What Did You Talk About at Thanksgiving?

Its Thanksgiving night and I’m nicely stuffed from dinner. A friend surprised us with a turkey. She said a friend of hers donates turkeys to her and her partner and asks them to distribute them to people working on behalf of community and social justice causes. What an amazing gift. I promised my friend I will pay the gift forward.

Originally, the Fakequity team had planned on a two-part Thanksgiving special. Week one was themed: Things We’re Not Thankful for, with a running list of annoyances, problems, and stuff that we make fun of signs that say “Prioritize Equity!” Thanksgiving week we planned the good list, Not Fake Equity. However, with the election of President Elect Trump and the anxiety this has provoked as well as the militarization of the Native American Siuox tribe standing ground to protest the North Dakota pipeline at Standing Rock, and locally anticipating a $73m Seattle Public Schools shortfall with the fear a lot of the gains made on behalf of students of color will be gutted. I just don’t have it in me to write that blog post about what is good and bad.

20141125_thanksgiving_rules-600x450

picture credit: http://www.itworld.com

Instead, I want to know what was your dinner conversation. This year before Thanksgiving I noticed more colleagues and friends were anxious about dinner conversation. One white friend said she was traveling with her family to her in-laws who voted for Trump, she didn’t vote for Trump. She was dreading what would come up during their time together, her partner sent an email to the family saying “we’d like to have a nice visit, let’s leave politics alone.” I saw a Facebook post (in a group, I don’t know the person who posted it) where the family signed a pledge to avoid talking about the election and politics at dinner, on another post the host created a drinking game where people had to take a sip if they said something racist or politically charged, there’s going to be some hangovers.

Allies Did you Eat Your Talk?

I’ve been wrestling with the thought that Thanksgiving is about family and friends, but I’m also annoyed with allies who are avoiding tough conversations because it is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is about being with people we’re ‘stuck with.’ Because of the stuck-ness there is a chance to coach and guide people to understanding why race matters. Back in July people were outraged when Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, both black men were shot by white police officers. Many people were outraged, including many white friends. My Facebook feed lit up with calls for conversation about race, white people posting how outraged they were, words like allies and solidary were used and subsequently the posts were Facebook ‘Liked.’

Fast forward to the November presidential election and again I saw a lot of social media posts sharing articles about “Parenting Advice for the Trump Era” (has some good content, but centers whiteness a lot), resource lists of books and articles to read, posts asking how the country allowed Mr. Trump to be elected. I’m also seeing a lot of posts about Standing Rock and how outraged people are at the use of water cannons and violence directed at the protesters. Social media is for the like-minded, we are often social media friends with people who have similar values or a connection in some ways.

The problem with focusing on social justice actions online or with like-minded people is we’re talking to people who already ‘get-it.’ President elect Trump didn’t just happen, bigotry and racism have been simmering unchecked because we’re too lazy or avoidant to call out people about their values and language. As this article explains our democracy depends on talking about politics at Thanksgiving dinner.

Have the Conversation – The Hard Ones

We all have ‘our people’ those in our lives where we must continually help them understand why race matters. For some it is family members or close friends, for others it might be colleagues, clients, or neighbors. There is an element of trust in those relationships; they trust us enough to be open and honest, maybe show a little ignorance, ask questions that they know they can’t ask in certain places. With this trust we can have tough conversations in everyday settings like at family gatherings and in the office. If we only get outraged during big events, we are complicit in allowing things like police shootings of African Americans/Blacks to continue or Donald Trump to be elected. Only talking about race when it is convenient is fakequity, real race work takes place at family gatherings, in the car, and in my case over food– I like to eat, if you offer me food there is a good chance I’ll talk to you about race.

A white colleague was telling several of us about an op-ed he is planning on writing. He has the basic outline and named two other white allies to co-author it. After he finished telling us about the op-ed, I challenged him by saying “you realize all three of the co-authors are white,” he paused and got a little defensive listing off their titles and how great they are (I admit they are great). We talked more and I explained part of undoing racism is realizing sometimes those with privilege, especially white privilege, need to step back and use our privilege to try something different. He later told a colleague he was grateful someone was willing to call him out about his natural tendency to center whiteness. This is where the everyday work of being an ally happens.

Back to Thanksgiving did you talk about the election and race with your family and friends? I hope so. I hope you had a civil conversation about a topic you care about–immigration, police accountability, gun control, education, environment, etc. In some cases, the conversation really isn’t worth having, because a person’s fundamental belief is so far ingrained they won’t change. But we still need white allies to tackle hard conversations with your white family members and peers. At the Washington State Budget and Policy Center conference the keynote speaker Anat Shenker-Osario told the audience our messages should highlight our values and with that we’ll win-over undecideds.

If you missed having a hearty conversation about race at Thanksgiving, you still have the winter holidays to try again. I’m not going to Christmas/Eid/Hanukkah/Solstice dinner with your family as a ‘plant’ or imported poc, so step up and have the conversation with your own family. I’m going to be eating pancit, lumpia, and sushi rice with my family and talking about immigration, race, and the latest family gossip. Change happens when we have a relationship in place to invite people to think differently, step into the conversation – it makes a difference.

Posted by Erin Okuno

Your System isn’t Broken, it is Getting the Results it was Designed to Get

Every few meetings we present an idea or a statement and someone will blurt out “But if we only give the parents books to read,” or “if their parents cared,” or “ we just need to educate people.” It is easy to want to look for Band-Aid solutions or to blame someone else. Those quick-fixes ignore the underlying problems of systemic and institutional racism. Systems get the results they are designed to get. Institutional practices do the same, if they are designed to get inequitable results they will produce inequitable results, and vice versa with equitable practices built in they will get more balanced results.

Before we get into this here are some basic definitions:
The City of Seattle defines institutional racism as: Policies, practice, and procedures that work to the benefit of white people and the detriment of people of color, usually unintentionally or inadvertently.

great-moments-in-peaceful-protest-history-44bdadb44cf-4-47c970

The Revolution WILL be Given Permission by Matt Lubchansky

In fakequity snark institutional racism is doing things that benefit white people. It is often unintentional. Excuses include: “That’s the way it is, we’ve always done it this way.” In other words, dominant society has catered to itself and given itself first preference at the fattest piece of the pie. We cast off the scraps to communities of color and say “here you go,” and when they say “hey, we’re getting less!” power holders say “You should be grateful to get anything, do you know how hard I/we worked to  get this,” ignoring that people of color have been working just as hard but with greater barriers to access the same power and privileges.

In real life this looks like things like the environmental cap and trade programs which allows corporations to buy credits to keep polluting, and often who gets screwed is poor communities of color when the pollution is next to them. We agree with the principle of less pollution, but not to screwing communities of color for the overall goal this is racism.  In local context institutional racism shows up in public process that allow the voices and opinions of wealth, mostly white, north end (a.k.a. higher-income, white, English speaking) residents to have a louder voice and more influence.

Unpacking Institutional Racism and How to Undo Bad System
We can’t fix big systems problems through easy solutions. There are times for individual actions, such as reaching out and tutoring a child, volunteering for a program, or donating food to an organization you care about, but we have to realize these actions aren’t the answer to institutional racism. In order to undo and address institutional racism we need to be intentional about undoing it. Just working as normal and saying “we help all clients,” isn’t a strategy for undoing racism.

To undo institutional racism we need to unpack and really look at the policies, practices, and procedures that are giving us inequitable results. Today, Heidi was reading an education report to look for ways to help teachers build their racial equity skills. In one-hundred pages she found the following words mentioned this number of times:

  • Race – 0
  • Identity – 0
  • Bilingual – 0
  • Equity – 0
  • Bias – 0

This is how organizational practices uphold being “color blind” and continue the racialized opportunity gap/structural racism. We can’t undo institutional and systemic racism without talking about being intentional about addressing race.

We Need to Bake in Equity
We can’t fix big problems like kids not graduating, a pipeline near a sacred Native American site and an important water source, or homelessness by doing the same things. The definition of insanity/fakequity, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We need to change and we need that change to “have equity baked into it not sprinkled on top” as Manuel Pastor, PhD, said at the recent Washington State Budget & Policy Center Budget Matters conference.

In order to fix our broken systems we need to look at the policies, practices, and procedures and admit they are broken. This doesn’t mean your organization is bad, but it does mean you need to do better in serving people of color. Baking in equity into your organization means really examining every point of interaction in a project. When we work to bake in equity it means we center people and communities of color, and we acknowledge our shortcomings and biases and work to resolve them. If you are serious about address structural racism, here are some ideas:

Distinguish your “Access” work from Racial Equity work- Access isn’t equity. Access efforts like translation, outreach, education, and board/staff diversity are important, but should not be called racial equity work. Outreach and engagement efforts provide access to the same system, the same systems that uphold structural racism.

If you’re confused about how access efforts uphold structural racism read the article, “How to Uphold White Supremacy by Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion.” Racial equity means you’re changing the system that upholds racism, not trying to fix or ‘save’ people of color. Racial equity work means that you’re sharing power, decision making and resource control. This can be scary work, as it means you and your organization need to let go of control. Too many times this idea is met with, “yes, but” or “what does that mean for our mission?” or defensiveness to change. Rather than putting your arms out in a defensive posture, try leaning back, believing communities of color, and letting go of some control.

Challenge other white people and resistors when they unilaterally rely on mainstream, mostly white, data and news as their justification. Listening to people who sound like us reinforces the echo chamber effect. We often do everything we can to hold onto our truths, and as humans we are resistant to change. Equity work is about intentionally deciding we are open to change and challenging the stories and narratives we believe. The media and voices we take in defines the actions we take and the systems we create; we need  to diversify and listen to a wide variety of voices in order to create more racially equitable systems.

Accept your organization and you will need to change. This isn’t about you and your work. Racial equity work needs to be racial equity driven. If we say we are about a cleaner environment, closing achievement gaps, or improving health outcomes, or whatever your mission is, it needs to be centered in people of color. This being defensive and making excuses, saying “but we’re different because our clients are blah, blah, blah.” Trust us when we say every organization uses that excuse, we all like to think our work is special, unique, and we deserve a break. These excuses uphold institutional racism, stop the defensiveness and be open to examining why you need to change to see better results. Every organization can go deeper and do better work.

Take on your share of the burden and take action that is in line with your disproportionate power. We all uphold these systems, but people with privilege whether by being white, English speaking, hold positional power, or other forms of privilege have disproportionate control over resources, agendas, and access to social networks and power. Take responsibility that aligns with that power and share your access and power.

Be explicit about your stance for racial equity and commitment to eliminating structural racism. Colorblindness and not talking about race perpetuates structural racism. Be explicit and use words such as racism, people of color, white, etc. The clearer you are in talking about race the easier it is to infuse equitable practices into your organization and undo institutional and systemic racism.

Posted by Erin Okuno and Heidi Schillinger
Cartoon credit:Great Moments in Peaceful Protest History, The revolution WILL be given permission by Matt Lubchansky

A Trump Presidency, No we Will Not Give him a Chance

Tuesday was a historic election day. It was an endcap to a long and contentious presidential campaign. As former political science students, we have confidence our entrenched bureaucratic systems, which are infuriating when trying to push through change, will also insulate many of the policy wins we’ve pushed for over the years. The small incremental gains have gotten us far and we will continue to push our government to do right by us, especially people of color. The president is one person in a powerful position, but still one person whose power comes from the people. We need to remember the president isn’t a king, he is a democratically elected president accountable to all of us.

Our colleague Selena Velasco, reminded us of this when she said: “Wherever we go, we bring the resiliency of our ancestors through our stories with us.” We have our elders’ and  civil rights leaders as our guide, and we carry their strength within us. Our elder’s stories and strength are now woven into the fabric of America, a country they built; America wasn’t just made by white men, it is inclusive of our communities of color.

Today, we take a stand and say no, to a one-dimensional demagogue. No, we will not give Mr. Trump a chance, we will hold him accountable to leading a nation that is inclusive of people of color. Here are some thoughts about our new ear of a Trump presidency.

14956588_1277396098970421_5759140613222644481_n

Left on a training binder. NO!

We will not give him a chance. This is exactly how sexism and racism work. We give the unqualified white male the “opportunity to learn” and “prove himself” on the job – even the Presidency. But people of color and women, must be overqualified to even compete for the job. And, one misstep or mistake disqualifies us. Imagine if Secretary Clinton or President Obama said or did one of the things that Mr. Trump did on the campaign trail. When do we stop giving people “a chance” or “the benefit of the doubt?” We need to hold white men to the same high standards expected of people of color and judge them by their experience, skills, and actions.

No experimenting with lives on the line. If you’re open to giving a Trump presidency a chance, it means you are insulated by a bubble of privilege. It means his “learning on the job” will probably have little immediate impact on your life. But it has already started to have a greater impact (more direct and more explicit racism) on the lives of Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Asians, Immigrants and Refugees, undocumented, and LGBTQ folks. We’re not ok with Mr. Trump experimenting on our lives, and neither should you.

He didn’t earn this opportunity it was granted to him via white privilege and white supremacy. Stop saying Mr. Trump earned this opportunity to lead. He did not earn it. He has no public service experience, he is a racist, sexist, ableist, and has spouted hate against immigrants, refugees, and women. He did not earn the presidency. It was given to him by the privilege of being wealthy, exposed on TV, and by the underlying racist tendencies of our nation. White supremacy doesn’t just show up as cross burning and KKK membership, it shows up as allowing a white man a pass when he says outrageous things in a job interview.

Stop talking about the rural–urban divide without putting it into the context of race. This election was about a rural urban divide, but it is also about a racial divide between rural and urban settings. This is about segregation, slavery, and historical redlining. If we look at where people live historical context matters. Rural and affluent areas of the country voted for Mr. Trump. White allies where were you in getting uncomfortable with your white peers in explaining this election was just as much about race as it was about gender, economics, and policy?

This racist shit has been happening forever. Racism is all around us, it’s in our systems, in our practices, in our language. Since the start of the presidential campaign many have felt more free and been more brazen in spouting racialized hatred, it has ramped up since Tuesday’s victory. As communities of color we’ve lived with this overt and covert racism for generations. In modern context, look at what is happening in Standing Rock with the oil pipeline. As many Native Americans have pointed out, it doesn’t matter who’s been president, Natives have continually had their sovereignty questioned and lived through cultural genocide.

White people, we’re tired of making you comfortable. When our lives and ways of life are in danger, we do not have time to make sure you’re comfortable with the conversation. We need to act, start with calling out racism, take a stand. Mr. Trump didn’t get elected by just one segment of America, he won fair and square, there are no hanging chads or recounts. To our white allies, we need you to be bold, brave, and face your friends and colleagues of color and say “I pledge to do my own work around race. I pledge to call out racism and hate, and I will do it even if it makes me uncomfortable.”

We need to take care of each other. Before you think this is all doom and negativity, there is always love. Many of you have sent emails, had hallway conversations, or commented on Facebook posts checking in with each other. Many of our educators and social service workers have responded to children and clients saying “we care for you and we will fight for you.” This love is a bold action against the winter of anxiety many face. Love comes in standing up and taking a stand. Take a bold stand by inviting people to have a hard conversation about race — doing that takes more risk, love, and sometimes even rage. Change happens when we have relationships and can invite people to think differently.

Now we rise up and honor the legacies of elders. On this Veteran’s day we also honor our veterans who defended our right to live in a country as beautiful and as flawed as we are. One president cannot and will not tear us apart. We respect the democratic process of the election and the office of the president. We must continue the work already started and say we have limitless capacity to hope and push for change.

Posted by Heidi Schillinger and Erin Okuno

Guest Post: Failing International Adoptees

Editor’s Note: This week we welcome another guest blog post by Marki Schillinger. Marki writes about a current event involving a transracial international adoptee and failures of our adoption systems and government to embrace adoptees. Broadening our views and being made aware of different experiences and lives is an important of racial equity work. Today we share a perspective from the international transracial adoption community.

Please also take a moment to vote. This is the last Fakequity blog post before the 2016 presidential election. Every election is important, but this one is really important. We won’t tell you who and what to vote for, but we will give you a virtual high five or fakequity onion (an old joke for longtime folllowers) for voting. -Erin, fakequity editor

marki-photo

Imagine a three-year-old boy. Maybe it’s your own child, a neighbor boy, or your nephew. Can you picture him? Maybe he has dark curly hair, beautiful eyelashes, or that little crooked smile. Is he speaking yet? What are his favorite words? Does he know the A-B-C song? Isn’t it cute, the way he sings it, but misses some of the letters? Take a moment to picture that child you know, and hold him in your mind.  Now imagine that everyone is telling the mother or caretakers of that child that sending him overseas will improve his life. He will have opportunities not available to him here. The child is moved to a foreign country to live with a new mother, father, and family.

The boy is being adopted. The adoption agency has arranged for him to travel and live with his new family in a foreign country. The new family makes promises to embrace the boy and raise him as their own with all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of that country. The adoption agency accepts money to help the new adoptive parents make the boy their son. Maybe he’s packed his favorite toy, bundled in a jacket, and you sneak a few of his favorite crackers into a bag for him. You give him his favorite book and tuck a picture of the two of you inside. You hope and pray he doesn’t forget you. In the new country, the little boy tries to communicate with his new family. The new family speaks a different language and doesn’t understand what he is asking. The boy starts to cry. The boy cries harder, because the people all around him look so different, they don’t look like the people back home. The new mother offers the boy something to eat, hoping he will calm down. The boy cries even harder, because it doesn’t look like food, it doesn’t smell familiar, and he wants to go home. Home to a country now lost to him. The boy’s experience is familiar for many transnational adoptees.

Adam Crasper, a 40-year old Korean Adoptee who is pending deportation back to South Korea, a country he has not called home since being adopted at three. Adam was adopted from South Korea with his older sister. His first American family r gave up, and returned Adam and his sister to foster care when Adam was 10 years old. His parents and American systems failed to naturalize Adam and make him an American citizen. After bouncing around several foster homes, at age 12 Adam and his sister were separated and Adam was adopted by his second American family, Dolly and Thomas Crasper. Adam joined several kids already in the Crasper’s care, as many as 10 other kids at one time. However, at the age of 16, it Adam was kicked out of the Crasper home and alleged the Craspers abused him. News articles report Dolly and Thomas Crasper were arrested for physical and sexual abuse, and rape. The Craspers also failed to ensure Adam was naturalized as an American citizen. After being kicked out of the Crasper home, Adam tried to survive, but either did not have the skills and/or made poor decisions and was convicted of crimes including burglary and assault.

Later, as an adult who had put his criminal past behind him, Adam found that he did not have American citizenship. He tried to start the process by applying for a Green Card. However, his attempts were cut short, when Federal Authorities realized Adam was not an American Citizen and based on his criminal history, he would be deported back to South Korea, the Country he had not called home since the age of three.

Adam was legally bought and paid for by American parents, so he could be raised here in the USA as their son. Adam was forced to migrate to the USA. This was not Adam’s decision.  Adults made this decision and Adam’s life was radically altered. Adam’s American parents, likely white and definitely not Korean, made promises. They promised to raise Adam as an American with all the benefits and responsibilities of an American citizen. Not only did they fail, but I don’t see that they have taken any responsibility for this failure.  Our judicial system has given them a pass. They bear no legal responsibility, nor consequences for their failure to protect Adam from deportation.

Adam’s second American family, likely required Adam to live up to American standards and assimilate into their American lifestyle. Their failures are attached to Adam as he sits without American citizenship awaiting deportation. They added to the complicated emotional toll that Adam already faced having lost his family in Korea, rejected from his first adoptive home, and separation from his only biological relative, his older sister. Adam was made responsible for this heavy emotional toll, furthermore the Crasper’s do not appear to bear any responsibility for Adam’s failure to gain citizenship.

I wonder, is this the American life that South Korea envisioned when they promoted the adoption? As Adam faces deportation, are adoption agencies bearing any responsibility for their failures to ensure safe and competent adoption placements? Adam appears the sole recipient of consequences related to failures of the adults in his life to help him gain and/or ensure he gained American Citizenship.

Yes, Adam broke the law and yes he owes a debt to society. Those are his responsibilities. However, if the adults in his life had met their responsibilities he would pay his debt and move forward rather than now face deportation to a country he was taken from once before. In our racial equity work we must think about the potential consequences of our actions or inactions. We should think about those who need a voice and work to fix systems to ensure harm isn’t done.

Our American adoption system failed Adam and other international adoptees of color. I don’t want to fail Adam. I want my voice heard – I want Adam and countless other transnational adoptees, who do not have citizenship, to know that I support them and know they are American citizens who deserve those rights and responsibilities. Please join me in supporting the Adoptee Citizenship Act (ACA), which will bestow citizenship to countless adoptees who, like Adam, had adults fail to ensure they received it after adopting them. Please sign the Adoptee Citizenship Act postcard by November 21, 2016 to add your voice to protecting international adoptees.

Written by Marki Schillinger.
Marki is a Korean Adoptee who grew up in the fabulous Pacific Northwest. She is fan of most sports, a WNBA season ticket-holder– Go Storm!, and works in public service in order to support her bike-touring adventures.