Phyllis Unterschuetz is an author, speaker, and workshop facilitator who has been engaged in anti-racism and racial healing work for over 22 years. She is a recipient of the Arthur Weinberg Memorial Prize for Social Justice and DePaul University’s School for New Learning Award of Excellence for her work in the elimination of racial prejudice and collaborative learning.
Phyllis grew up in the Chicago suburbs and lived there until 1997, when she and her husband sold their house and moved into an RV; they spent 15 years on the road and visited 47 states, conducting field research on the dynamics of racial conditioning. Motivated by their belief in the oneness of humanity and their commitment to racial justice, they created a workshop designed around their conviction that individual racial prejudice can be eliminated only through the practice of honest self-assessment, the willingness to risk making mistakes, and the creation of intimate friendships with people of diverse backgrounds. In an effort to provide concrete examples of these concepts, they began telling stories of their personal struggles as white people to overcome their own racial conditioning. These anecdotes eventually became the basis for their book, Longing: Stories of Racial Healing, which was published in May 2010. Over the course of a two-year book tour, they made over 150 author appearances at universities, civic organizations, neighborhood groups, and religious gatherings in 22 states.
Phyllis is also co-founder and president of the Race Story ReWrite Project, a non-profit organization whose mission is to facilitate capacity building for individuals and organizations committed to eliminating racial prejudice and creating a racially just and unified society. The project team’s goal is to create a profound shift in personal and collective beliefs about race, using innovative workshop exercises to guide individuals and organizations through a process of identifying their current race story and replacing it with a narrative that reflects a commitment to transformation and justice.
For the past two years, Phyllis has been engaged with her teammates in an initiative to document how project participants in three cities are integrating racial justice practices into their community building activities. Their findings will be used by the national sponsoring organization to encourage and inform similar efforts around the country. She also continues to do presentations on the roles and responsibilities of white people in creating a society free of racial prejudice, with a focus on acknowledging white supremacy and uprooting anti-Black racism.
Phyllis lives in Stone Mountain GA, just outside Atlanta; she and her husband Gene have been married for 49 years and have three children, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.