Land Acknowledgements

Note: No blog post next week. I will be taking the week off. See you in December.

Photo of coastal beach rocks, sand, and a tiny plant popping up. Photo copyright Erin Okuno

Next week is US Thanksgiving holiday. This is a holiday that is problematic for many since it celebrates the colonist mindset and many of the Thanksgiving stories, legends, and beliefs are myths. Many consider it a National Day of Mourning, and fast on the day.

November is also Native American History month. I need to learn more about Native American and Indigenous history, customs, and ways of being. I am fortunate to have many friends who share their cultures and customs. It is always best to learn directly from people of a culture, so whatever I write next please know I am writing as a third party to share what I have learned through research and listening, and I am sharing it as a way to document my own learning not as a substitute for learning from Indigenous people. Please do not expect Indigenous people to teach you. It isn’t their job to teach just because they are Native or Indigenous. If they do share knowledge of their culture, it is a gift for us to receive.

One of the practices I’ve witnessed and participated in over the past few years is making land acknowledgements before meetings or events. This has become a more common practice over the years, especially before the start of large public events. I’ve started to do more learning on land acknowledgments, including their history, how they are put together, and how as a non-Native person I can work to be in more just relations with my Native and Indigenous colleagues when I make a land acknowledgment.

History of Land Acknowledgments

From what I learned land acknowledgments are a modern invention brought to the US via Canada. In Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation process, based on the process South Africa used to heal after apartheid, there were 94 recommendations. Many see land acknowledgments and acknowledging the Indigenous people who were forcibly removed, their land stolen, and their rights stripped away as the start of implementing many of these recommendations.

Hailey Tayathy (they/them), a member of the Quileute Nation, shared at a Town Hall presentation they traced the practice back to canoe landings and the protocols used to ask permission to land a canoe on someone else’s territory. This includes asking permission, naming who’s clan and family you are from, and an acknowledgment as a guest on someone else’s land you will act with respect. They note the practice of land acknowledgements may be different in other parts of the country/world since Indigenous people have very different practices in other places.

Earlier today a colleague, Rosemary, stayed online for a few minutes after a meeting to say how she appreciated hearing us make a land acknowledgment and as a Native person she often ties the acknowledgment with how she introduces herself. Her introduction includes sharing her tribe’s name, her clan’s name, naming her parents and elders. She shared how she sees the two intertwined – land and self – and as such acknowledging the land is a way of acknowledging her people.

How to Make a Land Acknowledgement, Especially for Non-Native People

There are many guides online on how to make a land acknowledgment. If you are like me, a non-native person, it is best you read up and really understand the practice before you read a pre-written statement someone hands you. Making a land acknowledgement shouldn’t be made to gain wokeness points or to be performative. Hailey Tayathy reminds us land acknowledgements are meant to be disruptive and to remind non-Native people we are on stolen lands. As an act of disruption a land acknowledgement should not be cheered – sit and contemplate how you have benefited from the land and Native people, give thanks to the land itself, and thank the Native people who have stewarded the land and continue to fight for the sovereignty and health of the land.

Land acknowledgements can also help to center Native and Indigenous people in a gathering. A friend recently told me that after we made a land acknowledgment at a meeting she felt more seen and understood our intentions more. As an organization centered on people of color, that is one of our goals, to put our POC relations first and working to build relationships.

My colleague Heather Miller formerly of Chicago’s American Indian Center talked about how land acknowledgments shouldn’t be pre-scripted statements your organization uses again and again. Heather and her colleagues talked about how they personalize statements and put a lot of thought into each statement they write. Felicia Garcia shared: “The statements are not just statements they are commitments to being in relationships with Native communities.”

Land acknowledgments should educate and share commitments of being in just relationship with the original people of the land, to pay respect to their history and ways of being. My friend James said when he is asked to give land acknowledgments, especially as a Native person, but guest on other Indigenous people’s land, he does so carefully. He ask that a donation be made to the Duwamish tribe (in Seattle where we are) and he ask the organization inviting him to give the land acknowledgement to provide copies of the treaties between Native tribes and the US Government. He reminds people that these treaties are our treaties and we need to work to honor the treaties.

As a non-Native person who sometimes makes land acknowledgments I try to share and model what I am learning about Native American and Indigenous culture. For me this keeps my land acknowledgments a living statement and hopefully I am reaching forward to my non-Native colleagues to be better allies as well.

Other learnings I’ve gathered about this topic:

  • Be specific about who’s land you’re on. Do your research and use the name of the tribe, even the Indigenous place name if you can learn it. To make it even easier text this number, (907) 312-5085 with the zip code or city, state (use the format city comma state) and it will text you back with who’s land you’re on (your cellphone carrier may charge for text sent and received). I’ve used it while traveling to deepen my commitment to learning and to encourage my kid’s to learn with me.
  • Land acknowledgments need to be done with respect and be respectful.
  • Do not rush through the acknowledgment.
  • Do not clap or cheer, it is about reflection and learning.
  • Customs and practices may change depending on local traditions. I am writing from the Pacific Northwest and West Coast. A land acknowledgement may look different in the Plains, or in different countries. Please research your local practices. I was raised in Hawaii, and have witnessed acknowledgments in the form of a blessing, chant, or song.
  • Give to Native organizations and people. An acknowledgement cannot just be a statement. Return land to Native communities, share your resources with others – if you something to share (e.g. space, relationships, information, monetary resources, etc.) share it with the Native communities in your neighborhood.

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

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Speed of Change

Art from Amplifer Art

Saturday, the election was called for President Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris – the first women VP and first African American and Asian VP. For many it is a relief and there is a hope we can maybe advance initiatives that allow for more racial equity. While we have a lot to be hopeful for, we still need to be on the ground working and continue organizing and advancing practices that promote racial justice.

With the incoming administration there will be change, hopefully more progressive changes than during the last four year where we fought to hold onto whatever scraps we had. A friend shared the saying “change moves as fast as the people involved.” He shared this as we were advocating to support a fellow colleague who is trying to lead for change but meeting resistance.

White People and Change

I’m going to call out white people, change is hard but unless you get your shit together you’re holding others back because of your comfort level. People of color are not out to get you. It may feel that way, but this is where you can check your privilege and accept that change isn’t about you personally. It may feel like you’re giving up something, but also consider it is the system rebalancing and equalizing to be more fair to people of color.

Organizations can only move as fast as the people involved. If people are uncomfortable with the change they will do big and little things to stimize the change. My colleague who is in the organization that diversified its staff is sadly finding out the people involved in her organization weren’t ready for massive change even though they said they are. Is it fair the few, really a small handful, are holding up change for an entire organization? Do we need to cater to the few who want to maintain business as usual in the name of their comfort? The quick answers are no, but in real life we often face resistance to change in overt and covert ways.

Diversity and Resistance to Change

Earlier in the week I was on a call with several colleagues to talk through a pending amendment with a statewide organization. The white leaders of the organization tried to be cheerful about the proposed change but were clearly annoyed. Their covert and overt language, facial expressions, and general uncomfortableness made it clear they are not ready to move ahead. A few snide comments were made, most of them we allowed to pass — if we called out each one of them we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in the conversation. This is where as a POC and as allies, we take the hits, tolerate microaggressions, and suck it up in the name of the bigger prize. It is taxing to have to sit through these conversations that are not designed for POC comfort. During one point in the conversation I got so annoyed I called out the speaker for a tone-deaf comment. It didn’t go well. Their resistance to change, even if they say they are ready, will result, in cycling through people of color and allies because they aren’t comfortable giving up their white norms.

How to Embrace Change

I don’t have a magic formula for accepting change, but here are some thoughts that may help.

  • Start the conversation early with your colleagues, board, and staff, be explicit about using racialized language.
  • Require all employees participate in racial equity training, make sure it is with experienced trainers. If you are on staff somewhere embrace the training and seek to learn.
  • Practice listening.
  • Recognize there will be uncomfortable period. Recognize the change isn’t about you and your comfort. Don’t take it personally, there are a few exceptions if you are part of a group that has been historically marginalized (e.g. POC, LGTBQ, disabled, immigrant, limited English speaker, etc.).
  • Practice going through the changes, if possible – test out some of the changes through tabletop exercises and scenarios, go on site visits or interview others that have made similar shifts, work to demystify the process. The more people can see and understand the changes the easier it is to embrace it.
  • Recognize the competing interest and agendas and be clear about priorities. Have people be clear about who benefits racially from the status quo or changes.
  • If you are on the receiving end of change, be honest with yourself and others about your fears, questions, and what you need to move ahead. Talking can help everyone versus just being resistant and an ass in the process.

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

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

COVID – The Next Wave, be prepared

Thank you to everyone who voted or worked to get others to vote. Not everyone has the privilege of voting, so thank you too to our relations who cannot vote but put their faith into the rest of us who voted. As I write we are waiting to learn the outcome for the presidential election. The election brought a level of disruption we hadn’t seen in a long time, which produced the positive result of more people voting – please thank yourself and others for being civically engaged. Keep that disruption going in positive ways to produce the changes we need to advance justice.


Art from Amplifier Art by Dimas Sugih Cahaya

COVID19 has been a huge disruptive force this year. I think back to February when COVID19 was just starting to show up on the front pages of newspapers. Little did I realize it would force all of us to redefine our lives. While this blog post isn’t a deep racial equity post, I’m offering it because many of us work in non-profits or in ways that impact others. We also should remember the impact of COVID19 hits communities differently because of racism in our systems. The impacts of COVID19 are different for nonprofits and government. Nonprofits and government agencies are designed to serve, and because of this we need to be prepared to keep serving in ways that keep everyone safe.

The next wave or surge of COVID19 is starting to hit. I’ve heard from colleagues and friends that people in their families and circles are testing positive for COVID19. This is scary and trying for many. This is also the time when we need to not-freak out and focus on taking care of ourselves and each other.

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about emergency planning for nonprofits. Now is a good time to review it and to start asking your staff to help plan for the next wave of COVID19. In this post I’ll share more questions and thoughts to plan for the next phase of COVID19 as it impacts our nonprofits and organizations. A colleague who worked with me in event planning once told me: “Sweat more in peacetime, bleed less during wartime.” While this isn’t war and peace, the sentiment of planning more now will help when we’re in the depth of winter and fingers crossed without a spike in cases or other natural disasters.

Questions to Help Us Plan for COVID19 Surge:

  • Does your staff NEED to meet in person? Please do not have people work in an office or together if they don’t need to. Don’t take a risk you don’t need to.
  • Do your staff and colleagues know the signs of COVID19 and flu? If not send out a memo/email with information (e.g. links) from credible sources (i.e. public health organizations, credible news sources, etc.) and translated in languages people are literate in. If there is any question about literacy, provide video links and allow staff work time to review it. 
  • Provide information about COVID19 testing centers and how to access them. If transportation is a barrier work with the person to find a way for them to get to a testing center that is safe for everyone. Provide sick leave or other paid time if necessary to get tested.
  • Provide credible information to clients and train staff on how to talk to clients in language appropriate, culturally appropriate, and age appropriate ways to understand the risk of COVID19. Build trust with families by having credible messengers deliver these messages. Please make sure you’re adequately compensating staff for their time doing this.
  • If staff and clients need personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies, provide it to them. This may mean reallocating money from other parts of your organization’s budget or seeking outside support.
  • What advocacy do you need to do NOW to keep your staff, clients, community safe, protected, and engaged? Who do you need to talk to now to enact preventatives steps?

Contingency Plans if your Staff Test Positive:

  • Does your organization have a plan for what to do if someone on your staff or their family/housemates test positive for COVID19?
    • Does your staff feel safe reporting this to their supervisors or someone in the chain of command?
    • If they don’t, what steps do you need to put into place to make sure they are safe reporting this information? What trust do you need to build?
    • Do other staff and board members know how to maintain confidentiality about the situation? (Please remember the Asian community in particular has faced harassment and bullying due to COVID19 fears. Staff, board, and those who will communicate on behalf of the organization need to be clear about how to communicate about COVID19 without stoking fear.)
    • For hourly employees, what is the plan if they test positive for COVID19? Can they work from home if they are medically able to?
  • Does your organization have a COVID19 leave policy in place and do staff know about the plans? Early during the pandemic I worked with my board, and with the help of some other executive directors that I trust, we put together a leave policy granting all employees an additional two-weeks of paid medical leave (we probably should have made it three weeks). If you would like to see a version (slightly adapted) of the policy please email fakequity@gmail.com.
  • Do employees and clients know how to apply for Paid Family Medical Leave if your state or municipality offers this?
    • Do employees and clients who are not English proficient know how to use Paid Family Medical Leave?
  • Are people within your organization cross-trained on essential functions to keep the organization running? Who knows how to run payroll, access to bank accounts to deposit and write checks, who knows where the logins and passwords are kept? As a funny, not funny story – my organization is 3.5 FTE, two people know how to run payroll – having two people trained on this was important to us during COVID19 disruptions.
  • Is the board up to date on COVID19 contingency plans, especially if the Executive Director or CEO needs to step away due to illness or caregiving responsibilities? Leadership is important during crises, including strong board leadership.
  • Have staff update their emergency contact information and make sure staff know where this information is stored, including the electronic storage of this information.
  • If a staff member test positive, is someone within the organization able to have a conversation with the person to ask what they will need to survive two-weeks of quarantine? Think about language, power dynamics, personal relationships, etc. to keep this a positive experience for everyone.
  • What is your contingency plans incase staff test positive and they have been around clients?
    • Do other staff members know how to communicate with clients in their preferred language?
    • If you close your physical offices do people know how to access services and information?
    • How will you take care of other clients who may have been exposed? Do they have access to testing facilities and medical services if needed?

Services

  • What services are communities of color needing from your organization during COVID19 and a potential surge in cases?
    • Can you meet these needs without being a savior? Who else is working on these plans?
    • What innovations can your organization bring about right now because of the COVID19 disruptions?
  • What needs might be unmet because you’re hearing mostly from the loudest people who have access? Think about immigrants, people with disabilities, foster kids, people experiencing homelessness, people involved with the justice system, families without internet access – how might you hear from them and what might their needs be and respond to their request for services? Who do you need to prioritize at this moment?
  • What core services need to continue? What services can you pause to meet COVID19 surge needs?
  • What human needs do people need from you right now?
    • Do people need to talk, vent, connect? Can you provide a productive and healthy space to do this?

Stay safe friends. We’ll get through this together.


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

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

VOTE 2020 — Bonus Fakequity Post

Art from Amplifer Art by Jennifer Bloomer

Today is Election Day 2020. It is and feels like a very important day that many are anxious about. This is a bonus Fakequity blog post to remind people to turn in those ballots if you have a mail-in ballot or to get out and vote if you are eligible and able to. Stay safe as you vote – wear your facemask, give each other space (literally and figuratively), and check in on your friends and family to make sure they have a voting plan.

To bring a little levity to election day 2020, friends shared their stories of learning how to vote. I hope you’ll share your voting stories back with us, fakequity@gmail.com or post it on one of our social media sites. The more we talk-story about voting the more we create change.

School and Mock Elections

Many people shared that civics education in school is important. Several people talked about mock elections in schools where they held elections around the presidential election. My friend Stacy said she didn’t know either candidate (she was in elementary school) so she went home and asked her parents who they planned to vote for. Nisha shared how she voted in a mock election and when her candidate won in real life she was elated. Teachers and educators have incredible influence over civic participation. I hope all of my teacher-friends feel supported in talking about elections. I also hope we as parents support our teachers in talking about civics, including supporting educators if having open and honest conversations.

Family and Generational Lessons

Another friend, K.Y., shared how her first election was in 2012. As an immigrant her parents didn’t have the right to vote, but her parents still instilled a value of civic participation and patriotism. They wanted to make sure they were contributing to the community. In K.Y.’s words: “Looking back we always talked about paying taxes with the enthusiasm people talk about voting now. As the patriotic thing we do as a family to contribute to the country.” In 2012 she sat down with her mail-in ballot filled it out and mailed it back.

My friend Brooke grew up in a family where politics were always front and center. Her father was mayor of a small town. Today, one of her favorite books to hand out is One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson (young adult version).

Cady shared how her dad took her and her brother to the polling station and they had a special station set up to allow kids to “vote” on their own machine. We also shared a memory of trying to understand the Electoral College and how sometimes a vote doesn’t count. I was telling Cady I tried to explain the electoral college to my grade school kid and didn’t get very far with the explaining and understanding, especially when we also teach “every vote is important,” and “make every vote count,” but with the Electoral College the popular vote doesn’t count as much.

Differences in Politics

Sara shared how eye-opening it was to learn several of her co-workers voted for Bush, despite living in Seattle. This shattered her assumption that Republicans were confined to small towns and rural areas. Now she lives in Portland, I wonder what the update is from that part of the Northwest. Susan, a former colleague who taught me many life lessons, started voting in the 1968 election and hasn’t missed an election since then. She was tired of watching injustices against women and people of color. Linda shared how her parents were secretive about who they voted for, regardless this instilled a lesson of the importance of voting.

Community Affair and Hope

Vivian is from Australia where voting is really simple – show up, they marked your name out of the book of registered voters. It is a compulsory exercise with rank-choice voting vs. the US silly system of winner take all system (watch the Netflix Patriot Act with Hassan Minjah “We’re Doing Elections Wrong” to understand the topic). Vivian was so excited to see her first grade teacher voting at the church across from the school. 

My dear friend Arigin shared how the Obama candidacy “unearthed a feeling of hope that was then followed by a momentous surge of energy from every classmate!” Many of her generation used that election to learn how to be vocal, influence others, and learn about the voting process. Arigin said the following year she VOTED for the first time, in her words: “Then hope happened!” These early years shaped her political values and the importance of voting.

My Voting Story

My mom took me with her to the polling station at a church not too far from our house. It was a state holiday, Hawaii made presidential election days state holidays — something I wholly recommend. I was young between 4-6 years old. We stood in line, got her ballot, and walked into the booth with a a State of Hawaii cloth flag on the front. The voting machine was a punch card machine (the kind that allowed for the now infamous hanging chads). I was playing at her feet looking at everyone else’s feet. I must have nagged her to let me try so she did. I pressed the lever then she said: “You voted for the wrong person,” and had a look of panic. Who knows maybe I threw an election in Hawaii, probably not. That is how I learned how to vote.

VOTE!  

Regardless of who wins this 2020 election we have a duty to talk about voting, elections, and to influence future voters. Here is your 2020 voting action plan:

  • Vote if you can
  • If you can’t vote, explain why to someone so they can vote with your interest in mind
  • Talk about the act of voting with someone else, we need to make this a community wide activity
  • Push for voter reform to allow more people to vote (e.g. immigrants, people involved with the justice system, POCs, etc.). Work for voter reform to allow vote by mail.
  • Repeat these steps often – as the stories above show, voting is ongoing and generational. We need to keep talking about voting.

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

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Alison, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke C., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Catherine L., Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jackie, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Mary Jo, Matias, Matthew, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Michelle, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah, Sarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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

Ideas, hopes, and optimism

Art from Amplifer Art by Nicolas Lampert

The 2020 presidential election is next week Tuesday. By this time next week the election will be over. We may or may not know who the president for the next four years will be. I sincerely hope it will be a peaceful election – not one filled with fear from either side, but a time that works to build understanding between two polarized sides. We can hold our political values, but when we use them to shame, blame, and taunt others that doesn’t help anyone.


This week I want to say thank you to the educators out there. I work in education advocacy, I see how hard many of you are working. I also have kids in school and welcome teachers every school day into my home. I want to say thank you. With the election next week – ideas, hopes, and optimism come in many ways I don’t want to focus on that mayhem but on something more personal for many of us. (By educators I mean anyone working in the education system — early learning, K-12, higher ed, education support staff, etc.)

While this isn’t a technical blog post about racial equity and how to be less racist or more equitable, I am writing it because at the heart of our work is caring for each other, and extending ourselves to take care of others. As we head into November and a monumental election I want to pause and send my thanks to the educators who are continue to work hard, to work hard for educational justice, and continue to rewrite the definition of what it means to be a teacher and to push for change. Focusing on this will hopefully remind us that anti-racism work starts in our homes and schools, which right now are blended.  

During “normal” times teaching is a profession that takes incredible dedication. As my friend Nisha, a first-grade teacher, said before starting school this year “it feels like my first year of teaching.” Having worked on the periphery of the education field for years I see how every day educators fight systems not designed to uplift students and families of color. If you’re reading this blog, I also know you’re dedicated to racial justice, which right now requires new and different thinking. Thank you for sticking with all of the uncomfortable, hard, and draining work during COVID.

I also want to call in many of us have had renewed reckonings with race during the most recent Black Lives Matter movement. To our Black educators and colleagues thank you for showing many of us grace or having hard conversations with us as we stumble and grasp what it means to be believe and act in anti-Black solidarity.   

Teaching is about ideas, hopes, and optimism – otherwise you wouldn’t go into teaching or the education field. The opposites — status quo, despair, and pessimism are for the privileged. Teaching in a way that sees a person’s identity – including their full racial and cultural identity is hard. Right now, during remote learning it is even harder to “see” students at their fullest, to build genuine relationships, but I see so many of you trying and finding moments of joy and connection with students beyond boxes on screens.

Now that classes happen in my living room and within earshot of my own “office” at the kitchen table I get to eavesdrop on what my kids are learning. I love listening to the elementary school class “check ins” and morning greetings. Hearing the students raise their virtual hands to share what is important to them and now share pieces of their home life in culture in more intimate ways and to hear the teachers thank them for sharing. I also know for some POCs reading this, that isn’t the same experience. For some the racism that happened in school buildings is now in their living rooms. I’ve heard from Black friends and colleagues who said their not having to be “at school” is refreshing since they no longer have to deal with racism from other students or teachers. For Black and Brown teachers some have shared for the first time they don’t dread having to face microaggressions at work everyday. The learning and work and learning now sits with many of us non-Black people to change our ways.

Thank you to the teachers and educators who continue to push systems, work around the system, and advocate to keep students being safe and connected. I’ve seen educators who are delivering weekly food bags in conjunction with a local food bank to make sure their families, mostly new immigrants – many of whom are underemployed due to COVID, have food for the week. I heard one teacher ask a student if he needed school supplies dropped off and promised the student she would bring him learning materials on Friday, he beamed on the video call – I am glad I caught that glimpse of what wholeness in education can look like in this COVID moment. Another teacher friend recently text to ask how she could get several students new beds. This is not in her teacher contract, but she wanted to ensure her students home lives are as ok as it can be. Other teaches are continuing to advocate in large and small ways to reach their students who are farthest from educational justice. These gestures certainly tax teachers extra, but it also demonstrates the optimism and pride in their students and care for the families.

As non-educators I hope we can “see” these moments as integral to building a racial justice movement and support our educators. If you have a student in school and you know the teacher is working extra hard to bring racial justice lessons and teaching to the students please support them. Offer to purchase a book for their classroom, drop an email that says thank you, ask if they need specific help or resources you can offer. Check in them periodically in ways that are unobtrusive. Don’t wait until teacher appreciation week to let them know you see how hard they are working.

I hope you’ll also take a moment to thank someone who is working hard to change the education systems (or other places) to be less racist, who’s daily work is often overlooked, who is stretching themselves and their job to take care of others during the pandemic. COVID and the latest Black Lives Matter movement has forced us to confront our lives and recognize we can change and this change is hard. The change deserves to be recognized. Thank you.


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

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Alison, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke C., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Catherine L., Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jackie, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Mary Jo, Matias, Matthew, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Michelle, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah, Sarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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

Community Engagement is Not About Appeasing, it is about Redefining Self-Determination

Artwork from Amplifer Art by Nicolas Lampert

We have 10 days until the 2020 election. I’ve been hearten to see so many people posting their #votingselfies, or when I walk by my local ballot box there is a steady stream of people depositing ballots. Keep it up. If you can’t vote, please help someone else vote. We all have a role to play in this election.


I’ve been thinking about community engagement over the past few weeks. Maybe it is because of COVID and King County, WA being stuck in a perpetual Phase 2 loop – like those Star Trek episodes where the scene repeats, but only one character realizes it is a loop; I’m a bit tired of the standard engagement practices. Thinking about this right now is a good thing. Engagement is something we should always be doing, especially now since we’re forced to think differently about how we engage with people and COVID is forcing us to reimagine how we engage with each other.

I’m not writing about online engagement or even what “authentic” engagement could and should be – that will be for another day. Instead I want to think about the results of community engagement work.

First, let’s lay a few truths (or at least my truths):

  • Community engagement is not to appease people – it isn’t meant to be a gripe session to allow people with privilege to get what they want
  • Community engagement is not designed to hear from everyone equally
  • Not everything said or talked about must happen, this is where leadership and prioritizing come in
  • Community engagement is not about talking at people, it should be about listening and at its best shifting power to communities furthest from justice
  • Community engagement exist on a continuum of practices – one-time events to power sharing
  • Community engagement can be one time, but at its best evolve over time into a mutually beneficial relationship

When done well community engagement is about really engaging with people who often are not heard from in a process. Such as white (and some POCs), English fluent, access to technology, and know how to navigate systems often know how to be heard in some way – send emails, start petitions, use social media, call a press conference to be heard, write an op-ed, have a network of people who can help them influence others, etc. Community engagement shouldn’t be about engaging with people who fall into this category. I am in this category for if the topic is around education; if you’re reading this post you may fall into this for something you’re affiliated with. For engagement related to education I shouldn’t be the target of engagement – in this case I’m overly privileged and can cause more harm since my opinion will be substituted for others who have a stronger need to be heard from. What I should do is to refocus engagement opportunities to others in my network who have a large stake in the work and help to connect them to the opportunity to engage.

Community Engagement isn’t Meant to be Equal Engagement

A friend recently shared one of the parts of community engagement she struggles with is hearing people share things, especially white people, and then the white community expecting to get what they want because they engaged. They may feel they played by the rules, they showing up en masse and coordinated with messaging sometimes even matching shirts, therefore their opinions matter so much that their desires should be met.

Community engagement should be about engaging with people who can’t access the system through traditional means. Sometimes they don’t feel safe or seen at a general community engagement event, language may be a barrier, transportation or technology may be a barrier. Engagement will probably look different for these families and they won’t be wearing matching shirts and holding coordinated messaging signs (nor should they feel pressured to engage like the mainstream to be heard).

White people sometimes have a hard time realizing just because they show up doesn’t mean they can get what they want, even if they feel they are advocating for POC needs. Not every idea shared can or should be acted upon, and people need to learn to be ok with this. Earlier tonight a friend said she was listening in on a presentation about a school being rebuilt. A homeowner complained the new building will block his view of the lake. Should the school lower their building to preserve one or two homeowners views? Community good vs private interest.

Community engagement is rarely democratic, by this I mean not every idea has equal merit and not everyone showing up or engaged has a vote in the project. Heidi often preaches access and inclusion, in this case engagement, isn’t equity. Just because people engage or accesses an engagement process doesn’t mean their feedback is equal. Often times engagement is designed to hear from people and a leadership body sifts through the data and chooses what to act upon. They should be accountable to those who gave input and explain and defend their decisions. This is also where those with decision making power need to have a strong grounding in race and using a strong racial equity process to weigh the feedback.

The decision making body needs to decide who is farthest from justice and to do the harder work of disaggregating their input and prioritizing their engagement and feedback. This may feel really uncomfortable to white people (and others with privilege) to realize their priorities may not be as important, otherwise hoarding of resources and white privilege will happen again.

Community engagement centering communities of color can reshape and redefine our work, our systems, rebalance, and allow POC self-determination. If we reframe engagement in these ways we can make a difference.


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

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Alison, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke C., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Catherine L., Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jackie, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Mary Jo, Matias, Matthew, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Michelle, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah, Sarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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

We Need Capacity Building for Learning About Race

Artwork from Amplifer Art. Statement from Amplifer: “For Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020, we partnered Nia Tero and IllumiNatives to release a new artwork series, education tools, & a large scale nationwide public art takeover leading up to the November presidential elections because we believe EVERYDAY should be Indigenous Peoples’ Day! … This artwork features Roxanne White (Yakama/Nez Perce/Nooksack/Gros Ventre) and was created to uplift her work advocating for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. … The epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people affects Indigenous peoples worldwide, and invisibility adds to this crisis leading to a lack of awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. Because of inadequate laws around non-tribal citizens on reservations, human trafficking and murder, Indigenous people, specifically Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirits are the most likely to be effected by this epidemic. Roxanne works with families and communities to bring voices to the missing and murdered.”

The 2020 election is in less than 3 weeks. Please put together your voting plan and start or continue to learn how election results could impact different poc communities.


Earlier this week I complained on Twitter one of the reasons I dislike breakout rooms in Zoom and other virtual meeting rooms is I don’t want to process with other people. Unlike in an in-person situation oftentimes with Zoom breakout rooms you don’t know who you’ll end up with. At least in person you can scan the room before choosing your seat. I know why we use breakout room conversations– they allow for more intimate conversations and keep people engaged in conversations. As a facilitator I often use them as a tool as well and hopefully with decent results. While all of this is true I still dislike participating in them.

During COVID work at home time, I’ve signed up for virtual events or conversations because I want to hear from the speaker, learn about a topic, or some other reason. What I am not signing up for is to help white people or others who are learning about race process their feelings or to be asked questions about how they can learn more. I had this experience earlier this week when a white person in our  four person breakout group asked an innocent question about who is doing deep racial equity work. I hope my camera wasn’t on so she didn’t see me roll my eyes. While she was well intentioned, I found the question annoying since we had just spent the presentation part of the call listening to a conversation how the host organization built a strong racial equity organization. At the end of the call I was annoyed with having been put into that situation – I went into the call excited to learn and to hear from others who are doing great work around racial equity and instead I had to spend time processing with a white person who is learning about her own racial equity journey. I applaud her for learning, I unfortunately wasn’t practicing graciousness that day.

Technical Assistance That Can Help

My buddy Vu who blogs at Nonprofit AF often writes about capacity building for nonprofits. He successfully built an organization that is dedicated toward capacity building for Seattle based nonprofits, RVC (Rainier Valley Corps). He also writes that we need technical assistance that matters, not wasting time on task that won’t advance our field or organizations.

I agree with him on this. For me technical assistance that would make a difference is being given time and space to deeply explore race, identity, community building, and advocacy. Too often the opportunities presented are either short seminars at conferences where the audience is coming from a wide range of backgrounds so the presentation is tailored towards newbies, or fellowships that are competitive to get into and often (during non-COVID19 times) require travel and time away which is hard for parents with school-age children, people with disabilities, or small organizations with limited staffing. If we are meant to advance the field we need to create a third pathway that is more intensive then a conference, but not so regimented as a fellowship that requires a lot of time and travel.

Earlier today I was listening to a colleague who shared her experience building a program from the ground up – idea to conception. She lamented that she had been under resourced for most of her time, but because of her experience as a POC she kept plodding ahead because she felt she had to, and as too often happens with pocs we don’t realize we should ask for more and few white people stop to check in, or because we’re in survival mode we can’t stop to figure out how to meaningfully use other people’s help without feeling like we’ll slide further back from stopping to triage and accept help.

Deep(er) Learning – Third Pathway

In order for our nonprofit field to advance and achieve our missions of acting in more anti-racist ways and pushing for racial justice we need to invest in ourselves in learning about this. We also need funders to fund it in ways that make sense for nonprofits.

Part of what is needed is cohorts where people are coming in together at similar stages of learning and investing in high quality facilitation and training. A few years ago, I was part of a professional learning circle that was funded by a grant. The idea was sound and I met some amazing colleagues who I still keep in touch with today, but the facilitation of the group wasn’t great. Many of us who were in the cohort had deeper racial equity knowledge than the facilitator and thus the cohort fell apart over time. Finding and selecting the right people is half of the work. The people selected for the cohort need to be at a similar place in their understanding of race and desire to learn.

We can create deeper opportunities that don’t require yearlong commitments or involve intensive travel. There are trade-offs, such as often times being in a longer term cohort allows for relationships to be built and maintained, more opportunities for learning, and when travel involved it also allows for people to bond during the “down time.” Some of my fondest professional memories involve the afterhours conversations during work travel.

What we can build are opportunities such as 5-10 week cohorts that meet just a few hours a week, in-person when we are back to meeting in person, or now remotely due to COVID19. The cohorts need to be well staffed, participants carefully selected for diversity, experience, etc., facilitators and trainers should be the highest quality so participants can learn and not have to do the teaching. We need to invest in racial equity skill building as much as we insist on teaching other technical skills such as grantwriting, legal basics, accounting, etc. We also need to value these racial equity skills as much as technical operational skills and expect our nonprofits to advance them in order to thrive, meet changing needs, and to serve communities of color well.


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

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Alison, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke C., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Catherine L., Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Mary Jo, Matias, Matthew, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah, Sarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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

Discrimination – What is it?

Artwork from Amplifer Art by Ashley Lukashevsky 

We are weeks away from the 2020 presidential election. Now is the time to put your voting plan in place. If you are voting by mail fill out and return your ballot ASAP to avoid delays. If you are voting in person, make sure you know the poll hours and location. Help others too, especially new voters get their voting plans in place. VOTE!


Last week I read a social media post by a mom who felt her son had been discriminated against because of political signage at her house. I won’t go into the details because they really don’t matter. The mom wrote, shame on the other person for discriminating against her son for something he didn’t choose to participate in but had to experience disappointment because of something he couldn’t control. Others were quick to point out her son wasn’t discriminated against. Was he discriminated against, or wasn’t he? This got me to thinking how often we use the word, but do we really understand what it means.

Discrimination is a word that is thrown around a lot, and the technical definition is wide. In life we differentiate and discriminate daily. Such as when I buy produce, I’m making a value judgment on which fruit and veggies I like more than others. I’m differentiating which fruit and veggie types I like over others. I have a bias for tropical fruits, I grew up eating papaya, mangos, dragon fruit, and star fruit. If I act on this bias and constantly shun other fruits like berries and stone fruit it would be fair to say I am acting in a discriminatory way towards berries. In another example, if I only ate red vegetables but skipped green veggies consistently it would be fair to say I discriminate against green vegetables. In the example I am making a decision to group, class, or choose one group over another – tropical fruit over other fruit, red vegetables and not green ones.

While those are somewhat innocent examples if we begin to apply discriminatory principles towards people it can challenge our sense of fairness and justice. We begin to see unfair and unjust practices against people play out because of things they can’t control – like whether or not they have a disability, national origin (where a person was born), age, gender, race, sexuality, social class, etc. As an American society we’ve decided to protect religious beliefs, pregnancy status, and veteran status. Many of these protections help to temper blatant discrimination in many settings such as the workplace, housing, education, government services, etc. It still happens, but less overtly, this is where microaggressions happen, or practices that are ‘legal’ but still discriminatory.

More recently I’ve seen more conversation about people feeling discriminated against because of their political beliefs, immigrant or citizenship status, and during the current COVID19 pandemic people feeling ‘discriminated’ against for not wearing a facemask.

In some cases where a person feels discriminated against, isn’t really discrimination. It may be a redistribution of privilege, especially white privilege. White people sometimes feel discriminated against when they don’t get their way, but really it is the system trying to rebalance itself and to encourage more people that have been historically discriminated against to access the services. As an example, affirmative action allows colleges to acknowledge a person’s race in admissions processes thus giving Black/African Americans, Native American/Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islanders, and others with lower rates of admission to the school a better chance of getting in. There are white people (and some Asians and others) who feel this discriminates against them because it doesn’t seem “fair” someone else is getting an extra point and may hurt their chance of getting in even though it wasn’t an equal starting line to begin with.

Is it right to discriminate against a discriminator?

My lawyer friends tell me to never ask a question you can’t answer – Is it right to discriminate against someone who discriminates? I don’t know.

I know someone out there will say, no it isn’t right and we should show tolerance and work to understand their point of view. Others will say why should we work to understand others who discriminate so blatantly against others. Many pocs will say it isn’t our job to “educate,” show compassion, or work to change the view of others.

To wrap up, here is the cheat sheet version of what I’ve learned about discrimination this week from reading a bunch, and watching way too many YouTube vids on the topic:

  • Everyone discriminates – if you are alive and making choices you discriminate
  • Discrimination is a problem when people are treated unequally based on traits they cannot control – race, disability, citizenship and immigration, age, social class, etc.
  • Exclusion and rejection happen with discriminatory behaviors. The United Nations statement on discrimination says: “Discriminatory behaviors take many forms, but they all involve some form of exclusion or rejection.” (Note: I cannot find the original source document for this quote.)
  • Feelings of rejection, sadness, outsider status, etc. are byproducts of discrimination
  • Discrimination can happen to achieve gains (e.g. best food, land, popularity), to stay in a social group or class, or to protect gains.

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

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Fakequity, 6-month Mark

Street art in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District
“Please be Kind to Yourself” photo credit Erin Okuno

I was planning to try to write something serious since we are weeks away from the 2020 election and we recently passed the six-month mark for COVID19 disrupting our lives, but with the latest news of President Trump and the First Lady testing positive for COVID19, the profundity is not jelling. Instead I’ve gone to the dark side; the dark humor of where I’m at. I think it is part of the six-month slump and rather than fight it, I’m going to ride its wave.

Just a few weeks ago, 9/11 to be exact, was the six-month mark of schools closing in Seattle. On 9/11 I was much more introspective and grateful versus in the dark humor mood. The hardships we’re all enduring has flatten-the-curve (remember that mantra from a few months ago). The measures we’ve taken have prevented many from contracting COVID and has kept many people alive. Thank you. All of us making collective sacrifices keeps precious supplies available for those who need it, keeps medical staff focused on the most sick, and we can further take care of each other.

Now the dark side.

Bleach – If you got it use it. Time to disinfect our timelines and views. I don’t have enough time to entertain the Proud Boys and their loudest mouthpiece. Bye boys. I’m not even going to denounce you because there is nothing there to denounce.

Flatten the curve – Remember that saying from March? I hope you’re still adhering to it. Stay home, stay safe. You’re less likely to run into someone yelling “All Lives Matter!” This past weekend I drove by someone yelling this in a small coastal town. I shrugged and sent him thoughts and prayers.

Zoom-Bombing – I recently wrote about incidents of racism online. It isn’t anything to joke about, but sometimes you have to laugh at the absurdity of people and how they spend their time. Someone is so sad and lonely they sit around looking for meetings to join that they don’t want to be in to begin with? Dark, seriously dark times. I have nothing smart to offer about how to deal with these sad incidents other than thoughts and prayers, and hot-tip don’t publish your meeting links.

Wildfires and smoke – Once upon a time if you said the word smoke, it meant “Yo, let’s take a smoke break,” or “let’s go smoke a joint.” Now it means spending more time indoors with those you love, as if you haven’t already, to avoid the smoke. Climate change is real folx. If you don’t believe it come to the West Coast and stand outside for 10 min breathe in this crap. A friend and I were texting back and forth that gentrification is causing the smoke hanging in my neighborhood, it was a dark humor conversation, but there is truth to it. Gentrification is pushing people of color out of the city, which adds to their commute times. No amount of Teslas driven by gentrifies will fix this.

Facemask – One of my favorite stories of the pandemic was how at the National Cathedral a masonry remembered seeing a case of N95 facemask in the crypt. Something about the word crypt and a hidden case of precious coveted and needed N95 facemask made this story something to remember. If you have a crypt, please go check it for a hidden cache of mask, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Another friend shared how she several years ago had ordered two cases of N95 facemask after a really bad smoke storm swept through Seattle and she wanted to make sure they had a stock on hand to hand out to unhoused people. Now we need those N95 facemask for both COVID and smoke, who would have guessed in 2019 this is where we’re at. Please take care of our homeless neighbors right now too. Thank you to everyone wearing a facemask in public.

That Debate, what Debate – If you watched the Presidential debate earlier this week, you will understand what I mean. It wasn’t a debate. I’m not sure what it was. Have we learned nothing from the past few month of virtual meetings? Every kid who is in a virtual classroom knows the power of the mute button. Just watch a kid who accidentally gets host control, THE POWER they have – they can mute anyone they want and eject anyone from the meeting.

Allowing a bully to keep talking isn’t a justice based way to lead. One of my favorite books is The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. In it she writes a host job is to protect the gathering, the debate moderator team (I place blame on the entire debate committee, not just the moderator) they knew who they were dealing with and did not protect the audience from the verbal tirade.  

We’ve lost a lot of talented people in the past few months – Rep. John Lewis, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Chadwick Boseman, Rahwa Habte, and many others during the past few months. Some of them were taken by COVID19, some by related causes, and others through natural causes. Somehow their deaths sting more right now. Maybe it is because we’ve lost the ability to mourn in ways we have traditionally known. No humor here, just reflection and gratitude, and a mix of other emotions.

Please VOTE. If you want to see our way out of 2020 we’ll need some collective goodwill through voting.

Lastly, earlier this evening when I planned to write something more profound I pulled out one of my other favorite book The Book of Joy by his Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I revisited the passage on intention setting. My intention this Friday is to be ok with 2020: I accept you 2020 and all your needs, quirks, and however you want to emote – you and I will be ok 2020. 2020 and all of us here is the Tibetan prayer of the Four Immeasurables to marinate and pray or reflect on:

May all beings attain happiness.
May all beings be free from suffering.
May all beings never be separated from joy.
May all beings abide in equanimity.


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

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Your Shock and Outrage are Noted – The masking of violence

Art from Amplifer Art: yana Soto: “The United States of America is a country that constantly brags that it is the greatest in the world. Ever since its inception it has led us to believe that it runs on principles of justice, liberty and freedom. But if you look closer those values mask privilege, exploitation and inequality. Its time that we reveal every side of America and remember that until we acknowledge our underlying issues we cannot acknowledge what we claim to stand for.”

The masking of violence

Dominant culture is good at covering up its violence. A Black person is killed and people, especially white people are shocked and outraged. They post to social media, put out statements condemning violence, maybe even take an action such as join a protest or make a donation, then life moves on. The violence becomes normalized and eventually forgotten or dismissed.

Dominant culture is good at reworking, rewording, redefining violence. It comports the violence to protect itself and to make violence acceptable. It explains it away and blames others. The blame sounds like this: “They shouldn’t have been there,” “He shouldn’t have had a gun,” “She shouldn’t have dated him,” “Why did they take their kid to the protest?” All of these excuses deflect blame and cover up the violence that preceded these statements. It is a way to normalize violence and to create an emotional safety net of believing it couldn’t happen to us, somehow our privileges will protect us.

Violence is in the bones of America

Violence like racism, protects itself. It creates ways to continue forward, switching its tactic and comports itself to continue perpetuating harm. Violence is in the bones of the country. The country was founded and built on violence. If you read history from a POC perspective you’ll understand what I mean – original settlers coming to America because of their anger at the crown, Native Americans forced off their land, slavery, incarcerations of people of color, etc. Violence against people of color is deep in the American psyche. Tonight as I read the March Book 3, by Representative John Lewis to my kid, I had to pause and remember the story was from the 1960s even though so much of it is the same violence happening today. I chafe at the phrase of history repeating itself, more like we never made came to terms with our racism and racist past.

Recently in an online group I watched a thread about a racist incident go through its motions. After people read the post about the racist incident, white people wrote they were shocked and outraged and then began to get dismissive and wanting to focus on how it happened versus the intent of the racist violence. When white people say they are shocked, it is another form of violence since it is saying “OMG this is the first time I’m learning about something.” Many POCs have little tolerance left for this type of commentary, and many find it retraumatizing since it forces them to re-explain, defend, refocus people on the original intention. This is where many POCs say they are exhausted – exhaustion by the original violence and then having to relive it, explain it, think about it, be present for it.

Systems Change is Important

Before I end on a depressing note, there are ways to combat the violence. One is we have to do our personal work around understanding race and reckoning with our emotions, thoughts, and reflect on how we are complicit with the systems of racial violence we live with. The second is we need to work towards better systems to prevent violence towards Black and Brown people, and when violence does happen to hold people accountable for that violence.

Systems change attempts to stem violence by fundamentally changing the policies, behaviors, and practices that lead to violence. It isn’t perfect and still needs people to implement the change, but it gives anchor points for people to point to change mindsets, behaviors, and hold people accountable for when they do act unjustly.

We can achieve systemic changes if we work towards them, we also have to acknowledge the harm and violence of the past as we do so. Police reform is a must – white people need to get behind this movement and follow the lead of the Black/African American community working on this. Voting rights and allowing everyone to vote, including felons and immigrants. Why is those with the most to lose can’t vote – it isn’t by accident felons, immigrants, poor people, Black and Brown and others who are marginalized have to fight to vote. We also need systems change in honoring Native American rights, recognition of Pacific Islanders (look up COFA – Compact of Free Association), environmental protections and working towards more climate sustainability, health care as a human right, holistic education for students of color, housing, and employment without discrimination.

VOTE.


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

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Alison, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke C., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Catherine L., Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Matias, Matthew, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah, Sarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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