2017 – Make Fakequity Great(er) Again

Last year I wrote an end of year post with predictions. My predictions were mostly wrong – Trump was elected was the biggest one I got wrong. I’m not going to try again this year, screw that thing they call grit and sticking with something until you get it right. Nah, I’m taking the other path and will write something timely – Make Fakequity Great in 2017. Too soon to poke fun at 2017?

Let’s face it the end of 2016 is a bust


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I’m writing this in the waning days of 2016. 2016 is feeling like a bust. Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in Star Wars died of a heart attack, her mother followed her dying of a broken heart. Both women charted their own paths and did so with humor and grace, much like what we need to do. Muhamad Ali, Gwen Ifill, Prince, Bob Santos and many other leaders of color preceded them. Donald Trump is our president elect. He won on a platform of womanizing, hate, and racism. We witnessed a mass shooting in Orlando that killed too many Latinx LGQBTIA. There were too many other racialized hate events targeting African Americans and other people of color.

While 2016 was a tough year, we had victories at Standing Rock and have seen the inter-sectionalities of movements come together. Asians stood up and said no to the Muslim registry recalling the horrors of the US government forcing Japanese Americans into internment, or what some refer to as America’s Concentration Camps. We’ve also heard of individuals stepping forward and protecting others or disrupt hatred in action. We need more of these things coming together in 2017.

“Let’s make 2017 Great(er) Again,” Time poke at that tagline

2017 is going to take all of us to hold the line and fight for incremental gains. Here is our action list, join us.

Stop the echo chambers, especially the white echo chambers: The most popular Fakequity post of the year talked about why Heidi doesn’t believe in cultural competency training anymore. Part of the problem with cultural competency trainings is the echo chamber, white orgs with white people talking about culture — duh, of course the conversation will go towards what they know — their own culture. We need to break up white and/or powered (if the case of poc centered but still maintaining power dynamics – it happens and we need to acknowledge it) spaces.

Action Step for 2017: Force open tables, call it out and say we won’t participate or our participation is conditional upon having a more inclusive space. As an example, I recently joined a board of a mainstream policy organization. Before I joined I said “I’ll give you one year, and within that year the board needs to add at least three people of color.” They agreed and we’re on our way to breaking the white echo chamber. In other cases push your organization to stipend people of color to participate, if people push back tell them to look at their consulting budget and evaluate how much of those funds are going to white ‘professionals,’ time to reallocate some of those funds.

Work to build movements, not isolated actions: The victory at Standing Rock over the Dakota access oil pipeline didn’t just happen, it was a confluence of events that built over time. Native American tribes stood with each other and learned from each other. The environmental movement supported the Native Americans and Veterans got involved too. I’m sure there was backroom politics and criticism, but overall it was about showing up together. In the current political landscape, we need to build for the long-term, not just for the quick incremental wins. Movement building is harder than working fast, it means slowing down and thinking about long-term outcomes. It also means we give up or share a lot of power and control and looking for parallels.

Action Step for 2017: An easy step if find a coalition related to your cause and check it out, also attend a few coalition meetings from other sectors to hear what the conversation is and look for parallels. I prioritize attending the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC) meetings even though they start at 7.30 a.m., brutal time, I enjoy the meetings because I’m not very tapped into the Asian community, although I’m Asian, and I learn about what is happening in public health, immigration, civics, etc., the parallels between sectors is so important to supporting each other.

Call out bad behavior: Can we agree to step up and call out bad behavior?  Those little comments and jabs that have underlying tones of racism need to be called out and questioned. We also need to push back online and share our own narratives.

Action Step for 2017: We need to get quicker at thinking about racism and disrupting racism as it happens. If you aren’t a fast thinker in a moment, then commit to calling out inaccuracies in comments made online. Push back on commentators on blogs or the news, tell people to produce evidence, inject counter narratives, breakup the echo chambers that form in Facebook groups and in the blogosphere. It is hard to compete with people who are out to comment to comment, but offering one counter narrative is important. Don’t get drawn into an exasperating long online conversation but one comment will help to offer new views. I’m enjoying White Nonsense Roundup, they do this very well on Facebook, tag them when conversations get weird and they will have a white ally volunteer to help alleviate the burden on people of color of explaining why something is racist.

Run for office: Out of the 35 people (36 if you count my mom) reading this, I’m hoping at least one of you will consider running for office. We need to break down institutional and systemic racism at multiple levels including from the inside. If we’re building a movement we need people to push from the inside, while advocates work from the outside. Diversifying and getting new voices into office will help to challenge mainstream thinking. In a few bright spots Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), the first Somali American to be elected to office, and Pramila Jayapal (Washington) an Indian-American headed to Congress, and we need more a lot more voices. My friend Leslie said it takes asking a person seven times before they agree to run, consider this your first ask. Leslie already asked me once and I said no thanks, so I’m sharing her ask with all of you — who’s up for running for office?

See you in 2017.

Posted by Erin Okuno

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