This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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Snow day in International District Chinatown, Seattle, WA Feb 2019, photo by Erin Okuno

By Jondou Chase Chen

I’m a tender-headed guy. Tender-headed as in I’m really sensitive. Just about anything will set off my cough. Cold air. Musty dust. Mammal dander. Electrical buzzing and flickering lights give me headaches as I wonder about their source and why can’t they stop. And then there are those conversations that don’t get anywhere, or more specifically don’t get to where they can and they should …  

Ten days into our PNW adventures with snow, I’m feeling pretty sensitive.

There’s snow. Yes. This is the season for snow. This is Seattle snow. That means there’s snow on hills. There’s snow melting quickly into slush and ice. Our geography – our terrain, our proximity to the ocean, our latitude – can make snow more challenging (although according to Seattle.gov, this is only reason #8). This is our snow story, and it has been since time immemorial. I’m good with that.

Then there’s the amount of snow. It’s historic, yes. And is it possible that it is connected to climate change? Despite what our President says, yes, it is actually possible that it is connected. Not only that, it is even more probable that we will continue to experience weather like this moving forward. Are we talking about this? Sure, some of us are. But is the conversation moving forward into action? Moving beyond social media critiques of climate change deniers?  I’m not so sure …

Then there’s social impact of our recent snow. Most immediately we’ve seen our transportation systems shut down, bogged down, and mired in ice, slush, and mud. Power has gone out for thousands as our above ground utilities infrastructure remains exposed to the elements. And there have been the daily staring contest as families with children in schools wait to hear if we need to make emergency care plans and educators work to update and re-update lesson plans. Again our city and governing bodies acknowledge these challenges, but in a way that describes our situation and their response, rationalizes our minimal infrastructure, and removing themselves from liability or responsibility to do more.

And then I’ve heard the jokes. Jokes from folks across the country at how this amount of snow is laughable. Jokes that seem to frame this as being about regional dispositions and individual incompetencies rather than attending to geographic and sociopolitical differences. I’ve seen the memes from exhausted Seattle folks who have the capacity to turn to the internet to vent about our exhaustion and frustrations which are incredibly real.

But here’s my point: when we blame the weather, our geography, our infrastructure, and our disposition, we’re not entirely wrong. AND we’re also missing the opportunity to say something just as important: to acknowledge the ways in which what is happening is deeply systemic and the ways in which we have agency and responsibility to act differently. The snow and its associated challenges reveal rather than cover deep intersectional injustices.

In terms of race and social class: What areas and corridors of the city have seen more snow plows? Who is more likely to live there? Who is more likely to profit there? Who can afford to live and work closer to public transportation, especially the more reliable options like the light rail and express bus lines? Who are the folks more likely to be on salaried positions whose overall income and pay schedule are less likely to be impacted by the past two weeks? Who are the hourly and part-time employees who lost the opportunity to earn during the past two weeks? Who was more likely to spend extra hours while risking their health and wellbeing to be out in the snow? Who was more likely to have positions that allowed them to telecommute and work from home and to afford deliveries for food and other necessities?

In terms of age and ability: How many and whose children had to be unsupervised or attached to screens because their parents had to go in to work? How many mobility-impaired folks faced even steeper than usual challenges in traveling to access work, groceries, and other day-to-day needs? How many of our fellow Seattleites weren’t able to access social programming and human connection because of closures and cancellations and inadequate transportation options when we know that such opportunities greatly improve life outcomes, especially those marginalized by age and dis/ability.

Thankfully, through the snow and my tender-headedness, there were moments of relief and release. Seeing those who were able find joy in their first snowflakes or their fiftieth sled run. Working with neighbors to make sure that people got home safely and had the groceries they needed to make it through the snowmelt. All of this lifted me up, and reminded me of how capable we are of advocating for systemic change to ensure that the next time this happens that we don’t have to witness the further amplification of social inequities. It made me appreciate the efforts of so many of our local sibs of color at organizations like Got Green and Puget Sound Sage, who have taught me so much about how addressing climate change is about intersectional racial justice. And about acknowledging these lands and waters, their ecosystem, and our First Nations … we still have a long way to go and so much more to learn and do.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Clark, Dean, Denyse, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Milo, Minesh, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie, Stephanie S., Tana, Tara, Terri, and Vivian. 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). 

Equity equations don’t work

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Picture: Alicorn doing math with an abacus and feather pen

I spend a lot of time in policy meetings. In these meetings we often will do a round of introductions, then we get to the good stuff – the stuff that makes grown people cringe – binders are opened, pens are flipped, a PowerPoint presentation will glow on a screen, and the talking starts, eyes start to squint, and my poker face fails me. After a few minutes, someone will throw out the word ‘equity’ and people will nod. It happens at every meeting. At some point, someone will say “what about data…” which leads to a  newer thing I’ve noticed – using a mathematical formula to defend decision making in the name of equity. It annoys me.

We can’t and won’t get to equitable solutions through closed-door conversations and mathematical formulas. I’ve never heard a community member say: “I know the answer to the problem, let me pull out my laptop and find that spreadsheet!” I’ve heard the opposite, one friend said “I gave up on the spreadsheets. They are all bogus, the numbers change and are all made up.” The truth lies somewhere between – hard data has its place in helping us understand, define, and focus and narratives and lived experiences are also necessary to contextualizing and bringing in real-life problem-solving.

I know someone is wondering “Wait, there is a magical mathematical formula to get to equity?” Yup, someone made one, and I’m not sharing it because I think it is bogus. I will say it looks at ‘risk factors’ such as races or ethnicities, socio-economic status, housing, language, and a few others and crunches those into a formula that recognizes the need in resource allocation discussions. I’m all for giving more to people who need more, but it is bogus to call it ‘equity.’

We’ve written before about weaponizing data. My colleague Jondou Chen, PhD, talks about how we need to make sure we’re not turning a person’s data into an object and stripping away their autonomy on shaping how the data is used and the stories behind the data. ‘Formulizing equity’ into a mathematical equation does this.

Why Narratives Matter

When we only create policies and practices that look at numbers we fail to understand and grow our racial literacy. We also fail to create an equation that is accountable and felt by people of color. In other words, we recreate the systems the formula is trying to undo. We are failing to do the harder work of building relationships and being in conversation and accountable to communities and people of color. We are failing to have the moral courage to acknowledge the harm and transgressions of the past and owning our parts in upholding racist and patriarchal systems.

Instead of turning racial equity into a mathematical formula, we must learn to listen with our heads, then move through our hearts, and have the courage to change. When we only look at formulas we fail to understand the racism embedded in our systems and we also remove a layer of accountability to people most affected by racism.

Having relationships in place are essential. Relationships force people to be accountable to each other and propel change. We must be willing to say we can and must act differently. We must be bold and brave and defend our decisions that might not be popular to some but right for those who are the farthest from justice. This is easy to say, but harder to do when people accustomed to having their needs met fight to protect the entrenched ways of doing things.

Who’s in Control

Formulas have their place, they can help to ensure the systems we put in place drive towards equity in the long term. Equity isn’t just about shifting resources, it is about centering the communities most impacted and allowing them to have self-determination and to define problems and solutions. Simply using a formula or a matrix allows those in control to remain in control of how we define and see problems. For a shortcut in understanding this principle, read Heidi’s previous post explaining the racial equity mapping tool.

Our challenge is to take data, stories, and relationships and marry those into policies and practices that recognize histories, strengths, racism, trauma, cultural understanding, and are accountable to BIPOCs (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). If you need an example of why this is important watch this TED talk about a youth project collecting stories and how to use those stories in understanding race (h/t to CiKeithia and Heidi for sharing this). Using just a formula or matrix doesn’t get us a complete understanding of a problem.

When we see people and not just numbers, we’ll begin to unravel the racialized gaps and create new policies where luck isn’t a key to achieving and where we live with true racial justice. Your work is to build a relationship with someone whom you don’t know and who’s story is different than yours. Acknowledge your privileges and use those privileges to benefit someone else. This is how we can create a ripple effect of change.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Clark, Dean, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi S., Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Milo, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie, Stephanie S., Tana, Tara, and Terri. 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). 

Lunar New Year

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Photo from Pixaby by cegoh

Editor’s Note: Today, 1 Feb, also marks the start of Black History Month. In solidarity with our African American and Black relations.

I love lunar new year. It is festive, there is red and gold everywhere, drumming, lion dances, and if I’m lucky red envelopes filled with money will come my way. Growing up in Hawaii, Chinese New Years was a big thing and I got to partake in the festivities that happened all around. At school friends would bring nian gao their grandmas made to share, one year our teacher brought a string of loud and smoky firecrackers to light off from the second floor into the courtyard then littering the ground with red paper that stayed for months. As an adult, I am drawn to the day even more because it is one of the only days where the Asian community is visible. We take one day a year to be full-on-Asian and proud of it.

Every year I struggle to find good articles about lunar new year to share on Fakequity’s social media sites. This year I decided to write my own. Ironically after I decided to write my own I stumbled on pages that do a decent job of talking about different aspects of lunar new year. I still decided to write one from my perspective, but please make sure to read some of the hyperlinks since they have different information and perspectives.

Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year is a BIG deal to many in Asia. In China, Vietnam, Korea, and many other Asian countries it is a very important holiday. Businesses shut down, people travel home in a massive wave of migration, akin but different to Thanksgiving travel in America. Unlike Thanksgiving, there isn’t a set date. The lunar calendar follows the waxing and waning of the moon and was important for agrarian societies. Lunar new year marked the end of the last frost and in China the day is known as Spring Festival. In Vietnam, Tết Nguyên Đán or shorten to Tết, is the most important celebrations. Friends have told me that it is a day off from school and work and a time to visit the temple and pay respect to elders.

This year I decided to look up how Japanese celebrate lunar new year. I learned they don’t. In 1873 Japan adopted the Gregorian (Western) calendar and moved to celebrating New Year on January 1. All of this to say not every Asian country celebrates lunar new year.

How to Celebrate

I asked several friends why lunar new years is so important to them. A Chinese American friend said growing up she knew her grandma would be in a good mood on Chinese New Year. Her grandma would take her to the alter and kneel her in front of it and present her to the ancestors, reintroducing her and saying she was a good child and to watch over her. It was her day to be seen and affirmed and she left feeling like “yeah, I’m good with the ancestors for another year.”

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Photo from Pixaby by Quangpraha 

Another friend shared how Tết is her favorite holiday. She recalled going to the chợ hoa, flower market, that popped up because everyone would be buying flowers for their homes. She also talked about the cultural tradition of making sure you are clean before midnight, taking a bath, giao thừa. She would get a full bucket of hot water which during the winter was a treat. For some, it is important to get haircuts before lunar new year since it is bad luck to have it done during the celebration time. In Chinese culture knives and scissors are taboo during new year, don’t want to cut away your luck.

Then there is the food, who doesn’t love dumplings, glutinous rice in many different forms, and candy. In some cultures, it is dumplings all day every day during lunar new year season, YUM! In the Korean celebration of Seollal tteokguk (떡국, pronounced TUH-kook) is served, sometimes with a side of family joshing and teasing – ah the joys of being in an Asian family. Often, the food prep was equally as important as the food since it is how traditions are passed down. My friend Bao shared how she helped prep banana leaves for the Vietnamese bánh chưng/bánh tét, a glutinous rice with a variety of fillings wrapped in banana leaves. She also confessed with not being very helpful with the actual work. Growing up I loved when people would bring Chinese nian gao (brown sugar and rice steam cooked dessert) to parties or gave me some to take home, although in Hawaii I just knew it as gao. This year, I found an Instant Pot recipe version, maybe I’ll try to make it.

Red Envelopes

If someone hands you a red envelope on lunar new year, accept it and don’t lose it. It most likely contains lucky money. In some families, it is customary to kowtow (bow, forehead to the ground) three times before receiving a red envelope from an elder, and now in the digital age online red envelopes are also sent via mobile and the internet.

Many of my friends and family talk about the tradition of the red envelope and how it was a way to show respect and appreciation for each other. A friend talked about how her father’s friend presented her with an envelope because the friend respected her father and he wanted her, as the child, to know how important her father was in his life.

Lunar New Year and Western Society

One of the reasons I love lunar new year is it the only Asian holiday even remotely recognized in the US and Western society. It is one of the few times where Asian children get to see their community come together and celebrate. Because I cling to this notion of having one Asian-y day, my poor officemates every year hear me rant about how organizations forget to check the calendar and end up scheduling events on this day or leave it off their list of important dates. The rant sounds like this: “One day! Can we get one day to celebrate? Why did they schedule on this day?!?” If you’ve accidentally scheduled on this day, I’m not calling you out in particular, many orgs schedule on this day and some are more graceful than others when they find out about the date conflict. It is hard to remember the date of lunar new year since it moves every year, but like other important holidays make a point of learning the dates. Earlier this year Fakequity published a list of culturally important dates to help make it a little easier. If you did schedule on this day and need me at a meeting hand me a red envelope and some gao and I’ll be good.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Clark, Dean, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erin, Evan, eve, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi S., Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Milo, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie, Tana, Tara, and Terri. 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). 

“Good White People”

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Artwork by Josh MacPhee – There is Nothing More Urgent Then Freedom, Amplifier Art

Good white people are all around us. They are white and want to be seen as doing good in understanding race. They are well-intentioned, sometimes on their way to wokeness, sometimes a little clumsy, and sometimes a little too sweet. Good white people are all over the place. They are in schools, at the grocery store, your gentrifying neighbor who moved to your neighborhood because they love diversity.

Good white people are just that – good white people. Where it becomes a thing to note and manage is when good white people stop there and figure because they are good they are exempt from having to dig deeper to learn about race and actively work to disrupt racism.

If you want to identify a good white person here are some things to look for:

  1. They are white.
  2. They think they understand the plights of BIPOCs (Black, Indigenous, people of color)
  3. They denounce wholesale racism (i.e. Make America Great Again hats are evil)
  4. They are good and they are white

The problem is when good white people stop there. Because they are good and they have white privilege but they don’t take the time or energy to realize their roles in undoing racism. Recently I was text chatting with a friend about her day, she sent a text back saying she was spending the day with people who are doing “the good work” and therefore exempt from having biases. That is a textbook definition of a good white person – wants to be seen as good, but won’t do the deeper reflective work of realizing their role in upholding racist systems.

Good white people are the ones who denounce Trump, but think the MAGA boys who smirked and stood in front of Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder, were justified and are the victims because Phillips walked into the crowd of boys, code for “he [Phillips] asked for it.” The boys are good white innocent Catholic boys who are not to be doubted.

Good white people are the ones who cry when someone points out their white privilege, or says white supremacy in their presence. They feel attacked for being white which they can’t control versus understanding their unearned privilege and the role of whiteness in society.

Good white people speak for people of color because they feel they can. Good white people show up at rallies but in the quiet of their homes over Thanksgiving dinner don’t do anything to call out racist language from friends and family at the table.

Good white people champion diversity as long as they and their kids are served first. (In education settings this shows up as who has access to college access programs, advanced placement, etc.).

Good white people say, “can’t we all just get along, let’s not make this about race.”

In other words, good white people want to be seen as being good. They want to be separate of other white people who they condemn as bad. Being a good white person is easy, they don’t have to do much more than the minimum – put up a social media post with a hashtag and boom they’re done.

Being an Ally, Accomplice, and Agitator

Moving beyond the minimum of being a good white person isn’t hard, but it takes intentional self-reflective work. One of the first things to learn is how white privilege works and how unearned white privilege is. White privilege isn’t a personal attack against an individual white person. Accept it and pause to realize how you’ve benefited from the unearned privileges you’ve had in life – the privilege to walk into a store and not be followed or asked multiple times “Can I help you find something?” (code for I’m racially profiling you but disguising it as being nice), the privilege of showing up at school and assuming it is for you, the privilege of feeling a sense of belonging when you walk into mainstream spaces. Once you realize this you can begin to go deeper.

Being an ally and an accomplice requires you to give up some of your privilege and use it to support BIPOCs. There isn’t one answer to how to do this. Sometimes it means stepping back and listening to BIPOCs. Other times it means stepping up and saying things need to happen differently to support people of color. Sometimes being an ally means stepping in and saying the unpopular thing and calling out other white people who are unable or refuse to see and say. Other times it is taking on the role of agitating to help other white people understand race and how it shapes our lives.

Moving beyond being a good white person also requires continued learning and reflection. You don’t get to just watch Black Panther, read Ta-Nehisi Coates, and listen to NPR’s Code Switch podcast and say I’m a good white person now and done — no wokeness points earned. Race is an evolving construct and racism is forever adjusting and changing. Not long ago segregation was visible and defined, a good white person may recognize this, but fail to see we still have segregation but now it is disguised in other ways such as who has access to elite schools, which kids get to go to sports and other expensive camps and STEM programs, etc. Being a good white person means working to recognize and undo the systems of oppression that are harmful to both whites and people of color.

Good white people you have what it takes to do more, go deeper, and to shift discourse in yourself and with other white people. Be brave and take the next steps.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Andrea, Annie, Ben, Brooke, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Clark, Dean, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erin, Evan, eve, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi S., Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Milo, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie, Tana, Tara, and Terri. 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). 

 

Oppression BINGO

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By Erin Okuno

Oppression BINGO is here. As with our other BINGO boards, these are meant to be taken in jest and as a way to spark conversation, think about how phrases and behaviors show up in meetings, classrooms, or other places.

Some of the phrases in the BINGO boxes are behaviors that cause oppression, others are how oppression manifests itself, and some are beliefs that lead to BIPOCs (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) feeling oppressed. If you are confused by some of the terms or how/why they ended up on the board have a conversation with some trusted woke friends/allies and talk through it — the key here is to talk to trusted friends whom you have a relationship with, not some poc who you want to extract knowledge from.

Above is a jpeg picture of the BINGO card. Since jpegs aren’t screen reader friendly, the terms in the boxes are listed below:

  • When pointed out they are wrong feels the need to justify their stance
  • Says “but I’m [xxx] and faced hardships too.”
  • Believes intersectionality is about inclusion of them
  • Becomes bitter when they feel oppressed
  • Talks over people when they feel oppressed
  • Whitesplains or Mansplains when uncomfortable
  • Becomes defensive when race is brought up
  • Whines or cries to deflect their uncomfortableness
  • “Show me the data” a.k.a. I don’t believe you (oppressive behavior)
  • Feel personally attacked when BIPOC* point out racism
  • I don’t have privilege because… or I’m oppressed because… I face racism too…
  • Claims “reverse racism”
  • Calls themselves Caucasian, because the term white feels oppressive
  • Refuses to acknowledge their white, or other, privileges
  • Wants control, when they don’t have it they claim they are oppressed
  • Refuses to acknowledge others are treated differently because of race
  • Says they don’t see color, they treat everyone the same
  • “My story matters too.” (Form of Oppression Olympics)
  • Believes acting nice towards BIPOC is enough to undo racism
  • Believes power isn’t real or we all have equal power in situations
  • Thinks bias is a sewing term
  • Says they aren’t racist because they have a Black Lives Matter yard sign
  • Watched Black Panther and read about white privilege, so now they are woke
  • Believes they earned their privileges therefore they can’t be oppressing others

*BIPOC — Black, Indigenous, POC (people/person of color)

PDF download of the BINGO card oppression bingo.


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, eve, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi S., Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Milo, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie, Tana, Tara, and Terri. 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). 

2019 Culturally Significant Dates & New Years (x15)

By Erin Okuno, with much thanks and appreciation to friends who contributed to the list

We’re ten days into 2019, which means we still have over 300 days to go in this new year. For those who checked the box: “Mark important religious holidays on your calendar,” on last week’s Fakequity pledge here is a handy list of culturally significant dates.

I’ve crowd-sourced a list of dates that are culturally significant to many cultures, religions, and people. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, no list could capture everything. I purposefully left off dates well-known in Western culture and easily identified on mainstream calendars (e.g. Christmas, Catholic/Christian Easter, Thanksgiving, etc.), no need to perpetuate whiteness here. This is meant to be a starting point in thinking about how richly diverse we are as communities. In assembling the list I enjoyed learning about the traditions, importance, and cultures of my friends and colleagues who contributed to the list. I was also keenly aware of how much I don’t know and humbled and grateful that people shared important dates and traditions with me.

A few notes and naming a few biases: This list was put together with the help of many of my friends via social media. My network is deeply diverse and I am thankful for their generosity. My friends and colleagues come from many different backgrounds, religions, places, cultures, etc. Yet there are blindspots, such as it is a very US West Coast and Pacific-centric network, very connected to the education sector, heavily college educated, and majority English speaking. This affects the way the list was put together because people shared what they know, and we don’t know what we don’t know. It doesn’t make it a bad list, but it is incomplete and will always be incomplete in some way.

The list was assembled by me, and I relied on basic internet research to compile the dates. English based mainstream internet sites are not always completely accurate, especially for non-dominant culture traditions. As an example, in an early draft, many of the dates for Jewish holidays were inaccurate. A friend corrected the dates and explained that many US calendars are slightly off because of the timing of Jewish holidays which often start at sundown and different religious practices sometimes vary within the religion. I am grateful to Hannah for correcting my oversights. This is a cultural nuance she understands well and I have to learn about.

As you do your own work please consult with people in your networks to ensure the dates match their local practices and celebrations. Local nuances are equally important – such as if you find me on Japanese Girl’s Day you’ll find me with sticky fingers from making and eating mochi – oishi! The spellings I used are a best attempt to be accurate, but spellings can vary greatly. Such as Sarawati, a friend, noted Diwali and Deepavali are spelled differently depending on regions. Through further research we found additional spellings.

Below is a graphic to share. In an attempt to practice #13, accessibility, from the Fakequity Pledge, I’ve listed the text below for people who want to use a text-to-speech reader or to copy-and-paste (graphics don’t allow for these options).

2019 dates (4)

2019 Culturally Significant Dates

  • Lunar New Year (Chinese) / Tet (Vietnamese) / Seollal (Korean) – 2/5/2019
  • Hinamatsuri – Girl’s Day (Japanese) – 3/3/19
  • Holi – 3/21/19
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Easter – 4/8/19
  • Passover (Jewish) – 4/20-27/19
  • Eretria Easter – 4/21/19
  • Orthodox Easter – 4/28/19
  • Children’s / Boy’s Day (Japanese) – 5/5/19
  • Ramadan – 5/7-6/4/19 (tentative dates, dependent on the sighting of the moon)
  • Eid ul-Fitr – 6/5/19
  • Juneteenth – 6/19/19
  • Summer Solstice (northern hemisphere) – 6/21/2019
  • Ethiopian New Year – 9/11/19
  • Mid-Autumn Festival – 9/13/19
  • Rosh Hashanah – 9/29-10/1/19
  • Yom Kippur – 10/8-9/19
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – 9/13 – annually recognized
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day – 10/14/19
  • Diwali / Deepavali / Dipavali / Bandi Chhor Divas (Sikh) – 10/27/2019
  • All Saints Day – 11/1/19
  • Día de los Muertos – 11/2/19
  • Human Rights Day – 12/10 – annually recognized
  • Las Posadas (Christian Latin American) – 12/16-24/19
  • Winter Equinox (northern hemisphere) 12/22/19
  • Hanukkah / Chanukah – 12/22-30/19
  • Kwanzaa – 12/26-1/1/ annually celebrated
  • Orthodox / Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas / Eritrean Orthodox Christmas – 1/7/20

*Correction to Eid ul-Fitr date. Thank you to Jeanne for catching it.

New Years Dates

If you already messed up on your new year’s resolutions — such as KonMari’ing your house (I’ve already gone down the Netflix rabbit KonMari rabbit hole), don’t worry there are several more new years to restart.

In researching this piece I really enjoyed stretching my brain to think about how non-linear and non-binary we can be with time and dates. A new year doesn’t have to be January and traditions of reflection and celebration are around us year round. Take a moment and learn about some of these new year traditions.

2019 new year dates (2)

  • Orthodox New Year 1/14/19
  • Losar / Tibetan New Year – 2/5-7/19
  • Lunar New Year (Chinese) / Tet (Vietnamese) / Seollal (Korean) – 2/5/19
  • Nyepi Bali Hindu New Year – 3/7/19
  • Persian Nowruz / Iranian New Year – 3/21/19
  • Ugaadhi / Telegu and Kannada New Year – 4/6/19
  • Aluth Avurudda (Sinhalese New Year, Sri Lanka) 4/13-14/19
  • Khmer New Year – 4/14-16/19
  • Songkran (Thai) – 4/13-16/19
  • Bengali New Year, Pohela Boishakh – 4/15/19
  • Matariki, Maori New Year (New Zealand) – 6/10/19
  • Al-Hijra / Muharram (Islamic / Muslim) – 8/31/19
  • Ethiopian New Year – 9/11/19
  • Rosh Hashanah (Jewish) – 9/29/19
  • Diwali / Deepavali / Dipavali / Bandi Chhor Divas (Sikh) – 10/27/2019


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, eve, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi S., Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Milo, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie, Tana, 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). 

Take the 2019 Fakequity Pledge

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Square image words saying in red on white background: Fakequity Pledge 2019 with fakequity.com

By Erin Okuno

A new year is a great time to start new habits. This year for our first January post I’ve put together a list of different things to pledge to try to do in 2019. I’m asking you to take the Fakequity pledge and commit to doing at least five things differently in 2019. If you think you’re already doing one of them but want to recommit to it or pledge to do it with more intentionality go for it. You don’t have to do all of the pledged items right away, you can spread them out throughout the year or practice them as they come up in life. Practicing and being more aware of race and its impact on our lives allows us to be more sensitive to injustice and when equity and justice are found and achieved.

In 2019, I pledge to do five or more of the following: Please fill out this form with your pledges.

  1. Disrupt racism by speaking out or asking questions when things don’t feel or sound right.
  2. Read two or more books by authors of color, at least one of the two should be an author of a different race than you. Children’s books and audiobooks count. Some suggested titles are here and here.
  3. Name your biases and have a conversation with someone about biases and how they show up for you. Here is a starter guide for your conversation.
  4. Switch one (or more) shopping purchases from a mainstream store or vendor to a poc owned business. Check out Equity Matter’s POC map for suggestions. Other suggestions can be in the POC shopping guide.
  5. Vote if you can. If you aren’t legally allowed to vote find someone who is legally allowed and encourage them to vote. Also use your voice to work towards instating voting rights for those who don’t have the right – immigrant residents, felons, etc.
  6. Learn who’s land you’re on. Here is a handy map that can tell you who’s land you are on. Once you’ve done that go deeper and learn about the Native American history of the place and learn the Indigenous place name for where you are.
  7. Play Fakequity BINGO, Social Justice Fakequity BINGO, Abelism BINGO, or Power Hoarding BINGO. Have a conversation with others, such as with your work team or a group to talk about how these things show up in your environments.
  8. If you are still using the word minority, pledge to stop doing so. Minority is an outdated term. People of color are quickly becoming the majority and in some places already the majority of the population.
  9. Pledge to learn more about colonialism and its impact on Native American/Indigenous people.
  10. Resist the urge to talk and listen to someone who is different then you tell their story. This could be someone from a different race, someone with a different life experience than you, someone of a different generational group, etc. Listening is how we learn.
  11. If you follow the news, supplement it with reading ethnic media or community media from people of color outlets.
  12. Learn about abelism and be aware of how it shows up in your life. Bonus points for learning about disabilities justice and race. (Thanks to Carrie for this suggestion.)
  13. Consider the accessibility at events, meetings, spaces you are in – are the doors wide enough for a wheelchair to fit through, are the lights dimmable for sensory needs, do the bathroom stalls have grab bars, is there a quiet area for people to take a break and recalibrate, is it near transit? Make meetings more welcoming for everyone by practicing welcoming behaviors – nametags, being upfront about asking people what their accessibility needs are on pre-event information and at the event, greeting people, providing maps, etc. (Thanks Carrie for providing this one too.)
  14. Learn about white privilege and white supremacy and how it shows up in every day lives.
  15. If you give monetarily or volunteer time to causes and non-profits, shift or supplement your giving to people of color led and embedded organizations. For every cause (e.g. homelessness, immigrant rights, breast cancer, education, environment, etc.) there is a poc led or centered cause working on the same topic and probably approaching the work differently than a historically white-led organization.
  16. Learn about climate change and its impact on people of color and the environment as it relates to people of color, especially Indigenous people. If you need a jump start, pick-up the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (hat-tip to Jondou for the suggestion).
  17. Mark important religious holidays on your calendar – Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Lunar New Year, etc. Learn the cultural expectations of these times and be aware of how your work and daily life can impact our relations, such as during Ramadan not scheduling meetings around food and drink during daylight hours. If you use an online calendar many of them have plugins that can automatically add these dates to your calendar. [Edit: here is a list of dates.]
  18. Practice humility and apologize when you say or do something wrong.
  19. Realize the limits of the equity box graphic and have a conversation with someone to deepen their understanding of it.
  20. Read Equity Matter’s Color Brave Space and pledge to start embedding some of the concepts into meetings you run or are a part of.
  21. Ask someone their pronouns and use the pronouns.
  22. Examine without defense. I first heard this phrase by Terrell McCraney, playwright of the movie Moonlight. I enjoy his simple phrasing of thinking about things and resisting the urge to automatically defend the status quo and to examine a problem situation, etc. in ways that gets us to new meanings. Some people might call this “honest intention.”

Take the pledge by filling out this simple form and checking off the items you plan on taking on this year.

The pledge is for you, feel free to share what you pledge to do with others so you have an accountability system. We may (depends on how this goes) share some of what you pledge to do online so we can collectively learn what resonates and other things shared through the form.

Have a great 2019!


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, Heidi S., Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, Kari, Katheryn, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Mikaela, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, 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). 

Diversity Isn’t Equity

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A mocking photo of an all-male group with spray paint saying “No Women?” and a Hoffs thumbs up. Lack of gender diversity and very little racial diversity. From http://allmalepanels.tumblr.com/By

By Erin Okuno

Editor’s Note: No blog post next week. We’re taking a break to play, eat, and sleep in that order.


In the 1990-2000s there was a drive towards diversity. Businesses and colleges had diversity offices. There were, and still are, diversity and recruitment managers on college campuses and within big businesses. But let’s be clear diversity doesn’t bring about racial equity. Diversity is important and helps to bring change and new perspectives, but it isn’t racial equity because the power dynamics stay the same and it isn’t attacking root-causes.

What is Diversity?

Before we get too deep into the topic, let’s define diversity. Diversity means having a group of people from many different backgrounds which may include: racially, ethnically, language, citizenship status, educational background, disability, socio-economic status, gender, geography, etc. The photo above mocks a lack of gender diversity.

Even within a racial community, it is important to look for diversity. If you are gathering people and you feel you’ve achieved racial diversity that is great, and you should go deeper. Do you have gender and inclusion of transgender and gender-fluid people? Are immigrants and refugees represented? Is it inclusive of people with disabilities, and remember there are a lot of different types of disabilities (i.e. mental health, physical, developmental, etc.). Diversity can also be found within race groups. As an Asian, I know my own experience as a Japanese American who grew up in Hawaii, but I don’t know the experiences of other Japanese Americans or other Asian ethnicities. One person from each race group can’t be used to justify representation.

What do you mean diversity isn’t enough?

A few years ago, I was at a business conference. I was out of my normal crowd since these were suit-and-tie business people. At dinner, I found my people of color peeps and we ordered a few drinks and talked the evening away. We were the minority in the room and we brought the diversity to business prom as we dubbed the event. Our presence at the conference didn’t change anything, it made the event look more attractive to progressive people since they could say “We had a diverse audience,” and I think our comments during the sessions added new thoughts. But our presence didn’t disrupt any of the dynamics of systemic racism – if we weren’t there, business prom would have continued on as normal.

The same could be said of almost any place where we do our best to diversify spaces. Adding a few students of color to a prep school doesn’t change the school. Hiring one or two faculty members of color doesn’t shift discourse greatly. I know when I enter a room, I quickly scan the participants and start doing the ‘silent count.’ Dr. john a. powell (doesn’t capitalize his name) talks about this concept of how pocs start counting all the pocs in the room to figure out if there is a sense of safety and comfort in the room, is there critical mass to speak up and be heard, are we in the majority or minority? The more people of color in the room the more likely we can feel safe and possibly heard. Diversity is nice but it doesn’t change much on its own.

Access vs. Equity

Having people of color included in a meeting, task force, enrolled in an otherwise exclusive space (college, prep school, etc.) is giving access to pocs. Access is important, but as Heidi has already blogged about access isn’t equity. Bringing in people of color brings diversity, but it doesn’t structurally change anything. Equity work requires deeper intention and attacking structural inequities.

Diversity also plays into the dynamics of who has the right to choose and determine who gets access to the field. As Heidi previously wrote: “We are often tokenized, individually incentivized, and/or have internalized the superiority of the current system.” Being asked to join boards for the sake of diversity, getting admitted to prep schools and colleges in the name of diversity, and being granted access makes both those doing the inviting and those accepting the invites as complicit in the systems we need to disrupt. I admit I participate in this behavior all of the time, my job depends on access and me stepping into these spaces. I do my best to use my access to disrupt from the inside and to remind the group that diversity isn’t the goal; access is one of the tools to undo racism at the systemic level. In this way, I’m still part of the system I’m working to undo. I’m being rewarded by the system, and I’m gatekeeping for white patriarchy as well (read this blog post by Mamademics).

Where Diversity is Helpful

Having diverse people of color in the room is important. Please don’t read this post and think “well diversity isn’t important so we’ll just do what we always do and bring in our best friends and people we like.” Defaulting to the usual list of 20 people and the same way of selecting people isn’t helpful, and having a room full of white people really isn’t helpful in solving problems. Having people from diverse problems in the room to help problem solve is necessary to solve complex problems.

We all have our own thoughts and experiences, biases and prejudices built into our thought processes which are important to shaping solutions. As an example, if the group is trying to understand a problem or work in general. As an example, a few years ago I was invited to join a group of Asian elders at Starbucks. They were hanging out and catching up. One of the guys in the group told a story about how he had worked on a transportation project and when it came to naming the streetcar lines the transit agency named the line going through Chinatown the ‘gold-line.’ That is problematic for many reasons in the Asian community. Gold could be a pseudonym for yellow, which is linked to the slur yellow-peril. As an Asian, he understood this cultural reference and mentioned it. The transit agency went ahead with the proposed name and got a lot of pushback and anger from the Asian community when it went public. Had they listened to him they could have saved themselves a lot of negative publicity and some overt racism.

Diversity is important, but we also must do the harder work of disrupting power dynamics and disrupting systemic racism.


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, Heidi S., Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, Kari, Katheryn, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Mikaela, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, 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). 

 

POC Shopping Guide

By Erin O.

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Wrapped gifts with wrapping paper featuring African American/Black children, everything featured in the picture was purchased from Black-owned businesses online and locally. photo by Erin O.

It is the season where we do some holiday shopping. Spending our money in poc owned businesses is one tangible way of investing in people and communities of color.

Give the Gift of Experiences

I’m a big fan of giving experiences, less trash-and-waste, and sometimes you learn a new skill or build a new relationship. If you want to go this route here are a few suggestions:

  • Gift certificates for poc owned restaurants and cafes. You can extend it a bit further by inviting out a friend to join you for a meal or coffee. Check out the Equity Matter’s POC map for suggestions of places to visit; it is an open-source map so please add/edit to keep it as useful as possible.
  • POC art and language experiences – Find a poc artist and see if they offer workshops, such as dance or music workshops, other types of art such as ikebana, language classes, writing classes, cooking classes, etc. Make sure you are choosing experiences taught and owned by people of color and they are culturally appropriate to share with outsiders. Don’t practice cultural appropriation.
  • Cultural centers and museums – Memberships and guest passes to African American/Black, Asian and Pacific Islander, Native American, and Latinx cultural centers and museums are an investment in the community and an educational experience for your family or friends. I’ll be buying a few memberships to the NW African American Museum in Seattle for a few people.
  • If you are in the Seattle region here are a few places to check out:
    • Cooking classes at El Centro de la Raza – learn how to make tamales and other delicious Mexican food. Bonus: If you haven’t picked up a Christmas tree yet, you can buy one at El Centro. The proceeds support their programs.
    • Emerald City Fired Arts— It is a great family activity where you can choose a piece of pottery to paint and have fired. The prices are reasonable and some of the pieces are giftable – plates, mugs, ornaments. My kid saved her allowance to paint a sizable Pegasus which now sits in her room.
    • Olympus Spa is a Korean owned women’s spa. Buy someone you like the gift of baby smooth skin with a Korean scrub.
    • Check out a theatre show written by an artist of color. One to check out in 2019 is Susan Lieu’s 140 lbs How Beauty Killed My Mother. I saw her earlier show and still think about it. The show explores family, concepts of beauty, and the immigrant experience. Here are seven Black playwrights to follow.
    • Columbia City Fitness offers punchcards, a great gift for someone or yourself, just make sure to pace how often you go so you don’t have to cram all of the gym visits into a one week period (#ItHappened).

Gifts

Eighth Generation is a Native-owned gift store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

For the coffee drinkers in your life, Mount Tahoma Coffee is a Black-owned roastery. Their coffee beans can be ordered online.

If you are in Honolulu, Hawaii, stop by Nisshodo candy to pickup some delicious mochi. You can also get your New Year’s mochi here too.

Make sure to invest in #BuyDisabled. @Imani_Barbarin started a thread on Twitter where disabled people could mention their businesses. Check it out and do some shopping here (year-round). With a little hunting, you can find business owners of color on the thread.

Gift of Time

Give the gift of time to another: Volunteer with a poc led and embedded organization. When I say volunteer I mean really volunteer – do what they ask and need, stay for the long-haul, build relationships, and go in humbly. Volunteering isn’t about you, it is about being of service to others. If you are interested in support kids of color find a public school and work to support their achievement gap closing efforts. If the school is in a predominantly white neighborhood then ask specifically to work with students of color at the school, or find a school in another neighborhood with more students of color and volunteer there.

Give the gift of time to yourself by watching a movie, TV show, podcast, or better live theatre by an artist of color.

Books and Magazines

Mahogany Books in Washington DC is a Black-owned bookstore. I ordered holiday gifts through their website, it was just as easy as ordering from that other large retailer named after a river in South America — I’d rather give my money to Mahogany Books.

Birchbark Books is a Native-owned bookstore.

Out Magazine appointed Black transgender activist and journalist Raquel Willis as their executive editor.

Book Recommendations by members of the Fakequity Team:

  • Erin: The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
  • Jondou: The Color of After by Emily Pan

Here is a crowdsourced list of books by authors of color read in 2018, in random order. I haven’t read most of these, but sharing since diverse interest deserve a diverse list.

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama (Mahogany Books, is a great place to order this from if you want to own a copy – support a Black-owned company)
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Like a Mother by Angela Garbes
  • We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.: Essays by Samantha Irby – a friend said she read this on a plane and laughed so hard it sounded like she was choking worrying her seatmates
  • Awakening Together by Larry Yang
  • The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui – After I published last week’s Fakequity post about Asian American womxn a colleague-friend walked into the office and said: “Great post, but you forgot Thi Bui!” All I could say is “you’re right, remind me next year when we do a follow-up list,” in the meantime go read her book — it is that good.
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward – This book was recommended by multiple people. One friend said to read this and her other book Men We Reaped together.
  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Heart Berries by Therese Mailhot
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality In The Workplace by Ruchika Tulshyan
  • Hawker Fare: Stories & Recipes from a Refugee Chef’s Isan Thai & Lao Roots by James Syhabout
  • Unicorns Unite: How nonprofits and foundations can build EPIC Partnerships by Jessamyn Shams-Lau and Jane Leu and fellow late-night blogger at Nonprofitaf.com Vu Le

For the Younger Readers in Your life or for you:

  • Birchbark Series by Louise Erdrichs, make sure to read the Next Generation Makoons and Chickadee too.
  • Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi
  • My Heart Fills With Happiness / Ni Sâkaskineh Mîyawâten Niteh Ohcih (bilingual Cree and English) by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Julie Fett
  • Imagine by poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera
  • Baro Af-Soomaali (Somali Edition) – This is a Somali alphabet book locally produced in Seattle. Order a copy and donate it to a school or classroom.
  • Red Knit Cap Girl series by Naoko Stoop
  • Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
  • Santa’s Husband by Daniel Kibblesmith and A P Quach (not poc authored, but it bust-Santa biases — a Black Gay Santa is featured in the book *writer’s privilege sneaks this onto the list)
  • Edit, I forgot a book I loved this year: Ordinary Ohana by Lee Cataluna. I requested this be added to the Seattle Public Library collection then borrowed it about five times, including to read aloud when I was a guest reader at WA-BLOC’s summer Freedom School. Go borrow it from the library or buy a copy for yourself.

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, Rebecca, 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). 

Asian and Pacific Islander American Womxn Paving the Way

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Artwork from Amplifer Art by Shepard Fairey

A while ago I read Chelsea Clinton’s book She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. I borrowed it from the library to read with my kid and for the older one to expose him to why feminism matter (he thinks he’s beyond picture books but exposure still works). We settled in at bedtime and we read through the pages together. At the end of the book I flipped back to the beginning and looked through it again, I couldn’t find any Asian Americans included. I was very disappointed by the lack of inclusion of Asian American womxn. I cringed but tried to hide it from the kids at the moment.

The oversight makes Asian American contributions to America invisible and for kid’s like mine, it subtly teaches them to hide their Asianness or at least it isn’t something to celebrate. When I pointed this out someone politely challenged me to write a book featuring Asian American womxn who are badasses and changing the world. While this isn’t a book this is one attempt to put a stake in the internet-ground and say Asian American womxn are here, we are changing the world, and we will celebrate our Asianness.

I also want to prove when we look, we can find what we are looking for — of course, there are amazing Asian American womxn changing the world. This list is a combination of historical and national leaders, and local to Seattle and Hawaii (writer’s bias and privilege) leaders. Thank you to friends who contributed names to the list. This list focused on Asian American and Pacific Islander womxn, where known I listed their ethnicities to also show Asian Americans ethnicities are diverse and that should be recognized as an asset. I focused on Asian Americans (not Asians) with two known exceptions.

The Activist and Systems Shakers

Judge Mary Yu

Judge Yu is a total badass. She was the first Latina and Asian American justice on the Washington’s state Supreme Court. She’s also the first openly gay Justice in Washington. Just being the first makes her a badass because we know you have to overcome a ton of barriers to reach that pinnacle of success, but what sets her apart from others is her continued commitment to social justice and the community.

When Washington legalized same-sex marriage Justice Mary Yu (get it—marry you) presided over the first gay-wedding. Justice Yu has also made a point of staying engaged in the community. During Constitution Day she visited an elementary school and leading conversations with 300 2nd to 5th graders about what judiciary system is and how it upholds democracy. Taking time to do this showed the students, especially the girls of color that they should aspire to make a difference.

Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs was a Chinese American womxn who demonstrated how we can and should be supporting the African American community unconditionally. She fought for racial justice alongside the Black Panther. She was also a philosopher and gardener having taken over vacant lots to plant gardens. She modeled how to navigate cross-racial spaces and to use Asian privilege to support and advance cross-racial work for all.

Maizie Hirono and Patsy Mink

US Senator Maizie Hirono and former Congressmember Patsy Mink are both from Hawaii. I remember hearing their names as I was growing up as a young child in Hawaii. Both Japanese American women grew up during a time when women were breaking more and more into politics but faced thick glass and bamboo ceilings. CM Mink was the first women of color to serve in Congress, serving in the US House of Representatives for 12 terms from 1956-2002, and was instrumental in ensuring Title IX was passed guaranteeing more gender parity in higher education. Senator Hirono is the first Asian immigrant to serve in the Senate and the first Buddhist. She was told to step aside for male counterparts, she told them no it was her turn and they could wait. Badasses, both of them.

Many more notables politicians, activist, educators, and a few business leaders:

  • Congressmember Pramila Jayapal, Indian American
  • Senator Tammy Duckworth, Thai White
  • Senator Kamala Harris, Jamaican and Indian
  • Yuri Kochiyama, thanks to Ryan O for sharing this homage
  • Haunani Kay Trask, Native Hawaiian poet, academic, and activist
  • Indra Nooyi, CEO at PepsiCo., Indian American
  • Mia Tuan, Dean UW College of Education, as a friend explained a female college dean of color is like a unicorn and one we should treasure and hopefully create a heard of unicorns
  • Amanda Nguyen (featured in the artwork), CEO of Rise, sexual assault victims advocate — she powered through important legislative changes to fix laws adversely impacting victims. [Editor’s note – thank you to Jenny S. for bringing Amanda’s contributions to my attention.]

Moving to Sports

When I tried to think of Asian American athletes all I came up with was Kristi Yamaguchi, if I broaden to include men I came up with baseball star Ichiro and Yao Ming – pretty sad list. Thankfully friends offered me the following and when I started researching I found many more:

  • Shelma Jun, climber, bringing other women to climbing
  • Chloe Kim, snowboarder, Olympic gold medalist, Korean American
  • Ashima Shiraishi, 17-year old climber who reached the level of v15 (out of 16 levels) – go watch some of her videos, omg my arms burn just watching. Japanese American
  • Naomi Osaka, tennis, Grand Slam champion, Haitian and Japanese. Osaka represented Japan in the Grand Slam but lives in the US.
  • Naomi Mulitauaopele, basketball – played for the WNBA, and was the first Samoan Pacific Islander to graduate from Stanford University
  • Sanoe Lake, surfer – Hawaiian, Japanese, and English

Artist to Inspire

In the arts we see a breadth and depth of the API experience.

  • Stella Abrera, Filipina ballerina, principal dancer, becoming the first appointed Filipina-American woman with American Ballet Theatre. Ballet has been a very white-held space with diversity exclusion. Way to go Stella, #PinayPower!
  • Ruth Asawa, sculptor and wire artist. She learned to draw while at a US internment/concentration camp. Japanese American
  • Celeste Ng, author, Chinese American
  • Amy Tan, author, The Joy Luck Club was one of the first ‘adult’ novels I read as a middle or high schooler. It remains one of the few fiction books I remember reading, as friends know I don’t read a lot of fiction so this is high praise from me. Chinese American
  • Zaha Hadid, architect, Middle Eastern (including because I want to include a Middle Eastern womxn)
  • Sandra Oh, actress, Korean Canadian (including because her work is seen in the US)
  • Maggie Q, actress on Designated Survivor (my current binge watch on Netflix – thus this actress is top of mind), Vietnamese White
  • Daya Vaidya, actress, Nepalese Spanish Italian
  • Luly Yang, fashion designer

There are so many other Asian American womxn to name. I didn’t get to social services, medicine, and other fields. We’ll save those stories for another post.

Note on spelling: I have purposefully chosen to use the spelling of womxn vs. women for this post.


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