A MODEL FOR THE IN-DEPTH EXPLORATION OF RACE, EQUALITY & CULTURE
MISSION: Cuba Documentary Film Project
By means of one spontaneous, interactive group of individuals in an urban community in Havana, Cuba, using state of the art documentary film technology, we shall capture the images, gestures, verbal and non-verbal communication among the participants. The group will be composed of people representing the racial and ethnic makeup of their community. They will each meet over the span of a few days to discuss what divides the members of their community and what brings them together. All groups will be co-led by experienced Spanish-speaking group facilitators and filmed by professional documentary film makers. This will be a film by North Americans in collaboration with Cuban film makers for a study of contrasts between Havana, Cuba and Oakland, California with regard to race relations.
In the long term, we will film a small group in a neighborhood of Oakland, California, in order to begin a comparative study of race relations, Cuba and the United States. The goal is to make both documentaries available to researchers in the fields of anthropology, social psychology, linguistics, sociology, rhetoric, and cross-cultural history in order to get a comprehensive picture of the group processes in two cultures and two languages. We suspect that there are significant differences in how Blacks and Whites interact with each other in the two different cultures. We shall study these factors with an eye to what the United States can learn from Cuba about race relations.
We will look first and foremost at the issue of equality as it manifests itself in group. Our goal is to identify rules of group behavior that order race relations. Which rules are universal and which are culture bound? How can we compare one society or nation with another on the dimension of equality in social interaction?
We shall produce eight edited films, each of 30 minutes in length, for a total of 4 hours. The films will be designed for use in classes at the university and college level, both private and public. Departments of anthropology, social psychology, linguistics, sociology, rhetoric, and cross-cultural history would be especially targeted.
The videos will stimulate discussion by viewers and serve as a model for conducting groups in educational settings. A study guide will accompany the videos and set forth a new paradigm for the in-depth exploration of race and culture based on the findings and discoveries of our comprehensive video study. Alexander Street Press of Alexandria, Virginia, has agreed to consider distribution of our product to institutions of higher learning.
In the short term, we can begin by filming one group in a neighborhood of Havana, Cuba. Six sessions will produce 18 hours of spontaneous footage. From that film, the cinematographer Robert Boudreaux can edit 4 hours of film into eight 30 minute segments, suitable for marketing and sale to colleges and universities. We are seeking private funding through individuals who are both curious and dedicated to the task of understanding the endemic racial conflict in the United States. You can make a tax deductible donation to the Berkeley Group Therapy Education Foundation, our publicly supported, tax exempt nonprofit education foundation.
Philosophical and Historical Premises for Study:
In 1947, the German émigré, Kurt Lewin, social scientist and renowned theorist of group interaction, founded the National Training Laboratory in Bethel, Maine, with the specific intent of promoting racial harmony in the United States. The first meetings of NTL centered on the topic of race relations. Groups met in spontaneous formats that were designed to foster sensitivity training, thus earning the moniker, T-Groups. It was Lewin's brilliant insight that psychology, especially group psychology, could offer a more popular language for talking about race than politics or morality. The goal became not only civic equality but psychic wellness and wholeness for the individual.
Following Kurt Lewin's lead, we intend to reconfigure his original project to encompass what we have learned about group process in the last seventy years. Leaders of small process groups have gradually come to understand the nature of equality that is essential to the very existence and operation of groups of individuals that meet over time. As leaders, we are present to the working out of conflicts relevant to equality: Who gets more? Who knows more? Who cares more? The basis for equality in small groups is both practical and theoretical. Every small group must work out these questions of equality before they can advance to deeper levels of functioning. Those that fail to work through these issues become stuck in rigid or authoritarian structures or spin out in disorganized flight. The coming to terms with equality is crucial to the inner life of groups and determines both how well and how long they can be sustained by their members.
The recent Berkeley Civic Courage and Heroism Experiment (2014) created by Phil Zimbardo and Bill Roller has added another dimension to our understanding of groups as they collaborate in doing tasks of ethical significance. The film produced from that experiment, Group Dynamics and the New Heroism: The Ethical Alternative to the Stanford Prison Experiment, demonstrates how a group can resist the strong tendency to scapegoat others aggressively. The leaders of a group must teach and support norms that drive communication forward and actively resist forces that restrain communication—one such force being the tendency to aggressively scapegoat others in the group. Therefore, interpersonal conflict in group is conceived as a social phenomenon to which each person in group contributes.