Today is inauguration day for President Donald Trump. Many are upset, angry, grieving, and riddled with anxiety about what will happen as he takes office. Mr. Trump ran his presidential campaign with pomp, machismo, and promoted hate, sexism, and divisiveness. As he becomes the forty-fifth president we, Fakequity Fighters, need to transform our work. We need to evolve our work from being transactional to thinking about resistance and growth. The last election proved we can’t keep doing the same thing hoping for transformational large scale results.
We’ve been thinking about what are the tools we have at our disposal to find new ways of thinking, working, and most importantly resisting the pull back to white supremacy. First, we need to understand our current reality and how dominant white culture and white power is in our society.
Think of all the books in your childhood school library, or if you have a child in school think about their school library. How many of those books are by authors of color? Imagine if we removed all of the books written by white people, how many books would be left? Most likely the library would be pretty empty. Now do the reverse, remove all the books by authors of color. Would you notice? Would majority of the library be empty, probably not. White perspectives and whiteness are so ingrained into our lives and systems if we eliminated them the systems wouldn’t exist.
Mellody Hobson explained this concept in her Color Brave TED Talk. She asks: “Imagine if I walked you into a room and it was of a major corporation, like ExxonMobil, and every single person around the boardroom were black, you would think that were weird. But if I walked you into a Fortune 500 company, and everyone around the table is a white male, when will it be that we think that’s weird too?”
We need to resist thinking these things are normal and be uncomfortable with them. People of color’s perspectives and presence are often seemed as optional, elective, or used as tokenism or ‘inspiration porn’ — “look at that person of color who overcame hardship and is now the model.” If we lived in a truly racially just and equal community or country, the system wouldn’t be able to function without communities of color, it would pause until it righted itself and got back into sync with all of its parts — everyone is valued and vital to functioning as a whole.
The reality is none of us are outside of this systems. Some people have the privilege and choice to ignore the system and pretend it doesn’t exist. Some people have created pockets of resistance, by centering people and communities of color, but these pockets are still operating in a dominant society. These pockets of resistance are important since they ‘hold the line,’ but to get to transformational change we need white people to reallocate their tools.
Tools come in many different forms. There are physical tools and resources — hammers, computers, money. There are also tools we often overlook as thinking of as tools — language, truth/belief, and love/empathy. These tools can all be used to support communities of color or used to uphold white supremacy and systemic racism. Tools can be shared, redistributed, or hoarded. How we reallocate tools allows us to transform our thinking and our systems. It also reminds us we need to be mindful, vigilant, and active in undoing systems that oppress. We’ll talk about five ‘tools’ we all have at our disposal.
Money is an important tool. It is also one of the easiest to understand and reallocate. We use money to buy food, purchase comfort items, support causes we care about, and we can choose to accept money from different people. Much like the library example, if we pause to think about where we spend our money are we using our money to uphold white systems?
When we slow down and spend our money in more intentional people of color focused ways it is harder. We can’t just default to ordering from Amazon Prime, or stopping by any coffee shop. Maggie Anderson and her family spent a year shopping exclusively at Black/African American owned business. It was her way of using money as a tool to reinvest in the African American community. She shares how challenging it was and how important it is to spend money in communities of color.
Mindy, our amazing colleague who is wickedly fast on a computer, started a map of coffee shops and happy hour places around Seattle that are owned by people of color. Please add to it, we want to see it grow and have businesses across the country.
Where we choose to spend our time also says a lot about what we value. As an exercise we ask people to audit their calendars — look at whom and where time is spent. Are you meeting spending time with people you like and are easy to be with, or are you building new tools for yourself by hearing from others who challenge your thinking, including people of color. Time is a tool, like money, how we allocate it says a lot about our values. Challenge yourself to diversify where you spend your time and how you spend your time. As a first easy activity related to time, pledge to use your time reading one author of color this month, you’ll probably find it time well-spent and you’ll learn a different viewpoint than mainstream media will give you..
Who do we believe is a powerful tool. Much like language, how and who we share our truths with and whom we choose to believe can reinforce or dismantle supremacy. Do we choose to share or cower to power dynamics. In the coming four years we’ll need to be vocal and show up, don’t be silent. We’ll need to share our truths no matter how disruptive they are. And we need white people, and fellow people of color to believe when someone says something about their racialized experience. Don’t tone police them by saying “that isn’t racism, it’s being anti-social,” or “the policy says this, so it couldn’t have happened.” Instead acknowledge the lived experience being shared and be thankful someone is trusting you with their truth, no matter how hard it is to hear.
Love (empathy, compassion) as a Tool of Resistance
Love and connection are not something you can just acquire. Too many people want to “drop into a community of color” and then believe that empathy will be immediately developed. Relationship building doesn’t happen in a visit or two.
In this story Heidi shares, she’s modeling truth sharing, allocating time, and sharing love: Earlier this week I took one of the youth I ride bikes with to the MLK march in Seattle. He shared a story about volunteers dropping in and usually just as quickly dropping out of the bike club. He told me he never invested in relationships with these volunteers because he knew they be gone just as soon as they came. After two years, I finally can say I have a genuine relationship with this youth. He trusts me and tells me about his family, his schooling, his dreams, and his peer relationships. I also care about him and issues that affect him in a way that I didn’t before we developed an authentic bond and connection. He joked that my partner and I are like his other moms. And that it’s funny to think of a Mexican kid with two Asian moms. But this connection across race shouldn’t be an exception.
Language is a tool that can be used for inclusiveness or divisiveness. We saw during the election how language was used to divide the country — to ‘other’ people who aren’t part of the mainstream – gays, Muslims, African Americans, immigrants, and too many others. Language was used to say if you’re with them, you’re against me and America. Instead we need to use language to affirm and be inclusive.
In order for language to be used as a tool for transformation we need to think beyond just providing language access (i.e. translations) to non-English speakers, to thinking what would our systems look like if we valued all languages equally. How great would it be for dual-language and immersion schools as a norm, to seeing documents written in Spanish and other languages with crappy Google translate English so English only people know what our communities of color contend with, or similarly having events conducted in languages other than English and English only speakers have to use translation headsets and understand how hard it is to participate. When we un-center English, we create space for different views to emerge.
Getting to Tools for Transformation
It is really hard to remember these are tools we can share, reallocate, or hoard. We need to slow down and transform ourselves so we transform our work into new models of being. In a future post (nag us to write it), we’ll share some examples of what these new models can look like.
Go forth and be part of the resistance by wielding your tools properly.