Equity Doesn’t Mean All

By Erin Okuno

I want to share a quick project: A colleague is collecting books written by Asian and Pacific Islanders to share with the folks at the Stafford Creek Correctional Center. Folks there created a group, Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Awareness Group and even created their own API curriculum. We’ve put together an Amazon wishlist of books written by APIs that will be donated to APICAG, my colleague is collecting books until 30 November 2018. If you would like to make a cash donation or order books from an independent bookseller please email fakequity@gmail.com.

Also, we’re taking next week off from blogging. See you the following week.


AdvancingEquityEvery few weeks or months I’ll hear or read something that says: “Equity for all,” “Equity statement: All students will…,” “All students deserve equity…,” etc. When I read these statements or see them on gigantic protest signs at meetings I sigh and remind myself that ‘equity’ has become a buzzword. White people have co-opted it to justify privilege and opportunity hoarding – they’ve stolen equity from people of color, like they always do.

Equity should never mean all.

There are many definitions of racial equity, but they all have the same sentiment: one’s racial identity no longer predicts how one will fare in life. Currently, we can predict outcomes based on a person’s race. Look at any statistical chart and we can make assumptions of who will be on the top and who will be at the bottom. Racial equity is achieved when this is no longer true. Another definition I like comes from the Aspen Institute“Racial equity refers to what a genuinely non-racist society would look like. In a racially equitable society, the distribution of society’s benefits and burdens would not be skewed by race. …” 

Racial equity work is never about all people receiving benefits. Equitable distribution of privileges and resources is about shifting resources and dismantling racist systems that allow some, mostly white people, to take more than they need. Working towards racial equity means those who are achieving and have privileges and resources do not need more. They may feel or think they deserve more, but that is hoarding of resources and privileges. This is how it sounds like:

“It is an equity argument. Our school has a small percentage of students of color. Our school isn’t a Title 1 school and doesn’t get additional resources to take care of our kids who need help. Our kids deserve [fill in the blank request: advanced placement classes, photography classes, ceramics, athletics, bilingual education, etc.] because this may be the only chance poor kids of color at our school are exposed to these things.” School demographics: 69% white, 9% low income, 3% English Language Learner.

equity for black and brown peopleOn the face of the statement, yes we want to give this school more – who wouldn’t want photography classes, bilingual education and all of the other great stuff. But when we say yes to funding this ask for the mostly white school, we’re saying no to students of color in another place where the need is greater. Someone will argue with me that my zero-sum-game argument is false – it isn’t. In our current society, we are bound by the resources we have. The systems we have in place to work towards distribution means some will receive and others won’t and who we give to determine outcomes.

If we are working towards racial equity, we cannot give resources to all, we need to take a greater look at the entire system. When we look at the whole system we’ll see there is a small percentage of kids in need at that one school and we’ll see if resources are shifted in that school the needs of students who need support could be met. The school already has the resources it needs within the school, but those resources need to be redistributed to meet the needs of their students of color. Such as, do students who are already ahead need more to keep their lead OR can we say you have what you need and realign the resources to meet those needs and it might be saying no to something popular like adding an advanced placement class, but this is equity work – redistributing resources to close racialized gaps and not taking more than needed.

My other favorite line of thought: “My kid needs/deserves this [fill in the blank] because they go to a school with other students of color. It is an equity issue for all of the kids.” Sorry, equitable solutions are not found this way. You don’t get to claim equitable need by proxy of being next to a poc – stop stealing our equity.

Equity isn’t for all.

Equity can never be about all, because with true equity we are laser-focused on the needs of those who are the farthest from justice. This is hard to do in a society that fundamentally believes in equal access, focuses on amassing privileges, and has racist practices and policies that uphold white privileges.

Working towards racial equity is about looking at who is farthest from justice and reallocating resources and undoing barriers standing in the way of this. Removing barriers and reallocating resources isn’t easy. People with privileges aren’t used to giving up what they have grown accustomed to having and now see as an entitlement. They want what is best for others when it benefits them, hence why they evoke the name of equity and other ‘disadvantaged’ kids.

What to do

The first thing to do is stop believing everyone needs and deserves equity. Let the phrase “Equity for All” die a quick and purposeful death. Take all your protest signs and put them in the recycle bin, toss the buttons you have with that phrase into the garbage where they belong. If you can’t bear to throw them away edit them to say “Equity for All Black and Brown People.” Equity isn’t for all. Equity is for those farthest from justice, and if we are working towards true equity those farthest from justice can define for themselves what they need to be whole, healthy, and in just relations with others.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Annie, Ben, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Clark, Dean, Edith, Elena, emily, Erin, Evan, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, Kari, Katheryn, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Lisa, Liz, Lori, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Mikaela, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Paola, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie, and Tara. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

How to Use Racial Equity Toolkits

By Erin

Before we launch into this week’s post we have to take a moment to say congratulations to all of the candidates of color who ran for office. Running for public office takes a lot of work and energy so no matter if you won, lost, or are waiting for your race to be called – congratulations for taking a bold step to bring change. A special shout out to the women of color who are leading the way. From local elections to Congress, women of color won in huge numbers. Their service is important, and they will need continued support from all of us. Thank you. We also pause to note the latest mass murder by gun violence in Thousand Oaks, California. We need to be incensed and appalled by violence, when we numb ourselves and say it is normal we cheat our kids and ourselves of a better future.


panda meeting

Panda meeting

Many of us want to do better at advancing racial equity, I’d like to think that is why you are reading this blog post. There are many ways to do so and sometimes we go towards using tools created by others to help us with our work. The tools are there to help guide processes, but they still require people to have a strong analysis and to use them properly.

In the past, we’ve promoted Racial Equity Toolkits as a way to help guide thinking. There are many of them available, an online search will yield different toolkits. One of the pieces I think missing from the conversation though is HOW to use them. The how they are used will help to dictate the results.

What is a Racial Equity Toolkit?

Many racial equity toolkits are a series of questions and suggestions to help guide thinking about race and the impact of race in a decision making process. The questions range from:

  • What are the demographics of the people involved in your project?
  • What are the data inputs you can learn from?
  • What communities have been engaged?
  • Who will benefit and who will face burdens from the proposal?

All of these are important questions to ask and have answered. Racial equity toolkits can help to unearth important information that needs to be considered before decisions are made. I’m not going to go into greater detail about racial equity toolkits because they are already out there and there is little sense in recreating what others have already done. What I want to delve deeper into is HOW to use them and WHEN to use them.

HOW to Use a Racial Equity Toolkit

Once you’ve decided which racial equity toolkit to use the real work begins. Most of the toolkits don’t specify who should be involved in the analysis. I recommend using a team approach. Assemble a team of people to help answer the questions in the toolkit. A team approach will help you discover new ways of thinking and hopefully deepen the analysis and outcome. We all have biases and blind spots in our thinking and a team approach allows us to overcompensate for this. I know what I don’t know, but I don’t know what I don’t know, so having a team around me when I’m making decisions means I’m more likely to learn what I don’t already know.

As you put together your team to go through the racial equity toolkit, take particular care to ensure your team is diverse in many different measures – racially, experience, age, disability, immigration status, etc. Remember this isn’t a community engagement step, which you will also need to do, but more of an internal check to make sure you’re uncovering questions and making connections for other parts of your work.

My colleague Patty told me when you use a racial equity toolkit well the answers you come up with should lead to many more questions. Patty is a lawyer by training, so she knows how to ask good questions. Having a team asking and answering questions will yield more questions then if you try to do it alone.

As your team works through the toolkit you need to acknowledge whose voices are missing and prioritize those for the outreach phase. You’re more likely to come up with a comprehensive outreach list with a team of people then trying to do this by yourself. The actual outreach will also be easier to do with more people involved.

WHEN to use the toolkit

When to use the toolkit is just as important as figuring out who should be involved. I recently was on the receiving end of a presentation when a toolkit was used too late in the decision making process – it was a horrible presentation to sit through. The person presenting walked the group through the organization’s presentation and their results. When we asked why the list they showed was so skewed away from equitable results the presenter said “We’re doing the racial equity analysis next week. The list will look different after that.” Many of us were lit after hearing that comment. As another attendee said to me privately afterward “Of course I can justify any decision and make it fit the toolkit afterward. That isn’t how a toolkit is supposed to be used.” The person was right, a toolkit used after a decision is made isn’t how they are intended to be used. Many of the toolkits say and are designed to be used as early in a decision making process as possible. Equity work needs to be infused during an entire process, not just added as a frosting or cherry on top. Said another way and borrowing from Dr. Manuel Pastor: equity needs to be baked in, not sprinkled on top as an afterthought.

In a perfect world, the racial equity toolkit process would be a continuous loop. Completing one process would open and allow for the exploration of an unanswered question and community-driven problem to solve next.

I hope you will use these suggestions and racial equity toolkits to deepen your work and build your racial equity analysis. The more questions you ask, the more you listen, and the more you learn the deeper and better you’ll get at an understanding race and its impact on our society. None of us were born with a deep racial equity analysis, these skills are honed, refined, and deepened over time.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Annie, Ben, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Clark, Dean, Edith, Elena, emily, Erin, Evan, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, Kari, Katheryn, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Lisa, Liz, Lori, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Mikaela, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Paola, Rise Up for Students, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie, and Tara. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

 

Democracy Everyday

AmplifierIcon_Sarah

Art from Amplifer — Democracy Starts With You, by Raychelle Duazo

A few weeks ago, I was part of an event that explored the theme of democracy for racial justice. I oversaw the logistics of the event so I don’t remember much of the conversations. Yet the theme and overall conversation have stuck with me. At the event table conversations were focused on what does democracy mean to our community (macro level) and how does democracy show up in our lives and in our schools (micro level). It was and continues to be a timely topic because of the 2018 mid-term elections, the recent shooting of 11 people at a Pittsburgh Synagogue and the killing of two Black people at a grocery store, talk about stripping birthright citizenship, and taking away services from people through public charge rule changes. Democracy is felt in the elections, but do we understand it and seek it out in our daily interactions?

Democracy

If I were explaining the concept of democracy to someone else I would probably say it is how we work to get what we need from each other, to allocate and share resources, seek just relationships, and the semblance of normalcy and predictability. At the democracy conversation event, Jondou explained that democracy can be sought through everyday interactions. I am purposeful in not using the words voting, government, or president because too often we default to those terms as explanations for what democracy is, but if we dig deeper democracy is about daily life and we uphold or squash down democratic values by just living.

Democracy in everyday life

I’ve been listening to the book The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. I’m on disk three (out of eight) and in this section, the author describes how to structure events to be more democratic. The principles of democracy are worth protecting and structuring interactions around. She described how one host purposefully sits people by male/female/male/female to disrupt and distribute gender imbalances. She also described how President Obama would purposefully call on female reporters and in a specific order to allow women to have a voice and their questions fielded. As she described these actions Parker narrated how this is creating a more democratic environment at these various gatherings. She sees it as part of an organizer’s duty to protect the gathering, guest, and to create democratic environments that allow people to fully participate as their best selves.

While Parker doesn’t write explicitly about race many of her principles can be translated to race. At gatherings, we should work to create environments that are implicitly and explicitly welcoming for people of color. An example of bringing in democracy into events is to pay attention to whose voices are heard. Such as at meetings I facilitate I sometimes will purposefully ask everyone to pause and write down their thoughts to allow introverts, people who’s native language isn’t English, and those who want to take a quick mental break to process information. This small pause in a gathering allows everyone to reset and shifts energy away from those are used to controlling the conversation to rebalancing power to include voices need protecting and uplifting.

In another example related to the elections, a Facebook friend posted a picture of postcards she wrote to encourage people to vote as part of an online Get Out the Vote effort. I decided to sign up – I figured it was something I believe in, I could spare a few minutes to write five postcards, I like supporting the postal system, and it was good to belong to the civic voting online tribe. I found the organization’s website and signed up. The next step was to write a sample postcard with their key message and send a picture to them for approval. The note I got back was because I didn’t follow their prescriptive message exactly I had to ‘fix’ my postcard before moving forward. I gwaffed and hit delete – it bothered me but whatevs I wasn’t going to waste my time with their righteousness. After thinking about it for a few hours I decided to write back to the organizers telling them I was opting-out (even though I hadn’t really been let in). I wrote about how their dictating the exact messaging didn’t feel right to me. I explained for many generations families like mine were told to assimilate to have the right to vote and I am standing in solidarity with other people of color who are constantly censored and told exactly what to say and how to say it. If democracy is about uplifting a freedom of speech, then we as a collective have to tolerate and embrace diverse messaging and voices. I didn’t say it but I found it ironic an effort that is embedded in democracy wasn’t embracing this aspect of democracy.

Election day is coming up on 6 November. I voted because it is important to me to participate in this form of democracy. I also have to remember and work to keep democracy alive in everyday interactions not just voting to prop people up or voting them out of office. Those are important but daily democracy is just as important and those are actions I can own daily.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Annie, Ben, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn, Carolyn M., Carrie, Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Edith, Elena, Elizabeth, Evan, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Janet, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer, Jennifer T. Jessica, Jessica R., Jillian, Julia, Julie Anne, Kathryn, Kari, Kelli, Kirsten, Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Laurel, Lisa, Liz, Lori, Matt, Matthew, McKenzie, Michael, Megan, Mikaela, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Paola, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

Ten Commandments of Fakequity

By Erin, with thanks to Carrie B.

Liz-Scott.jpg

Artwork from Amplifer by Liz Scott

This week I decided we needed a little parody. I went to Catholic school for ten years although I’m not Catholic. Of the many values and lessons I learned from the nuns and the masses where I didn’t fall asleep is the value of stating what we don’t want to be juxtaposed with literalism. I was joking with Carrie that the Ten Commandments weren’t written by educators since it is deficit-based (i.e. what not to do) versus asset-based and stating what to do. In my list I’ll do a little of both. Carrie and I also debated the merits of Charlton Heston in the 1956 Ten Commandments movie vs. remakes. I say the original was so epic it stands – technicolor all the way! That said I just watched Black Panther on Netflix and that was dope, take that movie Moses.

Here are Ten Commandments of Fakequity

1. Don’t covet whiteness. Whiteness is a faux archetype that upholds only itself. Do not worship racist statues and memes, allow them to come down.

2. Remember equity is not equal. Equity means we give to those who need more and we don’t take what we don’t need. Equity means fairness; what is fair doesn’t always look like fairness to everyone. Equity means people have what they need to be whole which means some people who don’t as much don’t get as much, that is fairness.

3. Don’t covet white racial equity trainers. They have their place, but the real stuff and the real learning comes from hearing from Black and Brown people (including Asians) who are farthest from justice. Listening and learning from people most impacted by racism is important to undoing racism.

4. Thou shall not use DNA test to claim a racial identity. DNA results don’t replicate the lived experiences of culture, language, discrimination, racism, and privilege. Blood quantum and the one-drop rule have been weaponized against Native Americans and Black/African Americans for generations. Don’t make it a fashionable thing to want to claim DNA ancestry without understanding the racialized history and experiences of people of color – latching on and being a parasite doesn’t help.

5. Thou shalt not murder Native Americans, Black and Brown people, disabled people, LGQTBIA people, and really anyone. We will pay attention to and work to end the murdering and missing of Indigenous womxn and state-sponsored violence (police shootings) against Black and Brown people. Also, don’t kill indigenous plants and animals in the name of tourism or sport – protect the orcas and environment which is important to many Indigenous people and really everyone. In asset-based language — preserve and protect people of color and the environment we rely upon.

6. Thou shall not just take. Thou shall contribute to the collective racial justice work by listening, building authentic relationships, using privileges to support others, and disrupting racism. Do your part calling out racism and injustice. This includes doing it in everyday settings, tell someone to stop if they are saying a racist joke. Ask probing questions if something doesn’t sit right. Use your personal privilege (we all have some) to help undo racism.

7. Do not take anti-racism work in vain by turning it into a word game. Don’t use ‘equity sounding’ words without understanding them – subjugation, intersectionality, justice, equity, disenfranchisement, fragility, etc. as buzzwords or without understanding what they really mean. Definitely don’t use the words if you can’t practice them as well – such as don’t say intersectionality if you’re not ready to step aside and practice allowing someone farthest from justice receiving what they need. As an example, I am a person of color and have experienced racism and I have many privileges including being cis-gender, Asian, and English speaking. There are many times I need to step back or forward to allow others who are farther from justice to have what they need to be whole.

8. Do not center yourself in racial equity conversations. Yes, it is about personal experiences especially for people of color, but it is also about recognizing the systems of oppression that allow injustice to continue. For people of color, share your stories and experiences and work to create room for other stories and reflections from other people of justice, especially those farthest from justice (hint: this is where to practice intersectionality).

9. Honor the elders and those who work tirelessly to fight injustice. Give to people of color led and embedded (i.e. decision making is held by those most impacted, not just diverse leadership) nonprofits. For every cause (e.g. homelessness, education, health care, etc.) there is a poc org working on the topic, often with a more racially embedded and just perspective. Take a gift to the elders and sit and have a conversation with them. And finally honor yourself for your learning, not too much though cause we all have more to learn.

10. Thou shall work for racial justice.

One of the reasons I decided to use the Ten Commandments versus a different text for this post is in the US so much of our society is based on the white dominant Christian based norms. There are places in the US where the Ten Commandments are displayed on government grounds even though another seminal text, the US Bill of Rights – First 10 Amendments to the US Constitution declares a separation of church and state. While we often try to highlight and promote authors of color and non-dominant viewpoints on this blog there are times when we use the tools of the dominant to make a point and undo the master’s house (riffing off of Audre Lorde, and I apologize to her memory since I am using her phrase very differently).


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Annie, Ben, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn, Carolyn M., Carrie, Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Edith, Elena, Elizabeth, Evan, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Janet, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer, Jennifer T. Jessica, Jessica R., Jillian, Julia, Julie Anne, Kathryn, Kari, Kelli, Kirsten, Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Laurel, Lisa, Liz, Lori, Matt, Matthew, McKenzie, Michael, Megan, Mikaela, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Paola, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

I hate Task Forces

dr evil

Dr. Evil “Lets [sic] solve all our problems with a “Taskforce [sic]” meme

By Erin O.

I hate task forces. Not all task forces, but enough of them that whenever I hear people mention a task force I make ‘the face.’ Friends and colleagues know my ‘face’ look and the word task force brings out that reaction.

Task forces are used by many governments, organizations, and departments to do the following:

  • Say they have community input
  • Punt the research and recommendation making to another group who may have more subject matter expertise
  • Not make decisions and hold off on decision making, a.k.a. stalling

After serving on several task forces I’ve decided in their current model they are poorly designed and rarely get us towards more equitable results. Most task forces look and sound like this:

Step 1: Some big group (i.e. government, universities, school districts, etc.) identifies a problem and says “Oh no, there is no simple solution that won’t piss off someone. We can’t make everyone happy, therefore we can’t make a rash decision, we need community buy-in too.”

Step 2: Brilliant idea emerges, let’s convene a task force to help us find a solution!

Step 3: Who should be on this task force? People who identified the problem, people who argued for and against the problem. “Wait, we need to make sure we have diversity! We need to reach out to leaders of color and other marginalized groups.” Oh, and it needs to be transparent about it so we should probably make them ‘apply’ to be on the task force, more paperwork for overburdened pocs, but if they don’t ‘pay (with paperwork) we don’t get to play.

Step 4: Task force appointees gather in a conference room for the first meeting. They awkwardly eye each other and fiddle with their phones while they wait to get started. The pocs do a silent count of how many other pocs are in the room, do we have critical mass (of pocs) to get anything done? A facilitator welcomes people and everyone in the room introduces themselves and their affiliations. It becomes apparent the room is filled with special interest groups, coalitions of already established partners, and so much unintentional power that will go unchecked along the way.

Step 5: Group norms are put together or shared out. Most of the norms are race-neutral and never recognize the need to push the boundaries of conversations for white people. The norms center whiteness and making white people comfortable.

Step 6: The work starts and all of the special interest group representatives start taking over. Pocs in the room speak up but it takes a lot of effort and ongoing persistence to call out racism, inequities, and other annoying behaviors. Sometimes the white people get it, but most of the time it goes unnoticed.

Step 7: The poc representatives stop attending. They feel there isn’t a point to having a seat on the task force. If they do show up they are ready for ‘battle.’

Step 8: Negotiations for the final recommendation package are made and someone says “We don’t have time” to a reasonable request (i.e. translate docs, outreach to pocs, loopback, etc.) made by poc members. On the side, pocs snark and grumble about the artificial deadlines and how communities of color are left behind again.

Step 9: Recommendations are made, and votes are cast if a consensus isn’t reached. It becomes clear to the pocs that the special interest members will dominate and their needs or desires are going to be centered and the poc recommendations may be in there but sometimes at a cost – watered down, secondary, concessions made for mitigations.

Someone authors a final document. The power of the writer shapes the final narrative and it probably tries to incorporate some poc points but overall it isn’t centered on the voices of people of color.

Step 10: Final recommendations are made, maybe to great fanfare. Self-congratulatory pats on the backs. And we all go back to business as usual.

This is why I dislike task forces. I’ve seen this formula play out over many different task forces which tells me the overall structure is bad. It doesn’t matter the topic, the convener, or other variables the results are the same because the structure is set up to fail communities of color. When I talk to people who are recruited to serve on a task force I congratulate them and say “take all of your expectations and hopes and lower them by 3/4 or 7/8, that is realistically how far you can push and how much work you can get done.”

Better Task Forces

The overall idea of task forces isn’t wholly bad. Sometimes I think we jump to wanting to do a task force because we think we should. We don’t slow down to really ask what the intentions are of the task force. Getting to the true intention of the task force. We often jump to explanations of a City Council/school board/someone authorized the task force so now we need to do it. Instead, we should ask what is the real reason for doing a task force:

  • Is it to interrogate a process that isn’t working? Whom isn’t it working for (i.e. people of color, disabled people, orcas—a big topic in WA state right now)?
  • Zoom out to ask yourself the larger values questions – what are the values that are leading to the desire to have a task force. Is it values of inclusion, truth, trust, social justice, etc.? This zoom out and values will help to shape the feel of the task force.
  • Be specific about the purpose of the task force. Priya Parker’s book The Art of Gathering spends a lot of time covering how people often gather without really being specific about why we gather. She argues we have better gatherings if we are specific and have “specific, unique, and disputable” purposes for gathering.

If you can answer these questions well and purposefully you can begin to redesign task forces to meet more equitable goals. As a quick example, I recently put together a quick task force to help me plan an event. I tried to really think through the purpose of putting together this task force. When I stopped to ask myself why was I doing it I landed on the values of inclusion and building a network to support the event and bring together partners who normally wouldn’t work together but have a lot in common, we also wanted the event to feel different than other events that were pursuing a similar goal.

When we met our first few hours weren’t spent on logistics of the event, we instead talked about what are the new values we wanted to harness. We shared stories about what worked well for our community and for people of color at other similar events and we figured out what we wanted to avoid (e.g. grandstanding, white-people centered, etc.). This conversation was important because it led us to come up with unique values we wanted to highlight in the event. We landed on the values of centering pocs, inclusion and access of pocs, community building, and poc storytelling. These four values shaped the rest of our task force gathering and our end-product was much more centered on pocs. We also had a better defense to the naysayers who questioned why we didn’t follow the predictable event format, my colleagues and I were able to say “Our task force thought through the values we wanted to perpetuate and we landed on these four. That is why we don’t have public testimony.”

When we reshape the system, we can re-envision the way we do our work and sketch a new way of working together that avoids the predictable pitfalls of task forces.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Annie, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn, Carolyn M., Carrie, Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Edith, Elena, Elizabeth, Evan, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Janet, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer, Jennifer T. Jessica, Jessica R., Jillian, Julia, Julie Anne, Kathryn, Kari, Kelli, Kirsten, Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Laurel, Lisa, Liz, Lori, Matt, Matthew, McKenzie, Michael, Megan, Mikaela, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Paola, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shawna, Stephanie. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

Things I found funny this week — not Kavanaugh

This is the third and final installment of the Kavanaugh confirmation saga. Read CiKeithia‘s look at how white privilege showed up and Carrie’s blog post about disabilities and sexual assault.

We need a funny post after several weeks of serious post. While the confirmation saga wasn’t funny, we have to also poke fun at things as a way to learn and stay up for fighting racism, sexism, and bad stuff.

John Dean warns of unchecked presidential powers if ...

Sen. Cory Booker during the confirmation haring of Judge Kavanaugh.

Things I found funny this week:

1. Joking with a friend I would never be a Supreme Court Justice, bye-bye not-real-dream. More seriously and funnily, the privilege displayed by so many at the highest echelons of government during the confirmation hearings was appalling. White women who voted to confirm Kavanaugh proved once again they let their sisters of color down. White men who peacocked their way through the day proved they can bully their way through life. This is why so many people of color are held in place, if white people can’t get their shitz together how do we have hope they can undo anything to make our lives better?

2. On Indigenous People’s Day someone posted on social media that talking about Indigenous People’s Day oppressed Italian Americans because the very dead Christopher Columbus was Italian. My kid also reminded me Columbus never set foot on North America, so kinda hard to discover something you never really discovered. Let’s not celebrate a brutal colonizer who brought disease, lorded over Indigenous Taino people, and created slave routes. I’m not sure what that Columbus Day party looks like, oh wait it is like an everyday racism party.

In what’s not funny is in a Texas court stripped Native Americans of important adoption laws saying it discriminates against whites (and other non-Native Americans but let’s be clear this is mostly impacting white people) of their rights to adopt. This ruling could “jeopardize decades of legal precedent affecting tribal sovereignty, said Dan Lewerenz and Erin Dougherty Lynch, attorneys with the Native American Rights Fund.” Systemic racism and colonialism continue on, thanks Columbus.

3. Thinking a mathematical formula could solve an equity formula. I’ll write more about this at a later point. This isn’t ha-ha funny, it is sad creepy funny.

4. Back to Kavanaugh. Ehh, nothing funny there to report. Just vacillating between raging sadness and raging annoyance with a white privilege system that protects its own even its own but refuses to protect the rights of Black and Brown people.

5. Asian representation. Two college dudes noticed there was no Asian representation in the posters at their local McDonald’s so they created their own poster to hang on the wall and it stayed there for 51 days. Way to go French fry eating real-life models. What made this even better is it is Down Syndrome awareness month. My friend who has a toddler with Down Syndrome lamented she wishes more children with Ds would be featured in ad campaigns, especially at stores like Target. Maybe in our off-time we’ll create a grassroots campaign of poc disabled babies and get their posters hung in stores. But seriously we do need more poc representation in ad campaigns, especially of pocs with disabilities, LGBTQIA kids of color, and pocs farthest from justice.

6. I laughed at a Tweet from a guy named Brett Kavanagh who said today isn’t a good day to have that name. I realized, yup I’m lucky to not be a white guy who feels entitled to yell, cry, or throw public tantrums in front of Senators and on national TV and radio.

7. Finally, we have less than 10 years to figure out climate change. PoCs are being hit hard. What’s funny, not much. But there is hope, if we as People of Color, turn out to vote we make it that much harder for racist, misogynist, and power trippers to get on the ballot and win public office. Register to vote than vote in this election year.

Good-bye Kavanaugh, it is time to go. Next week we return to our regular fakequity post about everything and nothing, and looks at race and social justice topics.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Annie, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn, Carolyn M., Carrie, Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Edith, Elena, Elizabeth, Evan, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Janet, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer, Jennifer T. Jessica, Jillian, Julia, Julie Anne, Kathryn, Kari, Kelli, Kirsten, Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Laurel, Lisa, Liz, Lori, Matt, Matthew, McKenzie, Michael, Megan,Mikaela, Miriam, Molly, Nathan, Paola, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shawna, Stephanie. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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People, Not Things — #MeToo in Disabilities

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series looking at how the Judge Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination is impacting people of color. Last week CiKeithia Pugh wrote about how white privilege showed up at the Senate hearing. This week Carrie Basas, our white ally and disability rights ally, shares how disabled people are impacted by sexual violence. 


By Carrie Griffin Basas

Dawline-Jane-Oni-Eseleh

HEAR OUR VOICE artwork by Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh, from amplifier.org

A few weeks ago, I was halfway across the country explaining to a room full of business lawyers that sexual harassment and assault are all about power—they are forms of discrimination fueled by other oppressions. Yes, sexual violence is sometimes about wanting to sleep with someone but it is always about power.

I had lost a lot of the men and some of the older women in the room. They wanted a clear, simple policy on what not to do when it came to workplace relationships. What I challenged them to do instead was to observe and interrupt power and notice how forms of violence and oppression are interconnected. My advice seemed to have nothing to do with sex, but everything to do with who counts and who gets to decide.

The other week, I sat in a long meeting that was dominated by men. In the wake of the Kavanaugh hearing, I scanned the room and couldn’t help but wonder how many of the people there had assaulted women. I was wrong and embarrassed to speculate. It is just I am not looking at people with fresh eyes; I am looking at them with weariness and fear. I feel more precarious and vulnerable than usual. And it’s not my whiteness that makes me feel this way. These times remind me more than ever what it is like to live with a disability.

I feel vulnerable to others having physical power over me—realizing I exist within a body that depends on a cane to get around and can easily be pushed to the ground. I feel vulnerable in social spaces where tall men loom over me, unintentionally, and boys are allowed to be boys in their off-color comments or power plays. I feel vulnerable when some people stare at me for being a woman and vulnerable when other people stare through me as if I am not even a person. I still have whiteness as a shield and protector, something my poc counterparts can’t count on to protect them.

I feel vulnerable because I see others in my community sharing their stories. I feel vulnerable because of numbers. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Intimate Partner and Domestic Violence Survey, and research conducted by the Disability and Abuse Project, 70% of disabled people experience some form of abuse, 40% of that sexual. Disabled people are twice as likely to experience violent crime and three times as likely to be sexually assaulted than nondisabled people. A recent NPR article put sexual assault rate at seven times as likely for people with intellectual disabilities. And when disabled people report violence, we are less likely to get an adequate response from police. In one study where almost 38% of disabled people reported violence, only 10% of their assailants were arrested. Very rarely do these studies disaggregate and report on disabled people of color; we can safely assume the rates are higher for disabled pocs.

I feel vulnerable because I have been vulnerable to others; that is my experience, my history. My entire way of being in the world and social rules about power are woven into my body because in many spaces where I am, in so many social encounters, I am an object. An object is not merely a sexual object. An object in its truest form is something to be acted upon. In acting on something, we distance it. We strip it of its identity, its personhood. We take it from lasting to disposable.

Disabled people are infantilized within our society. We are not seen as having agency. Rather, we are seen as requiring care and assistance, and penalized for it when we do. Being interdependent is not a door for inappropriate touching or other transgressions. It is not an excuse for diminished police response, inaccessible victim support services, or disbelief that disabled people actually have sex. All of these beliefs compound our silent victimization. People are simply living out societal norms when it comes to acting on disabled bodies.

People with disabilities are often not allowed to have boundaries. I fear this for my disabled daughter when she goes off to camp or hops on a school bus alone. I worry no one will have boundaries with her and she will grow up to think she doesn’t deserve them. And my fears are grounded in truth. According to the World Health Organization, children with disabilities are 3-4 times as likely to be victims of physical and sexual violence than their non-disabled peers, 5 times as likely if they have an intellectual disability.

I am not alone in being turned into an object. My experience links me with so many other people who know on a daily basis they are more likely to be assaulted and less likely to be valued or believed when it happens. Approximately 60% of Black girls experience sexual abuse by age 18. Over 23% of Latinx women experience sexual or physical violence during their lifetimes; Asian American women can experience similar rates. More than half of Native women have experienced sexual violence. And almost half of  Indian Health Service emergency rooms do not have an accessible protocol or trained personnel in place for sexual assault. Additionally, transgender people of color are more likely to have been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes; the rates range from 53%-65% for Black, Middle Eastern, American Indian/Native, and multiracial transgender victims. If we need further proof that sexual violence is not about sex, but it is about who is a person and who is an object, consider over 80% of LGTBQIA hate crimes that end in murder take the lives of people of color.

Most people who experience sexual violence or other forms of abuse will not be giving testimony in a confirmation hearing. Most people reflected in these numbers have been objects and remain objects. Communities of color are spaces where we dump our trash, invest less in school buildings, and chalk up poor health to poor habits. Institutions are where we dump our disabled people. And prisons are where we dump our POC brothers and sisters, many of whom have disabilities or will acquire them while incarcerated.

This week, I feel shame and disappointment we cannot sustain our outrage for everyone. It takes a Supreme Court confirmation process to speak—and even then, just for a small subset of experiences. I worry the problem isn’t so much a problem unless we can see ourselves in it.

I need to know about your suffering and you need to know about mine—and neither should matter less just because you will never fully know my reality, nor I yours. We need to bear witness to and stop people from becoming things in our history and present—from human trafficking to concentration camps, police brutality to forced sterilization. When we strip people of their humanity or we turn them into objects—such as commodities now on our power duo t-shirts and posters of Dr. Ford and Anita Hill—we make them belong to us and we make them subject to our rules. We no longer hear their screams at the same volume. We no longer believe they are in pain.

More reading on the topic:


carrie 2Carrie Basas works in education advocacy and formerly in civil rights law, specializing in disabilities rights. She was a law professor focusing on race, disability, and health justice. 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. Contrary to the impression left by this post, Carrie enjoys appropriately timed hugs from trusted friends and colleagues and would appreciate jazz hands from all others.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Annie, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn, Carolyn M., Carrie, Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Edith, Elena, Elizabeth, Evan, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Janet, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer, Jennifer T., Jillian, Julia, Julie Anne, Kathryn, Kari, Kelli, Kirsten, Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Laurel, Lisa, Liz, Lori, Matt, Matthew, McKenzie, Michael, Megan,Mikaela, Miriam, Molly, Nathan, Paola, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shawna, Stephanie. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

Does White Privilege Exist? Asking for A Friend.

By CiKethia Pugh

Sandra-Nadine-Khalifa.jpg

Artwork by Sandra Nadine Khalifa, from Amplifier Artwork, open use license

Today, I found myself glued to the TV and radio every chance I could in between work commitments. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate hearing was on TV and radio, including the questioning of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. We often avoid talking directly about partisan politics on this blog; there are more than enough examples of institutional racism without having to spar with people about their political ideologies but today I am making an exception.

What did I witness? Does White Privilege Exist? I am asking for a friend. See I do this work a lot. Talking with people about how to lead for racial equity. My work is tough, but it is necessary. If you have heard me talk, you’ll hear me say my why is obvious.  Not engaging in this work allows institutional racism and white supremacy to go unchallenged. It means I am putting the responsibility on others to create the change I hope to see in my lifetime. As a black woman, I cannot leave this to chance, I can’t trust others to challenge racism – history and my experiences prove others won’t or can’t speak up for me.  I work actively every day to be a part of the change I believe can happen, this is my individual contribution to the collective.

Here we are examining the events of the day and I find myself totally enraged. Some of you will want to look at this through only a gender lens, and yes, we could have that conversation because what we witnessed was toxic masculinity in its truest form, but I see everything through a racial lens. I was so struck by the events of today. It was an unsettled feeling that I couldn’t shake and then it dawned on me why I was so uncomfortable. I literally spent my day watching white privilege in action.

White privilege is to be enraged at the mere notion that you could be accused of wrongdoing, yet for people of color we are presumed guilty and it is our job to prove our innocence.

White privilege is to use your tears to disrupt and distract. White tears flip the script and next thing you know the accused is now playing the role of the accuser. Black, brown and indigenous peoples have historically experienced trauma that has had long-lasting impacts on our lives. My pain is inconvenient, and I have been told to suppress those feelings. There is no place for my tears.

White privilege is being shocked at a system you thought was there to protect you when it doesn’t. The impacts of institutional racism confirm daily for people of color that the system was never designed with us in mind.

White privilege is being able to move on from this. The storm doesn’t last forever. For people of color, the storm may let up a bit, but it never ends.

So, I’ll ask again. Does white privilege exist? I am asking for a friend.


Who Do We Believe

By Erin Okuno

LaurenCrew_2

Artwork by Lauren Crew, from Amplifier Artwork, open use license

I’m writing a companion piece to CiKeithia’s piece. This isn’t to answer her question, but more so because I was thinking about this post earlier in the day. Who do we believe? Do we believe women? Do we believe women of color? Do we believe Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous people? Do we believe people who don’t look like us or don’t sound like us?

To believe is to value. To believe means we find a common bond and create a relationship with someone no matter how deep or brief. American culture creates biases in us that condition us to believe white men over others and to value whiteness over people of color.

Sometimes we need to suspend our disbelief and to believe. I am remembering a line from a speech made by Tarell Alvin McCraney, playwright of the movie Moonlight. He challenged us to “examine without defense.” In today’s political environment can we “examine without defense?” The toxic masculinity and white privilege on display in the Senate hearing around Judge Kavanaugh protect the status quo and doesn’t allow an examination without defense. It protects whiteness.

Unchecked whiteness hurts all of us. Unchecked whiteness allows privileges and entitlement to benefit some and not others. As CiKeithia wrote, the storm will continue for people of color but some of you have a lifeboat waiting.

I’m creating my own lifeboat and welcome others to join me. In the lyrics to the song Glory by John Legend and Common their words remind us:

“The movement is a rhythm to us
Freedom is like religion to us
Justice is juxtaposition in us
Justice for all just ain’t specific enough”

Justice for sexual assault victims, justice for women of color, freedom through justice. Justice can’t be a juxtaposition, it needs to counter white privilege and toxicity. The movement towards justice may ebb and tide, but it will always rise and crest again. I believe in this because I value justice.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Annie, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn, Carolyn M., Carrie, Chelsea, Clarissa, Edith, Elena, Elizabeth, Evan, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Janet, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer, Jennifer T., Jillian, Julia, Julie Anne, Kathryn, Kari, Kelli, Kirsten, Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Laurel, Lisa, Liz, Lori, Matthew, McKenzie, Michael, Megan, Miriam, Molly, Nathan, Paola, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shawna, Stephanie. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

Peacocks, Hummingbirds, or Chickens — How to Present for Racial Equity

By Erin

Over the past week, I’ve sat through a lot of different education-wonk presentations. Some of them were interesting, some of there were snoozefests but I feigned interest, and some of them were on fire for all the wrong reasons. In most of the presentations, people talked about racial equity in some way. Some of the presenters really got it and dived deep into the topic, others were scared to talk about it but knew they had to and had talking points. The worst presenters, mostly by men, who tried to talk about equity clearly didn’t get it and refused to back down when asked questions and called on not knowing the answers.

The presenters fell into three categories:

  • Peacocks: Look at me, I’m so proud and I know everything. Don’t you dare challenge me cause I’m pretty. I may not know anything about race or how racial equity is applied, but I am too proud to admit it. Let me puff my chest out and if you challenge me I’m going to squawk and yell over you.
  • Hummingbirds: I am going to keep talking about race even though I don’t understand what I’m talking about, if I keep talking and using buzz words maybe I can get away with it.
  • Chickens: The workers, they understand race and they are busy actually doing work that leads to equitable results. They are steady and often do the work without calling attention to themselves and are humble.

Peacocks – How they show up

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Peacock image, from pixaby, Creative Commons – myska0091

Peacocks are the easiest to spot. They puff themselves up a lot and present with an air of arrogance, ‘don’t question my data,’ ‘I am a subject matter expert,’ talks over people or cuts them off. When someone asks them a question they can’t answer or in the wrong about they deflect from answering. They talk in circles or provide an answer that is threatening or shuts down the conversation.

Peacocks are dangerous to racial equity. They are often tasked with being the spokesperson for a project even though their racial equity fluency is sparse. When they speak they are arrogant and lack humility and an inability to build trust with the community. They often don’t want to hear genuine feedback. When they do take feedback, they don’t know how to use because their answers are always right.

How not to be this presenter: If you don’t want to be this presenter learn and practice humility. It is ok to admit you don’t have an answer – in fact, use this as a way to deepen your own understanding about race as it relates to the topic. No one can know everything about race, culture, language, etc. Admitting you don’t know and show you want to listen is a way to build trust. Stop puffing your chest out and fanning your feathers – for us to be in a just-relationship we need to rebalance knowledge and power.

Hummingbirds – Flitty and Buzzy when it comes to talking about Race

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Hummingbird and plant, pixaby creative commons, skeeze

Hummingbirds are cute and appear non-threatening. Their presentations are well executed and often have slick slide decks. They can throw around some good racial equity sounding words and lingo. Yet when someone asks them to go deeper then their pre-planned talking points they can’t really answer the questions and will begin to throw the buzzwords around again.

Despite their flitty nature and tiny-size, hummingbirds can be dangerous to advancing racial equity work. They often don’t have substance or depth to their conversations. Buzzwords and jargon may win-over some people, but when it is time to have a substantive conversation they flop over with their tiny-bird feet in the air. When this happens conversations and projects stall because people won’t understand the work or it will be so watered down it won’t have an impact.

How not to be this presenter: Stop using buzzwords and learn about race. I recently listened to a presenter who was a content expert but couldn’t articulate anything helpful when it came to talking about racial equity. When people in the room asked questions he flitted around the question and kept throwing buzzwords around. What he should have done was understand how and why race is important and how it impacts the outcomes of his project.

If you need to take this step, pull up a racial equity toolkit or another tool and answer the questions. Once you do that take the work to another level and ask why the answers are the way they are, and then ask others to join you in this exercise. You’ll end up with a better and higher quality presentation.

Chickens – Be a Chicken

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Three chickens, pixaby, creative commons capri23auto

Be a chicken, it is ok to be a chicken. Chickens, hens in particular, are workers – they’ve done their pre-work on learning about race and it shows up in their presentations. They don’t call attention to themselves and they like to live and work in a flock of likeminded hens.

When you present like a chicken it is ok to say what you need to say and admit to not knowing something, it is ok to be vulnerable. Chickens also know that being part of a flock offers warmth and protection. There is no need to be loud and proud, it is good to do your part and then work with others to supplement and add to the collective knowledge sharing. Chickens are also smart and will often leave behind eggs to nourish others for the work ahead. Be like a chicken – feed and support others too.


Special thanks to my colleague MH for naming the peacock behavior.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Annie, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn, Carolyn M., Carrie, Chelsea, Clarissa, Edith, Elena, Elizabeth, Evan, Hannah, Heidi, Janet, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer, Jennifer T., Jillian, Julia, Julie Anne, Kathryn, Kari, Kelli, Kirsten, Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Laurel, Lisa, Liz, Lori, Matthew, McKenzie, Michael, Megan, Miriam, Molly, Nathan, Paola, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shawna, Stephanie. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

Leaders of Color — Learn to Say “I’m Sorry…”

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Lake McDonald, from pixaby open source photo, attributed to skeeze

Earlier today I was at a listening session with the head of a large public institution. The person speaking was a poc and as he went through his PowerPoint slide deck he made sure to mention they are working on race and social justice. He mentioned it and moved on. Later in the presentation, he talked about a story that had come out in the news a few weeks ago about how students of color were excluded from a program at a disproportionate rate than white children. As he talked about this he said: “We don’t see race…” As I heard this I got bitter and jaded. This is a large public institution that is supposed to be accountable to taxpayers, it is meant to serve all in the community, especially those without means to pay, and what I heard was “I don’t see you.”

As a person of color, I probably unfairly judge other leaders of color. I unfairly expect more because I know the stakes are higher for pocs. I want us all to succeed and to collectively use our voice to push for bigger systemic changes. I also know we are rare and unfairly are expected to be leaders for groups rather than of individuals.  Our representation matters and we should be using our access, influence, and power to push for change. To hear another leader of color say “we don’t see race” made me cringe.” As leaders of color, we have to see race. We must see it, because if we don’t, who will? This is where the unfairness comes in — we give passes to white people who are just learning about race, but as leaders of color we hold ourselves and each other to higher standards. This is also where I have to slow down and give this leader of color some grace and in some ways apologize and say I’m sorry for the public callout.

As leaders of color there are fewer of us out in the world. In the nonprofit sector the number of executive directors of color are small as compared to the larger field, and especially for a field dedicated to solving the world’s problems, many of which unjustly impact people of color more acutely. It isn’t enough to be a leader of color if we’re not using our words and actions to lead for racial equity and not just using them as buzzwords to win attention and grant money. Again some people get a pass, but we unjustly have a different set of rules to play by; because we are rarer if we mess up the criticism is harsher and we get hit by both sides — those who want the status quo to stay and those who feel we didn’t push hard enough.

During the question and answer portion of the program I challenged him on how the organization can say they have a racial equity focus but at the same time say they don’t see race. The answer wasn’t satisfying, as I knew it wouldn’t be. There was no win for anyone in that situation.

Leaders of Color – Learning and Being Humble

Tonight, I was with another leader of color of another very large public institution. The moderator asked her what she does for self-care. She said she grew up near a national park with very big mountains and enjoys being in nature. She also said when she stands below the mountains and waterfalls she is reminded how little she is and how insignificant we can be. I appreciated the humility and calmness she extended in her answer to lead. We can sometimes get hot and bothered by everyday problems, but if leading for equity requires a calm and stillness to be in the work for the long haul. We can be part of the problem or part of finding solutions and finding justice.

Humility and grounding in self and place are important. I think in many ways what I wanted to hear from the leader of color was “I’m sorry, we (our staff) messed up…” As leaders we have to say we’re sorry and our organizations messed up, it is human and there is a restorative justice element in admitting our faults. Admitting a mistake is better than saying “We don’t see race,” which invisibilizes a major part of the problem. In my judgment, this is a bigger sin. Saying I’m sorry means we see the problem and can acknowledge it and maybe with some grace and humility we can work on fixing it together.

A few months ago, I had my own moment of messing up. We had hosted a big event and due to a lot of factors, we didn’t offer childcare. In an act of kindness and bravery, one of my partners had the hard conversation with our team about it. As soon as he started talking, I started rationalizing it and explaining how it happened he stopped me and said “I’m hearing a lot of excuses…” what I should have done was said “You’re right we messed up and I’m sorry,” and then listened more. It was hard and my impulse was to power-play, rationalize, and deflect. Thankfully we could draw from our relationship to move forward on redesigning our events to be more inclusive of children, especially children of color.

Where to go and What to do

Leading for race as leaders of color and white allies means we say we’re sorry when we mess up. Say your sorry, listen, and calmly keep working. With some grace and kindness to ourselves and others, we can stand beneath a mountain and be humbled and strong at the same time.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Annie, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn, Carolyn M., Carrie, Chelsea, Clarissa, Edith, Elena, Elizabeth, Evan, Heidi, Janet, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer, Jennifer T., Jillian, Julia, Julie Anne, Kathryn, Kari, Kelli, Kirsten, Kristen R., Kristy, Laurel, Lisa, Liz, Lori, Matthew, McKenzie, Michael, Megan, Miriam, Molly, Nathan, Paola, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shawna, Stephanie. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version).