Today, is a special day, my kid has a birthday. This means I remember exactly where I was all those years ago. I was eating a grilled cheese sandwich and fries in a hospital cafeteria before having a baby. This year we skipped the grilled cheese but still had French fries and birthday cake. Because of the birthday celebration I’m too lazy to think about writing a thought-provoking and deeply meaningful blog post, instead we’ll do a Fakequity roll call of bad behaviors I’ve encountered this week.
#1 LEGO So White
My kid loves LEGO. He has LEGO bricks coming out of every cervices of his room. If you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up he earnestly answers, “a LEGO engineer.” I’m cool with that if it pays the bills and I don’t ever step on a LEGO brick. Last year I took the kids to a LEGO exhibit at a mall not too far from Seattle. It was the LEGO Americana Roadshow, featuring LEGO structures of American landmarks such as the White House, US Capitol, Statue of Liberty, etc. They had a passport card where you answered questions and turned it in at the LEGO store for a prize. The prize was this gem of a poster (sorry for the quality) of all white kids.
Also, check out this picture from their website, more white kids.
And finally, yesterday the LEGO magazine arrived in the mail. Look at this page of all white kids.
Hmm, I’m seeing a trend #LEGOSoWhite. Hey LEGO, can you diversify and feature some children of color, maybe disabled children, and think a little more broadly in your picture selection? Kids of color really like LEGOs too. Don’t tell me children of color aren’t submitting pictures, if they aren’t then do the harder work of recruiting and creating relationships with families of color.
#2 Unchecked Implicit Bias
This infographic was posted on Facebook. What do you notice? I noticed some racial bias showing up, the only brown kid shows a kid melting down and words like “I’m not easy,” overwhelming, and terrible attached to it. The other pictures of mostly white and an Asian kid are all cute and happy. Hmm…
I posted a comment pointing out the racism and implicit bias projected. Immediately people started posting-back saying “You’re not serious?,” “Don’t being [sic] your issues to our table. These children don’t need stereotyped [sic] by adults– like you just did! You stereotyped her, no one else did. That’s on you.,” and “Ummm, take a closer look…..[sic] the child is white with curly brown hair. All that ranting for nothing, moron.” These were a few of the numerous comments, majority overwhelmingly negative. These comments are not unexpected, lots of white fragility and colorblindness displayed.
What made the situation sad was the owners of the Facebook page didn’t step in to moderate the conversation. They posted more content afterwards which tells me they were active on Facebook. I sent a private message to the page owners. They replied nine-days later reply saying because they had over 4-million page views and over 775,000 Facebook interactions last week they are unable to reply to everyone. This is unacceptable, especially for a company who’s stated goals include wanting to be accessible to people of color and promotes relationship building.
Because they didn’t moderate their Facebook page they tolerated bad-behavior which created an unsafe (online) place for people of color. I didn’t feel welcomed in the online conversation after I voiced my views. I will own my views around race and my privileges, and I don’t need others to protect me when I share those views. However, I don’t condone the organization allowing name-calling, racism, and what could be characterized as online-bullying to happen. (Because it was on Facebook I’m not taking it super seriously. I’m more annoyed with the response and lack of response by the org than the silliness of fragile white people.)
If you are a Facebook admin on a page or for a group, you must monitor and moderate conversations to make sure they are welcoming of diverse voices and people of color. Set expectations of how you want people to behave online and call out bad behavior when people violate the expectations, otherwise conversations will default to centering whiteness.
#3 Lunch Meeting Gone Wrong
Two weeks ago (still holding a grudge) I had lunch with a white male. This meeting was a long-time coming and it was one of the first times we talked outside of a group meeting setting. Dude clearly has work to do around race, especially after he said “I’m married to an Asian,” to justify his stance and beliefs. Face+palm=zero poker face.
Please do work around learning what race means and its impact. Realize what you don’t know, and as Jondou calls “what you know, you don’t know,” and go do some thinking. Be humble and learn. Read diverse media, force yourself to really listen to communities of color — shut up and just listen, and stop trying to justify yourselves. If you want to say something ask nicely and humbly.
#4 Something Happy, a Good Bun Bowl
Because I’m trying to practice more gratitude this year I’ll end with one happy picture. This is a picture of my Plate of Nations lunch at Rainier Restaurant. If you haven’t checked out Plate of Nations yet please do. I try to stack as many business meetings during Plate of Nations week. Plate of Nations week offers pre-fixe $15 or $25 meals, perfect for relationship building and sharing a delicious meal. Sharing food and supporting local people of color owned businesses is part of racial equity work. Today I checked out another restaurant, Banana Grill and had a wonderful lunch with a colleague. We talked about our Japanese-American experiences and what it means for the current generation of students. Go enjoy a good meal with colleague and talk about what is happening in communities of color. If you need a question prompt here is one: “Tell me what you eat at your family celebrations.” This will probably open up into a deeper conversation about self-identity. If you want to jump two feet into race and identity, you could ask “What is your race and ethnicity, and what evidence do you have to support this.” (hat-tip to Jondou and Heidi of the fakequity team for the second question.)
Thanks for hanging with us this week. Sometimes we just need to focus on things like a good bun bowl, it is one of the best anti-fakequity cures around. Next week I’ll try to be less grouchy and more introspective. If you have something on your mind or want to explore a topic ping me, would love to have some thought partners on how to fight fakequity, email@example.com.
Posted by Erin