In fall 2021, Bethel College became a designated Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center as approved by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in collaboration with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
What is TRHT?
“...a comprehensive, multi-year national and community-based process to bring about transformational and sustainable change….and to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism in our communities and institutions.”
Through TRHT initiatives, “participants build relationships, trust and collective power at the community and institutional level. These relationships lay the groundwork for powerful systemic change, as community partners re-envision and reshape their institutions, policies and practices.”
The two foundational pillars of the TRHT framework include:
- Narrative change
- Racial healing and relationship-building
The ultimate goal of TRHT is “jettisoning [the] belief in the false hierarchy of human value.”
Read more from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
What does TRHT work look like at Bethel College?
Since becoming a TRHT Campus Center, the Bethel College TRHT Team has developed and is implementing an Action Plan guided by the following vision statement:
As a TRHT Campus Center, Bethel College seeks to identify opportunities for and to provide spaces for healthier conversations among students, professionals, and community members. With the TRHT framework as our foundation, we seek to openly identify structural barriers that are implicit in the institution, and to propose solutions for holistic change. As a community partner, KIPCOR [Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution] is committed to the work of peacemaking through its strong commitment to restorative justice.
One of the core tools of both the TRHT framework more broadly and Bethel’s current Action Plan is a facilitated experience called a Racial Healing Circle. Since fall 2021, Bethel has hosted 18 of these circles, reaching almost a quarter of our campus community.
At its most basic, a circle process involves a group of people sitting in a physical circle of chairs and reflecting on a number of prompts designed to solicit deeper conversations (in both the full group and in pairs) about our lived experiences. This process is facilitated by 1-2 individuals (“Circle-keepers”) who guide you through the process. In other words, you don’t need to prepare in any specific way to participate fully.
Circles are a highly effective way of getting to know others better in a short period of time. Circles build connections between people, provide a space for you to share your own stories, and allow you to listen to and learn from others' stories. Community-building and connection are core to circle processes.
While circle processes come in many different forms, a Racial Healing Circle is primarily geared towards prompts related to identity and how you show up in the world. What experiences have you had that have made you into the person you are today? How does your identity (racial or otherwise) inform how you do your work, build relationships or show up in this community?
As people of differing racial identities, we can learn so much from hearing others’ stories. A racial healing circle is not anti-racism training, but rather an experience to reflect on identity in ways that can help you to see yourself (and others) in new ways.
A Racial Healing Circle is not a “one and done” experience. The more we can instill circle processes into our daily routines (whether in meetings, classrooms, team gatherings or elsewhere), the more we can instill the value of relationship-building in our community.