioeconomic factors such as poverty, education, housing, and access to medical care. Furthermore, the degree to which one experiences debilitating aspects of those factors is directly linked to one’s socially designated racial identity. The effects of racism are borne by everyone existing within a system based on racial hierarchy. The stress of fear and anxiety about “the other” creates harmful, oppressive, and entrenched patterns of behavior. Today, racism has become a global public health crisis.
The TRHT strategy is grounded in a holistic prescription for health and well-being embodied in new and restored relationships between persons with differing racial identities. It is a recommended protocol – Rx Racial Healing® – that engages individuals in the commitment to honor the equal and interconnected value of all people. The journey from fractionalization to wholeness increases individual and collective capacity for perspective taking and empathy. Racial healing practitioners undergo extensive and ongoing training to acquire the core skills for leading Rx Racial Healing® work. Gail Christopher, author of Rx Racial Healing: A Guide to Embracing Our Humanity (and the methodologist of the Rx Racial Healing® process and practice) describes the implementation of Rx Racial Healing® as an “art and a science”.
Rx Racial Healing® Principles:
- The global human family is interconnected as we all are the descendants of a shared human ancestry.
- The antiquated, destructive, mythical belief in a hierarchy and taxonomy of human value is an obstacle to the continued evolution of humanity. This belief is to be replaced with an understanding of the truth about our interconnected and equal human essence.
- Our primary innate human imperative is to be connected, loved, and nurtured. People need to feel safe and to perceive that we are valued and not threatened by our fellow human beings.
- A societal belief is an idea or thought that is pervasive and repeated often enough to harden into automatic behaviors which create structures and systems to embody the foundational belief.
- Racial/human hierarchy is a persistent societal belief that has caused immeasurable harm and human suffering. The belief must be eliminated.
- Our human brains have evolved to best retain, communicate, and understand stories and narratives. We can influence and shape core beliefs and perceptions when we engage in sharing our diverse stories of agency and resilience.
- We choose to co-create and to model the desired state in which all are valued equally when we experience co-facilitated, compassionate Rx Racial Healing® Circles.
These principles consider the current systemic dysfunction with regard to race, the assertion that this can be replaced with new behaviors and beliefs, and a context – Rx Racial Healing® Circles (RxRHCs) – in which to model and experience those new behaviors and beliefs. Through personal storytelling and deep listening in response to directed and positive prompts, RxRHCs invite participants to practice open and authentic relationship building across perceived differences, and to embody the fullness of their being.
In this expanded way of being together, racial healing occurs through relationship building and relationship building occurs through racial healing, enabling positive change beyond the circle experience into everyday life. As authentic engagement with each other is made possible, stress decreases and allows for a consciousness shift that replaces bias with understanding, fear with love. Embraced and directly experienced by a growing number of schools, departments, and units at Duke, the TRHT Center’s intentional focus on relationship building is a complementary strategy that enhances the sustainability of the University’s racial equity efforts.
“Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touches your life and every experience that enters it. We are all part of one another.”
— Yuri Kochiyama: Civil Rights and Human Rights Activist
“There must be something positive and massive in order to get rid of all the effects of racism and the tragedies of racial injustice.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Structural revolution means abandoning policies and practices that support a racial hierarchy, and redesigning the institutions in which those policies and practices are based and reproduced. To sustain such a restructuring, we must not only apply our minds to the task but experience the change in our hearts that allows us to value each individual’s unique and whole identities. A policy for equity voted in can just as easily be voted out unless a true shift in perception and consciousness occurs. By engaging the whole person in relation to the whole system, and the whole system in relation to its desired state, transformation can happen at the individual, interpersonal and institutional levels.
Separation, Law, and the Economy are the primary tools of racism. Through these means, we isolate and subjugate persons with specific racialized identities and particular cultures, values, and languages.
The Duke TRHT Center groups the national TRHT Framework pillars of Separation, Law and Economy under the larger process umbrella of Structural Revolution. This paradigm emphasizes the interconnected and generative aspects of the Framework. As the “people-centered” pillars of Narrative Change and Racial Healing & Relationship Building feed into the process of Structural Revolution, so the effects of Structural Revolution (i.e., the impact of institutional change) then feed back into Narrative Change and Racial Healing & Relationship Building. Transformation occurs continually and symbiotically throughout the entire system.
Like many other elite academic institutions, the culture of Duke has been historically constituted based on class and racial hierarchies, and the resulting structures are still reflected across all sectors of the institution. Due to current leadership’s commitments, these cultural underpinnings and their consequences are undergoing conscious and effortful change, and the TRHT Center is engaged in conversations and actions around positive shifts in the evolution of campus culture.