Fakequity in Hiring Processes

Photo by Linda Eller-Shein on Pexels.com

I’ve been consumed with a few different hiring processes over the past few months. They have been a pain in the ass and fascinating at the same time. A pain since they require care and attention. If you try to shortcut any part of the process and you can see the repercussions fairly quickly. Fascinating for the same reason, very rarely do we run processes where the timelines are short enough to see outcomes so quickly.

What I’ve Learned

When it comes to hiring getting the process right is crucial to getting the outcomes you desire, assuming you’re using the standard US based hiring processes (e.g., put together a job description, launch it into cyberspaces for hopefully viral or just short of viral sharing, applications get emailed in, etc.). The process is fairly rote and as far as I can tell has not been adjusted much for decades, except with the internet now we don’t use newspaper classifieds anymore.

In the non-profit and government sectors it is also connected to personal networks in the sense we often rely upon people we know to help share the job postings and refer candidates or encourage people to apply.

Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are a staple of a hiring process. The description is a chance for the organization to get clear about what they are looking for, what the job details, the process for applying, etc. Like a dating profile it says “this is who I’m looking for,” and sometimes a little about who the organization is.

When focused on equity and inclusion, this document says a lot about the organization. Our friend Vu who blogs at NonprofitAF, has been on a campaign to have all job descriptions disclose a salary range. Salary ranges are important for transparency and benefit people of color when they negotiate a salary. There is very little defendable reasoning for not listing a salary range.

Carrie, a frequent guest blogger on Fakequity, has schooled me on the ways ableism shows up in job descriptions. Samples of ableist phrases that show up in job descriptions include:

  • must be able to lift XX pounds
  • must be able to sit and stand for long periods of time
  • valid drivers license required
  • view a computer for long periods of time
  • ability to type on a keyboard for long periods of time, and so on
  • must be able to speak and read English (I’ll give a hint, ASL is not English and people with learning disabilities can still participate in the workforce even if they can’t ‘read’)
  • dogs/cats are in the office (for organizations that are not animal serving)

For many of these requirements, there are reasonable accommodations. Such as while it is nice to be able to lift and move things around the office, is that really a core function of the person’s job? When I mentioned this to someone they pushed back and said “well the person needs to carry the lunches to the board meeting,” I rolled my eyes. Can’t the caterer move the lunches? Are you hiring someone to move lunches or are you hiring an administrative assistant to organize a board meeting or are you hiring a caterer? Providing lunches is part of the job, but there are many ways to accomplish that part of the job.

Requiring a drivers license is another ableist and classist requirement. Many people can’t drive, but that doesn’t preclude them from navigating physical environments. There are also people who can’t afford the cost of a driver’s license. Unless the job they are being hired for is a driver, such as a bus or van driver, the job can probably be accomplished without them needing to drive as a core function.

If you aren’t listing salary ranges and/or are including physical and other requirements that are unnecessary start eliminating those requirements. This is low hanging fruits for ways to be more inclusive. As a human resources person once told me, your job description should be as bias free as possible. That isn’t the time to impress your organizational culture on the person, you want people to feel welcome in applying.  

Hiring Processes

I’ve participated in several public (government) hiring process recently. These processes was steeped in protocol. I appreciated some of the guardrails on the process, since this was for a position where everyone wanted a piece of the decision making and it could have stretched on forever. That said the process was not set up for families of color to have a strong say in the selection, and it felt like we were making artificial choices out of scarcity (if we only have one seat to fill who gets it, vs. let’s build a process around what is best for families of color representation). While pocs were appointed to the hiring team, the power and control of the process rested with the formal organization.

To the organizers credit they did push the boundaries of the process to allow for more input where possible. A listening session was cobbled together by community members and the official hiring team was invited and they all joined. The listening session was quite wonderful, although not super well attended because we didn’t have a lot of time to do a lot of outreach to get people on the Zoom line. We had a companion written survey with the same questions we asked during the Zoom call. It was heartening to see people used the translated surveys and replied in their home languages which proved they were paying attention, wanted a say, and the process itself didn’t allow for greater engagement.

Hiring processes, especially ones where the leadership position interfaces with the public, need to be structured in ways that allow for community input. Timelines should be stretched out so people can participate in various modes of inputs.

The last piece I learned from this process, is the engagement shouldn’t stop when the hiring team makes their selection. Onboarding and continued engagement are important pieces to setting the new person and the community up or success. This part of the process should center communities of color too. Perhaps in another post we can dig into this topic, but for now just remember to pay attention to it.

Interviews

I’m not going to write a lot about interviews, we’ll save that for another post. I do want to share it is Ramadan right now and many Muslims are fasting (no food or water/liquids) from sunup until sundown. My colleague reminded me for people who are fasting it can be very challenging to interview. Perhaps a reasonable accommodation would be to offer an interview after they have broken their fast for the day, at the very least keep this in mind as you interview people.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. At this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

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Intent vs. Impact vs. Consequences

Mural painted pink background, white swirls, orange speech bubble with words in light blue “Have Difficult Dialogues.” Seen in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District

For a long time people would, and probably still do, write a group norm that says something along the lines of “consider the intent of a person’s words,” “give grace and assume best intent,” or “assume positive intent.” Even Oprah uses the word intention when she speaks and writes. I once heard her say she tries to work and live with intention, including asking her staff members who approach her with project request or ideas “What is your intention?” If they can’t answer genuinely their idea doesn’t go far with her. Intentions are incredibly important but often a careless intention is hurtful to POCs and people hide behind their intentions without understanding the impact and accepting the consequences.

A Sign in the Bathroom

A few weeks ago I virtually “ran into” a friend I hadn’t talked to in a long while. We were catching up with each other and she told me about a hurtful incident. Her friend was in the bathroom of a hospital and came across a poster from public health telling people to be on the lookout for coronavirus symptoms (i.e., cough, fever, etc.). It also said if they were in contact with people who traveled to China, the original epicenter of COVID19, to be extra cautious. She came across this poster during a week where intense anti-Asian hate was in the media and closer to home people in our immediate circle had experienced anti-Asian racism.

My friend was deeply hurt, offended, and mad. She took the time to email contacts at public health with a picture of the signage to inquire about it. The staff person at public health replied and said it looked like the sign had been produced during the early days of COVID19, when many officials were linking COVID directly to people who traveled to China. Looking back that may all be factual, but it ignored the impact of how it bred anti-Asian hate and violence, especially since by the time COVID reached Seattle region (where the first US case was detected) it was already spreading beyond people connected to China.

The reply saying the signage was produced almost a year ago and would ask the hospital to remove it was not the response she was hoping for. It dismissed the hurtful impact of the signage, and did not acknowledge how they unintentionally contributed to anti-Asian sentiments. The not accepting of responsibility or the consequences of the inherent racism that is more visible a year later was not acceptable to my friend.

When she relayed the story to me and I saw the picture, my first reaction was “that sign is definitely old.” Like the staff person, I dismissed it at first. In talking it through I saw how the impact was deeper and the lack of accepting responsibility didn’t lead to responsibility. As Matt Halverson points out in a related piece, when this signage was produced COVID19 was well established in Italy but few public health organizations called attention to travel to Italy. Too often we brush things aside and say, “that wasn’t the intention” and we plow forward. Maybe we need to do what my friend was hoping for – accepting of responsibility for the hurt and facing up to the consequences it may have caused. I’ve also been thinking about the recovery period from COVID and the lessons we carry forward. The dismissing of the signage as old, didn’t point to what we need to learn to avoid these incidents in the next pandemic (which there will be at some point).

Impact and Consequences

I feel at times people say, “that wasn’t my intention,” and expect to be let off. They may feel bad, but it stops there. We need to beyond acknowledging intent and work towards acknowledging the impact and the consequences of actions to get closer to justice. In these situations, it is important to acknowledge the harm done and not brush it off. Acknowledgment is one piece of working to rebuild trust and rebuild the relationship that has been damaged. The people involved will also have to get into their feelings and most likely dwell in the zone of uncomfortable and unsettled feelings. Feelings are part of growth so be ok with being uncomfortable and honor that intention of growth for racial equity.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. At this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

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We Should Still be Protesting

Women holding cardboard sign with white lettering “I CANT BREATHE” city background. Photo by Life Matters on Pexels.com

Earlier this week many of us were riveted to screens as we waited for the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was on trial for murdering George Floyd, a Black man. Chauvin was one of four officers who tried to arrest Floyd. While Floyd was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, face down, Chauvin kept his knee of the back of Floyd’s neck for 8 min and 46 seconds.

Before the verdict came out I chatted with POC friends and many were ready for an acquittal. We felt like history proved white cops get off with harming and killing Black people and not being held accountable. An acquittal would justify the anger, the feeling of continued harm, the lack of being seen as worthy of protection by the state and community. A Black friend said while he wanted a guilty verdict for the family – justice and accountability, and he wanted an acquittal to release the pent up anger and unleash public protest that could force broader actions. What we didn’t have time to talk about was how harmful an acquittal would have been since it would have sent a signal that the police are right and can continue to operate as is, but I’m confident we were all thinking this as well.

The guilty verdict may be the ‘justice’ verdict in this case, but we as non-Black people, should still be mad and protesting. The guilty verdict has brought justice for the Floyd family but as many others have pointed out it is an empty feeling. A Black man – a grandfather – is still dead. In the same week other Black people were killed by police officers.

“One Bad Apple…” that metaphor doesn’t work

Last summer many allies joined in protest and called for changes. It was important and signaled to many policymakers, leaders, and the community at large that we are ready and demanding changes and accountability. I remember watching an over 2-hour silent march go by my house, it was a cold spring day with rain and yet thousands of people quietly walked to silently protest over police brutality and to affirm our belief in our Black relations. I hope those thousands of people who walked by my house are still working protesting the continued police brutality.

Just because one officer was found guilty does not make up for the millions of other acts that continue to harm Black and Brown people. The “one bad apple, spoils a whole batch” metaphor doesn’t work – we need to look at the whole system and create conditions that force system wide changes, not incremental changes that tinker here and there. As my friend RB said one guilty verdict doesn’t wipe out generations of Black trauma. He said the verdict still felt like righteous and “rejoiceful anger,” but empty.

After the verdict I messaged a friend who is married to a police officer, both are white. She said she knows many officers that have zero use of force complaints against them because they understand their roles as law enforcement. They know when to disengage and they are servant officers not warriors. She also said every department has a Chauvin-type warrior-mentality officer in it and hopefully the overall trial will force officers and departments to change.

This is where we need white allies and poc allies to continue following Black communities lead on pushing for comprehensive reforms. If you were out protesting last summer, your job isn’t done. The harder changes come in the quieter times where laws are changes, hiring practices are updated (e.g. hire people from communities of color, stop hiring people for their combat experience), training curriculum is updated or made mandatory, and so on. These system wide changes need continual public pressure to be enforced. One guilty verdict doesn’t absolve the law enforcement system or any system from having to look at itself and changing. These systems do not change on their own, in fact they work to resist change and hold on to the status quo.

We’re All on the Frontlines of Somewhere

I’m also reminded by my friend and colleague RB that the work is everywhere: “As elementary school educators, we are that front line – outside of the home – in the fight to end all forms of racism, hate, biases and prejudices.” As a Black male he is one of the few Black people, and often the only Black adult male. We are all on the frontlines of something, put some of your protest energy there as well, fight for changes so we can have more people of color included in places where we’re often excluded.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. At this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Adrienne, Agent001, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Alexa, Aline, Alison F.P., Alison P., Allison K., Amanda, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy H.N., Amy K., Amy P., Andie, Andrea, Angelica, Angelina, Ann, Ashlie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Becky, Brad, brian, Bridget, Brooke B., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Callista, Carmen, Carol, Carolyn, Carrie B., Carrie C., Carrie S., Caryn, Catherine L., Catherine S., Cedra, Celicia, Chelsea, Christina, Christine, Clara, Clark, Claudia, Claudia A., Courtney, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., Deb, Denyse, Diana, Diane, Don, E., Ed, Edith B., Edith B. (2), Elizabeth, Emiko, emily, Erica J., Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah, Hayden, Heather, Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N and Laura P, Heidi S., Hilary, Hope, J., Jaime, Jake, JelenaJanet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F., Jessica G., Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, June, Karen, Kari, Kate C., Kate G., Kate T., Kathryn, Katie B., Katie D., Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten, Krista D.B., Krista W., Kristen, Kumar, Kyla, Laura T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lindsay, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori, Lori N., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mareeha, Marge, Marilee, Mark, Marki, Mary, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Michele, Michelle, Mickey, Migee, Mike, Milo, Mindy, Miranda, Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha D., Natasha R., Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel G., Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca O., Rebecca S., Risa, Rise, Ruby, Ruchika, Sarah B., Sarah K.B., Sarah K., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarena, Sarita, Sean, SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Sharon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan, Susan M., Susan U., Tallie, Tana, Tania DSC, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Titilayo, Tracy, Tyler, virginia, Vivian, Will, Willow, yoko, Yvetteand Zan

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. Please subscribe, the sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). To see what Erin is reading and recommended books check out the Fakequity Bookshop.

Congrats, You’re Vaccinated You Still Shouldn’t…

Artwork by Thomas Wimberly from Amplifier Art. Blue shadowy fingers in a V on an orange background, #Vaccinated

Note: No blog post next week. It is Spring Break and I’m taking the week to do some catch up reading, napping, and TV watching.


Hooray, you are now COVID vaccinated or maybe on your way to being vaccinated. Please remember as you reenter the world there are things you still shouldn’t do.

Invade POC centered spaces – After a year at home or staring at screens many are eager to be with others. If you’re white, you’re still not allowed to invade POC centered spaces. In fact for many POCs COVID was a nice time of not having to deal with white people’s fragility, weirdness, or space invasions.

Get too close, still stay 6-feet away – Please still respect the six-feet away rule, cause you know we don’t need ya’ll up in our faces, touching our stuff, or literally touching hair, tattoos, and bodies. Keep your grabby hands to yourselves.

Jump the line, again – We’ve watched white people angle for every advantage during the pandemic. I don’t expect this to stop but one can hope. Now that you’re vaccinated (maybe even chasing extra vaccine doses or driving far to get a shot), chill and sit back, no need to rush out to get the next advantage.

Take from POCs – POCs have worked super hard during the pandemic to protect our own people who are disproportionately impacted by the hardships of COVID. Don’t take what we’ve done and use it for personal gain. This can look a lot of ways, like celebrating our stories without permission or acknowledgment of the hard work created by POCs, sign up for things meant for POCs first, etc.

Suggest POCs are the same as whites – Vaccines aren’t miracles, they don’t erase hundreds of years of oppression or level the playing field just cause we all got the same inoculation.

Unmute – Stay muted please, we hear from white people a lot. That mute button is a good thing at times. We hopefully all learned how to use it during COVID Zoom life. Translate some of it to IRL.

Be the Devil’s racist Advocate – Most people say “don’t play the devil’s advocate,” time to up it and say don’t play and more importantly now that you’re vaccinated, don’t be the devil’s advocate. Pandemic life has shown us that ugliness comes out in many different ways. Step it up and be on the better side. Stop yourself from saying something that centers yourself rather than POCs, focus on racialized systems rather than your feelings, don’t use POCs to advocate for your personal needs – all of those and many others are how the devil plays. No amount of vaccine can make you less racist.

Travel – I know we all want to hop back on planes to travel, but many places tourist destinations got breathers during COVID. Dolphins returned, locals got to use their beaches, pollution dropped, the land and people healed a bit. Can we hold on to these gains, I hope so – POCs benefit when we have a healthy environment and remember the norm isn’t traveling all of the time.

Be a jerk – Inoculations aren’t magical, you still need to think and do the work. If you don’t know what this means there is a good chance you’ve acted like a jerk to POCs, so go get your learning on and you’ll understand better how not to be a jerk.

This blog post was inspired by Eli Grober‘s Things Fully Vaccinated People Are Still Not Allowed to Do in the New Yorker. Apologies for the injustices I did to the original piece, and thank you for the original writing and laughs.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. At this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

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If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. Please subscribe, the sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). To see what Erin is reading and recommended books check out the Fakequity Bookshop.

2021 Birthday Book Drive

This blog post is a few weeks/months late, but now seems like a good time to post it. For the past three years Carrie (a frequent guest blogger and MadLibs writer) and I celebrate our February birthdays by hosting a birthday book drive. It started as many ideas do as a whim. I thought it would be fun to celebrate my birthday by collecting new books by authors of color and giving them to schools in my neighborhood. I put up a Facebook post about it and people were excited to share in the experience. Carrie joined in since she also has a February birthday and we expanded the book drive to include books about disabilities.

This year we contemplated not doing the book drive since it fell during the long middle of COVID. February was a harsh time since we were hitting the one year mark of COVID life, it was cold and wet in Seattle, and the novelty of sourdough had worn off. I checked in with a teacher friend to ask if she had a need for new books, especially since she was teaching remotely. She text back saying YES! As school had abruptly shut down the prior March she had emptied out her classroom library and sent those books home with kids. She wasn’t counting on getting many of the books back and would have to rebuild her classroom library – a huge expense for a school with 50% of the students qualifying for free and reduced lunch (proxy for low income). We heard a similar story from a school librarian who said a lot of the books weren’t returned from the previous school year and she was hoping to rebuild their collection with new books.

I’m glad we decided to host the book drive again. Many of our friends enthusiastically chose books from our wish list or from the Fakequity Bookshop, and others told us about titles to add. The books we collected were by authors of color, by authors with disabilities, or about disabilities. We purposefully selected these focuses because we want to highlight these books for students. We want to make it a little easier for them to find the right book to expose them to new ideas or reflect back their own experiences. Author Grace Lin, posted about how books are important, but they are just a tool – an important tool, but it still takes work to create change.

When we shared the books through socially distance drop off or a few porch pickups, people were excited. A high school librarian said he planned to feature the books during his weekly library book pick-up and return day. A teacher friend sent a note saying she loved the new picture books and they would provide excitement, inspiration, and art to her lessons. Thank you to our friends and family Amber, Brooke, Carmen, Chandra, Christena, Dasha, Debra, Emi, Friend, Hannah, Heather, Heidi & Jill, Ivan, Jean, Jessica, Kristina, Lauren, Leslie, Lisa, Liz, Mia, Rebekah, Renee, Ruby & Shalimar, Sarah, Stacy, Tina, Tracy, and others I may have accidently missed. If you ordered books from the Fakequity Bookshop link, I reinvested those proceeds into ordering over a dozen books for this book drive – thank you.

The Book List

Every year someone ask what books we collected and shared with schools, so here is the list of books. The books went to three elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools in Southeast Seattle. I listed the race of the author, this is a best guest – please know there may be errors in here. I also marked if the book is about disabilities or by a disabled author, again I used a best guess here.

I hope you’ll read some of these books. I also hope you’ll share them with others, especially kids who may be in your life.

TitleAuthorRaceDisability
Lead from the OutsideAbrams, StaceyBlack
The Poet XAcevedo, ElizabethBlack
The Essential Gwendolyn BooksAlexander, ElizabethBlack
One Person No VoteAnderson, CarolBlack
We Are Not Yet EqualAnderson, CarolBlack
Leaving YeslerBaco, PeterAsian
A friend for HenryBailey, JennX
James Baldwin The Fire Next TimeBaldwin, JamesBlack
ElDeafo Superpower EditionBell, CecewhiteX – Deaf
The Vanishing HalfBennett, BritBlack
Dear Black BoyBennett, MartellusBlack
All the Weight of Our DreamsBrown, Et alAsian/Black/Latinx/Middle East/Native/Pacific IslanderX
The Pretty OneBrown, KeahBlack
A Splash of RedBryant, JenX
Six DotsBryant, JenX – blindness
The Best We Could DoBui, ThiAsian
Mindful MovesCardoza, NicoleBlack
Ordinary OhanaCataluna, LeePacific Islander
Nico Bravo and the Cellar DwellersCavallaro, Mike
The School of Good and EvilChainiani, Soman
Finish the FightChambers, VeronicaBlack
PashminaChanani, NidhiMiddle East
How to Write an Autobiographical NovelChee, AlexanderAsian
We Are Not FreeChee, TraciAsian
My Unforgotten SeattleChew, RonAsian
Role Models Who Look Like MeCho, Jasmine M.Asian
Efren DividedCisneros, ErnestoLatinx
The House on Mango StreetCisneros, SandraLatinx
Between the World and MeCoates, Ta-NehisiBlack
Eloquent RageCooper, BritneyBlack
I am not a LabelCurnell, CerrieX
Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair CultureDabiri, EmmaBlack
Invisible DifferencesDachez, JulieX – Asperger Syndrome
Helen Keller’s TeacherDavidson, MargartWhiteX – Deaf
PatsyDennis-Benn, Nicolewhite
Lifting as we ClimbDionne, EvetteBlack
PetEmezi, AkwaekeBlack
The Birchbark HouseErdrich, LouiseNative/Indigenous
Yasmin The SuperheroFaruqi, SaadiaAsian
Where we Once BelongedFigiel, SiaPacific Islander
Jasmine Toguchi Mochi QueenFlorence, Debbi MichikoAsian
Ho’onani Hula WarriorGale, HeatherPacific Islander topic, author’s race unknown
Make Me Rain poems & proseGiovanni, NikkiBlack
Kamala Harris Rooted in JusticeGrimes, NikkiBlack / Asian
Real FriendsHale, ShannonWhiteX – anxiety
Superheroes Are EverywhereHarris, KamalaBlack / Asian
Kamala & Maya’s Big IdeaHarris, MeenaBlack
Ambitious GirlHarris, Meena & Marissa ValdezBlack
Not My Idea: A Book About WhitenessHigginbotham, AnastasiaWhite
Eyes that Kiss in the CornersHo, JoannaAsian
Minor FeelingsHong, Cathy ParkAsian
The Oldest StudentHubbard, Rita Lorraine and Oge MoraBlack
DisplacementHughes, KikuAsian
Their eyes were watching godHurston, Zora NealeBlack
Every Body LookingIloh, CandiceBlack
The Parker InheritanceJhonson, VarianBlack
Home for Chinese New Year: A Story Told in English and ChineseJie, WeiAsian
The Shark KingJohnson, R. KikuoBlack
TwinsJohnson, Varian and Shannon WrightBlack
Under My HijabKhan, HenaMiddle East
This is Our ConstitutionKhan, KhizrAsian
Stad Up Yumi ChungKim, JessicaAsian
Bug BoysKnetzger, Laurawhite
Interpreters of MaladiesLahiri, JhumpaAsian
Measuring UpLaMotte, LilyAsian
K-Pop ConfidentialLee, StephenAsian
Across that BridgeLewis, JohnBlack
SnapdragonLeyh, Kat
Show Me a SignLeZotte, Ann ClareX – Deaf
Invisible EmmieLibenson, TerriWhiteX
Just JaimeLibenson, TerriWhiteX
Positively IzzyLibenson, TerriWhiteX
Mulan: Before the SwordLin, GraceAsian
We Are Water ProtectorsLindstrom, CaroleNative/Indigenous
The Paper MenagerieLiu, KenAsian
Journey of the Freckled Indian: A Tlingit Culture StoryLondon, Alyssa Yáx Ádi YádiNative/Indigenous
Hannah’s Down Syndrome SuperpowersLyarbough, Lori LeighwhiteX
What is Given from the HeartMcKissack, PatriciaBlack
Evelyn Del Rey is Moving AwayMedina, MegLatinx
Tia Isa Wants a CarMedina, MegLatinx
SanctuaryMendoza, PaolaLatinx
When Stars are ScatteredMohamed, OmarBlackX
SaturdayMora, OgeBlack
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982Nam-Joo, ChoAsian
It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers)Noah, TrevorBlack
IkengaOkorafor, NnediBlack
The Remembering BalloonsOliveros, JessieX
Anger is a GiftOshiro, MarkAsianX
Love and RageOwners, Lama RodBlackX
A Long Walk to WaterPark, Linda SueAsian
A Single ShardPark, Linda SueAsianX
Ghost BoyParker Rhodes, JewellBlack
Strange BirdsPerez, Celia C.Latinx
Outside, InsidePham, LeUyenAsianX — COVID related
Vietnamese Children’s StoriesPhuoc, Tran Thi MinhAsian
Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEOPizzoliBlack
Gabi: A Girl in PiecesQuintero, IsabelLatinx
One LifeRapinoe, Megan
For Every OneReynolds, JasonBlack
Long Way DownReynolds, JasonBlack
StampedReynolds, JasonBlack
Jake Makes a WorldRhodes-Pitt, SharifaBlackX
Filipino CelebrationsRomulo, LianaAsian
Silent Days Silent DreamsSay, AllenAsianX
Festival of ColorsSehgal, KabirAsian
How to Solve a ProblemShiraishi, AshimaAsian
Just AskSotomayor, SoniaLatinxX
Solo Pregunta (Just Ask — Spanish)Sotomayor, SoniaLatinxX
The Autism-Friendly Guide to PeriodsSteward, RobynWhiteX
Nos Ll amaron Enemigo (They Called Us Enemy — Spanish)Takei, GeorgeAsian
They Called Us Enemy — Extended EditionTakei, GeorgeAsian
Opposite of FateTan, AmyAsian
GutsTelgerman, RainnawhiteX
From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the SeaThom, Kai ChengAsianX
Braiding SweetgrassWall-Kimmerer, RobinNative/Indigenous
Magic Ramen The Story of Momofuku AndoWang, AndreaAsian
StargazingWang, JenAsianX
Navigate Your StarsWard, JesmynBlack
Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the Twenty-First CenturyWong, AliceAsianX
SolitaryWoodfox, Albert
This is the RopeWoodson, JacquelineBlack
Superman Smashes the KlanYang, Gene LuenAsian
The Most Beautiful ThingsYang, Kao KaliaAsianX – aging
Malala Mi HistoriaYousafzai, MalalaMiddle East

Link to a Google Spreadsheet in case the list isn’t screen reader friendly.


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Interactive — DEI MadLib*

By Carrie Basas, and a little by Erin

Picture of two pandas slumped on the ground. Photo by Pascal Müller on Unsplash

This week we’re taking a break from being uber-serious. Sometimes we need a good laugh and to poke fun at our own work and waywardness. This post came together from sitting through too many long online meetings and reviewing documents and talking about definitions.

*Not an official product of MadLib (disclaimer by the lawyer).


If it’s not a fill-in-the-blank, then what’s the point of learning?

Please complete the following guide on your journey. We would appreciate learning about your path, so please tag us in your completed reflections. Post your completed MadLib to our Facebook page or email them to fakequity@gmail.com.

Your DEI (not DIE  — please make sure you get this right) Mission Statement

DEI* is a ___ (singular noun) that ___ (plural verb) we are all on a ____ (singular noun). We ___ (verb) from different ____ (noun) and we must ___ (verb) together to _____ (verb)  and _____ (verb). According to dictionary.com or the _______ (substance found in your bathroom) that I just made up alone, DEI means we will __________ (verb showing little action) as a community. Community is defined as ____ (place) _____ (name of favorite band). 

*DEI — Diversity Equity and Inclusion

DEI Action Plan

We can start with a _______ (part of a house) that will help us grow our ________ (noun or body part) and become diverse _____ (small animals or plural noun). As the saying goes, we don’t ______ (singular verb) what we don’t ______ (singular verb). We should push ourselves to become anti-______ (adjective) _______ (plural noun).

One part of becoming a/an _______ (adjective) _______ (noun) is starting to define what diversity, equity, and inclusion are. You might have noticed no one does _____ (verb) and the easiest thing is to not even name what each word is. In part, it is because people are _________ (adjective) when it comes to discussing ________ (social issue of our time beginning with an “r”. Hint: It is not “risk management”). Instead, they want to talk about their commitment to breaking down _____ (farm structure here, plural). If you must name what it is (see, I didn’t name it here!), please be vague because otherwise you might leave out someone. You aren’t being inclusive if you start naming your focus. Stay inclusive by being evasive. It worked for me! I’m pretty culturally _________ (adjective, perhaps showing some disdain or confusion). I even got take-out from _____ (favorite restaurant) as a way to support small businesses. 

When you talk about _______ (social issue of our time) explicitly, you might see that ________ (evil Star Wars character) appears at your ________ (part of house or place of employment). If that happens, please protect yourself by returning to being vague about your intentions. Did you just say race? Consider soothing yourself by watching _______ (smutty TV show here with hot lead or animal cams if you’re in the office) or eating ________ (edible or non-edible substance). Or phone a friend to discuss _________ (large mammals) or recycling. 

I hope that you have enjoyed our brief guide to DEI. Remember, that when we ________ (verb) together, we can all become ________ (action movie character or creature plural). We will see you at our next training. Don’t forget to do the homework; those who finish will get a cookie.


Guest blogger Carrie Basas works in education advocacy and formerly in civil rights law, specializing in disabilities rights. Formerly she was a law professor impressing upon law students the importance of understanding race and its impact on people. Carrie has a MEd in Education Policy, Organizations and Leadership from the University of Washington. She earned a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School and an Honors B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology/Anthropology from Swarthmore College. However, her biggest claim to fame is some of her fashion weekend wear while hanging with her family, tiny dog, and two rabbits.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. At this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Adrienne, Agent001, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Alexa, Aline, Alison F.P., Alison P., Allison K., Amanda, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy K., Amy P., Andie, Andrea, Angelica, Ann, Ashlie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Brad, brian, Bridget, Brooke B., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Callista, Carmen, Carol, Carolyn, Carrie B., Carrie C., Carrie S., Caryn, Catherine L., Catherine S., Cedra, Celicia, Chelsea, Christine, Clara, Clark, Claudia, Claudia A., Courtney, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., Deb, Denyse, Diana, Don, E., Ed, Edith B., Edith B. (2), Elizabeth, Emiko, emily, Erica J., Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah, Hayden, Heather, Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N and Laura P, Heidi S., Hilary, Hope, J., Jaime, Jake, JelenaJanet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F., Jessica G., Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, June, Karen, Kari, Kate G., Kate T., Kathryn, Katie B., Katie D., Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten, Krista D.B., Krista W., Kristen, Kumar, Kyla, Laura T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lindsay, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori, Lori N., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mareeha, Marge, Marilee, Mark, Marki, Mary, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Michele, Michelle, Mickey, Migee, Mike, Milo, Mindy, Miranda, Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha D., Natasha R., Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel G., Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca O., Rebecca S., Risa, Rise, Ruby, Ruchika, Sarah B., Sarah K.B., Sarah K., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarena, Sarita, Sean, SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Sharon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan, Susan M., Susan U., Tallie, Tana, Tania DSC, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Titilayo, Tracy, Tyler, virginia, Vivian, Will, Willow, yoko, YvetteZan

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. Please subscribe, the sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). To see what Erin is reading and recommended books check out the Fakequity Bookshop.

The Juxtapositions of Asians

Mural in Chinatown/International District, Seattle. Red background with black silhouette painting of people and hands holding chopstick bundles. Words: Chopsticks in a bundle are unbreakable. Photo credit Erin Okuno

I have no fresh analysis to offer regarding the tragic deaths of eight in Atlanta, most of them Koreans women. Asians, like our people of color relations, have always experienced racism. I have nothing new to add on what others who think deeply and share deeply have offered. My friend and colleague Diana wrote about this just two weeks ago, please re-visit her piece. Like Diana’s piece I’m not going to include a list of things to do to make yourself feel like you’re doing something about the current tragedy.

What I will offer is some of the juxtapositions of being Asian mean to me. Things I’ve learned and realized and continue to learn, and learn to care more deeply for my Asian and Pacific Islander community, and extended people of color relations.

We are serious, and we know humor — how else will we survive.

Our Asian community knows how to be loud and quiet at the same time.

We are forced to assimilate to survive, but fight the assimilation to survive.

Our histories guide us, but we lost much of it over generations of ‘becoming American.’

Many of us are generationally American, but will always be an outsider a foreigner – perpetual other to the white Eurocentric norm.

The term Asian is encompassing, yet we are distinct in multitudes of ethnic groups who are each unique and with our own stories.

Our food is delicious, and yet too stinky, smelly, or foreign for others.

We hold onto our traditions, but we adapt to survive – thus we now have teriyaki and orange chicken (both are American foods but often considered Japanese or Chinese foods).

We absorb racism, at times perpetuate anti-Black racism, and are the victims of anti-Asian racism — all to uphold white supremacy. As an Asian community we need to understand this so we can stop causing harm to others that we understand too well.

We are seen as seen as monetarily successful as a racial group, yet we know many who live in such extreme poverty.

We are counted as people of color, but also excluded when we’re seen as too successful.

Our Pacific Islander relations are disproportionately impacted by systemic racism. As an API community we need to do more to fight for Pacific Islander visibility.

We are blamed for COVID19 and the pandemic we did not cause nor control.

We expect justice, but we’re also told to wait our turn, to step back, to let processes happen. We won’t wait our turn, our turn is now, and this does not mean we displace other communities of color — we can do it in solidarity. (See #2 – we are seen as quiet but can be loud.)

Some of these juxtapositions we hold alongside our Black and Brown relations. Many of these stories are similar to other communities of color. There are times we’ve worked in solidarity which makes us a stronger community to fight white supremacy.

What I have learned from my Asian and Pacific Islander communities and our Black and Brown relations is we will continue to do what we need to do. We can’t stop to deal with one crisis while other crises caused by hatred and racism arise. Many of my colleagues continue their work to ensure elders and the most vulnerable are receiving COVID vaccines. We create and continue, despite not being equal – there is no other option. We are advocating for changes to ensure fair treatment and racial justice. We are surviving, grieving, adapting, but can we get to thriving?


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. At this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Adrienne, Agent001, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Alexa, Aline, Alison F.P., Allison K., Amanda, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy K., Amy P., Andie, Andrea, Angelica, Ann, Ashlie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Brad, brian, Bridget, Brooke B., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Callista, Carmen, Carol, Carolyn, Carrie B., Carrie C., Carrie S., Caryn, Catherine L., Catherine S., Cedra, Celicia, Chelsea, Christine, Clara, Clark, Claudia, Claudia A., Courtney, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., Deb, Denyse, Diana, Don, E., Ed, Edith B., Edith B. (2), Elizabeth, emily, Erica J., Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah, Hayden, Heather, Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N and Laura P, Heidi S., Hilary, Hope, J., Jaime, Jake, JelenaJanet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F., Jessica G., Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, June, Karen, Kari, Kate G., Kate T., Kathryn, Katie B., Katie D., Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten, Krista D.B., Krista W., Kristen, Kumar, Kyla, Laura T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lindsay, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori, Lori N., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mareeha, Marge, Marilee, Mark, Marki, Mary, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Michele, Michelle, Mickey, Migee, Mike, Milo, Mindy, Miranda, Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha D., Natasha R., Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel G., Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca O., Rebecca S., Risa, Rise, Ruby, Ruchika, Sarah B., Sarah K.B., Sarah K., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarena, Sarita, Sean, SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Sharon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan, Susan M., Susan U., Tallie, Tana, Tania DSC, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Titilayo, Tracy, Tyler, virginia, Vivian, Will, Willow, yoko, YvetteZan

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. Please subscribe, the sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). To see what Erin is reading and recommended books check out the Fakequity Bookshop.

Fair vs Just

Mural in International District/Chinatown Seattle — Orange background, silhouette of a person with their hands up, words “Hands Up, Dont [sic] Shoot.” Boarder has the names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Bettie Jones, Eric Gardner, Charleena Lyles, Philando Castile, Manuel Ellis, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin.

Note: The trial in the death of George Floyd started this week. Please take a moment to understand the significance of the trial. Background information here.


I’ve worked in the nonprofit field for 98% of my career, the other 2% was a college job serving pasta – it was a great job. Having worked in the nonprofit field for so long I’ve been part of many conversations where assets, including money are divvied up. These conversations are never easy since it means some will receive something, others won’t, and there is never enough in the nonprofit world to meet all of the request or needs. It feels like there are winners and losers even if that isn’t the intention. It brings out a lot of scarcity mentality, impulses to hoard, and a lot of feelings. When these feelings come out, we often default to wanting things to be fair, versus understanding justice based approaches.

Recently I was part of a group that had to divide up grant money to sub-grantees. We didn’t have the luxury of time to work with the whole group to do the allocations. We did have a commitment from the group to base the allocations on racial equity principles. Those making the initial allocation decisions committed to transparency and documenting the thought process in how decisions were made. What felt like a justice based decision, in this case giving more to some that had more need and less money, felt unfair to others who felt they were penalized for having more resources in reserves and they expressed their disappointment. I recognize the hurt and disappointment involved. They felt they had worked hard, done the hustle, and it didn’t feel fair to receive/take less than others who they perceived didn’t do as much work. The belief in meritocracy is deep in our society.

I’ve also seen this scenario happen in other places: school boundary assignments, sharing PTA money raised with other schools that have less, scholarship selections, and so on. As a side observation, in many of these cases those arguing for fair/equal based decisions and bring up the value of meritocracy are often white. The pocs in the discussion are often pushing for more wholistic and justice based decision making. This is why diverse selection teams are important as we place value on different aspects and need to surface different parts of a situation to make better decisions.

Fairness and justice can feel like opposing forces or they can also feel congruous.

Fair — In an equality-based situation we would have given everyone the same amount regardless of prior work or need. Fairness says we treat everyone equally – everyone receives the same, no biases, no preferences, and no extra considerations. This might have been fairer – everyone receiving the same amount. It would have felt better for some people and we could argue everyone’s programs deserves an equal amount of support, but it wouldn’t have achieved equity or justice.  

Just — Justice is harder to wrap our minds around. Justice takes into account more factors, such as starting places, access to resources, privileges granted because of race and skin color, systemic treatment, etc. Racial justice means we take into account race and how race influences the systemic treatment of people. That is a lot of factors to consider, and it takes a lot of self-awareness to understand how justice and fairness feel different to different people.

For the project I mentioned above, we took into account many factors and came up with an allocation that gave the most money to the group that had the fewest monetary assets. They also had a larger poc population. By giving them more we were trying working towards racial justice. They shouldn’t be penalized for not having as much access to wealth, networks who could support their work in other ways, etc. These are systemic problem they are forced to deal with and not of their making. We were trying to recognize they were at a different starting point than other groups and therefore we should give them more to create an overall more fair situation. The group receiving less argued that their efforts should be rewarded, which we said they were by receiving a base amount of funding.

We also reminded the group we were working for social and community stability and equal dignity. We recognize the interdependence we have with each other to create a more stable community overall, even at the risk of temporarily creating a feeling of unease with some of the members of the group. We also trusted that in the future the group receiving the most now, will prosper and return the support in some unknown way now.

Sometimes justice is a long game and creates temporary pain and may seem cruel. But hopefully we can also see the overall social good and dignity when we share and realize it isn’t just about merit, taking as much as we can, or being seen as the savior who brings resources. It is about creating a community where we share and take turns.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. At this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

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The Problem with Curb Cuts

Editor’s Note: This week we have a guest post from Carrie Basas who periodically guest blogs about disability justice or whatever else is on her mind. This post came about after I text her saying how “the curb cut effect” has become the overly simplified equity box example when talking about targeted universalism (curb cuts aren’t really targeted universalism), “lifting all boats metaphor,” or access for people with disabilities. Her post adds vital context to understanding the curb cut effect. –Erin


Crosswalk in Seattle
Photo of crosswalk with a curb cut and yellow raised dot pad, car at stop sign, adult walking, two children crossing street one on a scooter, other on a small bike. Photo from SDOT

In many presentations about disability, leaders turn to the example of a curb cut to explain the importance of access or targeted universalism. The logic goes like this: A curb cut doesn’t just provide access to people with mobility disabilities. It also benefits nondisabled people with luggage, baby strollers, rotund dogs, and grocery carts. Therefore, curb cuts help disabled people while not imposing on nondisabled people. We all win with access. What is good for some, will therefore help many others, too. Nevermind that these examples are hardly ever provided with a context about accessibility based on neighborhoods, racial redlining, and racialized infrastructures. But if we just take this example at its face value, we’re still failing. Even in the City of Seattle, after intervention by the Department of Justice and later follow up from advocates such as Disability Rights Washington, curb cut access remains out of legal compliance.

Access remains a huge issue for disabled people, but access isn’t the only component of disability justice. Access is merely rights and barrier removal, not necessarily anti-ableist or anti-racist justice and belonging. Similarly, access is not one size fits all, just as when we talk about disability, we need to go beyond thinking about the sporty White man with a wheelchair on his way to work. 

Here is another often cited example of trying to explain disability discrimination to a nondisabled audience: Even thirty years after the Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled people are largely socially isolated and un- or underemployed. Less than 20% of disabled people are involved in the workforce while the rate of nondisabled people exceeds 65%. When it comes to economic justice arguments and disability, disabled people (or nondisabled presenters) are often asked to make the business case for hiring disabled people. Convince us that they aren’t more costly at work and that investing in them will mean greater productivity and more customers. Essentially, sell us on disability or we aren’t interested. Disabled activists have asked why we even start with the premise that paid labor equals human worth.

What does it mean when QTBIPOC, disabled folks, and others must “sell” others with greater economic and traditional power resources on providing what’s fair and just? What if justice means that someone who hasn’t benefited or been honored as a person will get something long overdue and you will not? When we frame justice as a situation where those with power will do it if they get something in return, then we make justice access to Whiteness and abled-ness. We must move beyond what is legally “owed” to someone to what we must change to recognize them as our colleagues and neighbors. We can only do that by focusing on racial oppression, the Whiteness of capitalism, and the rhetoric of independence versus our mutual interdependence. Then we will move closer to the principles of the  Disability Justice Movement.


Carrie Basas works in education advocacy and formerly in civil rights law, specializing in disabilities rights. Formerly she was a law professor impressing upon law students the importance of understanding race and its impact on people. Carrie has a MEd in Education Policy, Organizations and Leadership from the University of Washington. She earned a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School and an Honors B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology/Anthropology from Swarthmore College. However, her biggest claim to fame is some of her fashion weekend wear while hanging with her family, tiny dog, and two rabbits.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. At this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

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Working for equity and social justice? Know what your Asian colleague is experiencing

This week we have a guest post by Diana Huynh.


When I was in my master of public administration program, there was an LGBTQ student group meeting to discuss speaker ideas for a panel they were hosting. On the agenda was how to diversify the line-up. When a member suggested an expert who was Asian, a white leader of that group dismissed the idea because “Asian people are basically white.” 

I was not there; the exchange was later shared with me by a close classmate who was present. The dismissal of Asian identity, including of Asian queer identity, made me feel incredulous at first, then angry, and then disappointed. Here we were, in a program for public servants in one of the most “progressive” cities in the country (New York), and yet such casual racism was accepted. 

That moment stuck with me throughout my decade of working in nonprofits. With the recent attacks against East and Southeast Asians in the Bay Area, New York, and elsewhere, this moment from grad school still holds as an example of how anti-Asian racism shows up in the work for equity and justice. 

What Black, Indigenous, and other people of color know all too well is that this country is practiced at finding innovative and different ways to dehumanize each of our communities. If you care about racial justice, I hope part of your learning is understanding what anti-Asian racism looks like. You can’t advance the work if you don’t, and you can’t see your Asian colleagues for who they are unless you do. 

The recent cycle of conversations on anti-Asian racism began at the start of the pandemic, when Chinatowns began to lose business and when mask-wearing was still so racialized that the Asian American Journalists Association had to ask the news media to be careful when covering it. But these examples, the attacks, and the misguided discourse that followed, are the direct result of the longtime interplay of two common and harmful perceptions about Asian people: that we are the perpetual foreigner and also the model minority.

As perpetual foreigners, Asians will never belong. Anything about us that doesn’t fit into white-dominant culture is evidence of our alien-ness. Our food is gross, smelly — or as recently described in this case — dirty. For those of us with monolid eyes, our faces are unreadable. (If you didn’t know, it was white Americans who helped popularize eyelid surgery in Asia because they couldn’t trust people with “slant eyes.”) And just look at how “Minari,” an American film about a Korean family set in Arkansas, is considered a foreign film because half of the dialogue is in a non-English language. 

Today’s nonprofits, with their stated values of diversity and inclusion, are more skilled at avoiding these more overt acts of anti-Asian racism. In fact, they are so skilled that they manage to not acknowledge Asian people and communities at all. The model minority is a convenient myth that allows others to invalidate our experiences and pit us against other people of color, especially Black people. In short: the perception is that as a racial group, we enjoy universal socioeconomic success. 

Because our sector is obsessed with measuring disparities by race and “closing gaps,” Asians barely register as worthy subjects for justice. Policymakers and practitioners look at one aggregate data point — that combines a vast continent of Asian ethnicities and experiences together — deem we are not oppressed enough, and don’t give us much thought after that. Even more egregious, as in the recent example of North Thurston Public Schools, Asian students were combined with their white peers as a racial category — in a report about education equity of all things. 

If you don’t understand how anti-Asian racism works, you will likely not know about the experiences that have molded and shaped us. A Chinese person whose family has been here for generations might have different successes with the education system than a Laotian person whose parents arrived in this country not too long ago as refugees. The broad category of Asian and the even broader Asian and Pacific Islander are not very meaningful. 

Over the last few weeks, check-ins with my East and Southeast Asian friends revealed the complexity of the moment. We are grieving, and day-to-day interactions feel worse when it’s clear others don’t register our existence as an Asian person. And it’s not limited to us in the nonprofit sector; a New York Times report about diversity and inclusion in their own newsroom showed that Asian women often felt “invisible and unseen.”

My friends and I also talked about how to show up at this moment. We are watching in frustration as narratives working to divide Asian and Black communities take hold. This is especially so when we see other Asians — some close to us and some with big platforms — play into the hands of the system by calling for more police or offering bounties. People of color have long known that cross-racial solidarity has and will continue to keep us safe. History has proven this, but we know these stories often get erased. White supremacy benefits when we are pitted against each other. Addressing anti-Asian racism does not mean resorting to anti-Black racism. 

I decided to write this piece because I recently realized what I was working through when I watched Pastor Erna Kim Hackett’s video about grief and solidarity after the Bay Area attacks. Talking specifically about Asian people’s tendency to self erase, she said “we make these choices because we feel like our story is not valid. One of the ways we might love on people and hold space for people is to go quiet and move to the back.”

This is another lie of white supremacy: That I have been made to feel that by talking about my own experiences, I am taking away from someone else’s. As Erna said, “Part of our healing and liberation is amplifying our stories.” And it’s not just amplifying my story, but the story of my community and elders. 

So this is what this post is. An amplification of our experiences. Some might be disappointed by the lack of advice on how to engage with Asian people right now. That was by design. If you have been more transactional than relational with your Asian coworkers and other colleagues of color up until this moment, then a starting point for you is to examine why that is. 


Diana Huynh is a communications professional living in Seattle. Her dad is from Bến Tre and her mom from Duyên Hải. She was born and raised in south central Pennsylvania. 


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. At this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

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