Fourth of July — What to read

ed64ac7e756ae0f714c3afbcf528fea3I’m taking a short break for the Fourth of July holiday. For those reading this outside of the United States, the Fourth of July is a big deal in America. We celebrate the original thirteen colonies and colonizers (more often called the Pilgrims) signing the Declaration of Independence and separating from the Brits. We celebrate by blowing things up, specifically fireworks, and although illegal in Seattle people still do them and others complain on Facebook in the neighborhood groups. We also have cookouts as it is known on the East Coast, or picnics as we call it in the west, or in Hawaii we say “ehhh, you like go beach? Auntie and Uncle goin’ be there. We got grinz; mac salad and poke,” or “ehh come over to da house, uncle stay making pig roast.” (Before you have a dirty mental image, grinz means eat or food in pidgin English.)

For this week’s Fakequity blog post I’ve compiled a list of things we are reading and talking about. Please leave a comment, Facebook post, Tweet, or email to tell us what you’re reading or talking about. I love hearing from others and hearing what is going on outside of my bubble.

As much as possible I shared news and articles by people of color. However, some of the articles are by white authors because I couldn’t find any other articles by poc writers on the same topic. I’ve starred the ones that I think are must reads, in some cases I really want you to read them because they are from smaller publications deserving larger audiences or the story is just damn good.

Police Shootings

King County Officers Shot a Pregnant Woman on the Muckleshoot Reservation. Here’s What We Know., The Stranger, October 2016 – Even though this is from October 2016, I’m sharing this because we need to bring visibility to people of color who are systemically killed by the hands of people who are supposed to protect all of us.

Man Killed By a King County Deputy Last Week Was Armed With a Pen, Seattle Weekly—Tommy Le, an Asian American, was fatally shot hours before his high school graduation.

Her Name Was Charleena Lyles, Huff Post

Sacrificing Black Lives for the American Lie, New York Times


Arts and Food

My Sister’s Keeper: A Q&A with Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Roads and Kingdoms “To show that women are underrepresented in the field of photography. Women of color: underrepresented. Women of African descent: underrepresented. Let’s highlight the work that these women are doing all over the world.” Additional article about her work: The World According to Black Women Photographers, Lens blog, New York Times

Why We Can’t Talk about Race in Food, Civil Eats

Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors to open at Seattle Art Museum, NW Asian Weekly

What local chefs think about food appropriation, KUOW interview with Edouardo Jordan and Rachel Yang, chefs and Seattle restaurant owners

* #SEAHOMELESS: Immigrant Business Owners and Homeless Share Unspoken Camaraderie, Ethnic Seattle



* Read this: To understand white liberal racism, read these private emails, then listen to this On being the only black man on the Seattle school board, KUOW

Voters Must Turn Out For Seattle’s School Board Election, South Seattle Emerald



Japanese cemetery is Oxnard’s latest vandalism target

White People Will Always Let You Down, The Establishment

Native Americans are getting cheated again by a white president, LA Times Opinion, Letter to the Editor by a Japanese American who was interned at Manzanar


Voices of Native Americans

Since we opened by talking about colonizers we’ll close by focusing on our Native American communities and their views and voices.

* Confronting settler colonialism – Faith Spotted Eagle, Longhouse Media – The camp Faith Spotted Eagle is referring to is Standing Rock

* An Honorable Way of Being, talking about the importance of the canoe, Longhouse Media

Posted by Erin Okuno


Reflections on Charleena Lyles: White People Stop Centering Yourselves

DCs79R6XsAA_FS_Last Sunday, Seattle was rocked by a police shooting of an African American woman. Charleena Lyles called the police to report a burglary at her apartment, two white police officers responded to the call. Many are asking how a call about a burglary ended with the death of an African American woman. Many in the community, especially in communities of color, are demanding that the deaths of African Americans and Black people stop.

The death has shaken our community again. The violent death of anyone, especially a person of color, should make us pause, and the death of an African American by the hands of an authority figure should make us absolutely stop. We need to stop, and white people especially need to stop. We need to stop posting to social media, we need to stop centering white people in these conversations, we need to stop the cycle of systemic racism and white privilege and power, and we need to stop shooting each other. We need to stop with the allyship theatrics, we need to double down on centering communities of color, especially African Americans/Blacks and the intersections of identity — mental health and disability, parenting, poverty, etc. In a conversation about race a week before the shooting a colleague said: “There should be a rule, the first five comments on posts about race [on Facebook] should be by people of color.” How different would the rest of the conversation be if we centered people of color and people of privilege listened?

White People Stop

White people, I want you to stop. Yes, there are times when we ask what you to be an ally, but I also want you to stop making racial tragedies and allyship about you. After the news of Charleena Lyles’ death, white people started posting and started shouting about institutional racism and how our systems failed her. In other words, abruptly YOU showed up and started caring. You showed up and took the focus away from Charleena and the African American community. You became a convenient ally. To your peers and others, it made you look good. And where were you the week before? Where were you in giving up something valued so people of color and other underserved groups can have a seat at the table? Spotting and calling out institutional racism isn’t easy and takes digging deep into looking at root causes and centering communities of color. I’m calling fakequity on your manipulative use of the tragedy. Being seen as an ally feels like you’re doing something, it makes you look good and it isn’t about you, you may even score some woke points. It is time for white people and pocs of privilege to stop and listen to African Americans and Blacks about racism and things that make us uncomfortable. Don’t wait for someone to die before you decide to inconvenience yourself with listening.

I’ve seen on Facebook where friends of color are calling out the injustice in the killing and white people, mostly white males, are quick to defend the police or say, ‘slow down and let the investigation happen.’ This silencing tacit is out of line and again centers the white institution rather than Charleena and her community. It isn’t necessary, white people read the post and reflect on it. You don’t have to agree, your job is to give space for people of color to say what we need to say.

White people, you are entitled to your opinions and stop shoving them in the faces of people who are hurting. We didn’t ask for your thoughts and opinions, we don’t need your whitesplaining. We hear your opinions daily. We live in a society where your thoughts cost people of color lives – sit with that thought for a while. White people, your fragile egos will be ok not sharing an opinion. If you need to talk it out, find other white people who can help you understand why we don’t want to hear about the investigation or why we shouldn’t be outraged. Yes, we often tell you to stop talking to white people, but in this case if you need to process don’t do it at the expense of people of color, doing so sucks up precious air and energy that should go into the healing of a community, don’t make your pain Black people’s pain.

Stop Focusing on You

If you need to do something, then do it, but don’t make a show out of it. Don’t post to Facebook or Twitter how outraged you are and how you are collecting donations, attending vigils, or are incensed. If you want to do these things, do them and do it quietly and reflectively. If you want to invite other people to join you, do so privately and with the intention of being an ally and not being a voyeur or taking up more energy that should be invested into communities of color. If you want to donate, do so but don’t make a big deal about it, save the savior mentality for another cause like trees and rescued animals. If you want to encourage others to give too then ask them through a personal relationship, we don’t need to see you being an ally, just be ally.

At the Othering and Belonging Conference an African American/Black speaker from Color of Change said, “presence doesn’t equal power.” His message was having a presence online, at a march or vigil, no matter how large or how many likes, doesn’t change power dynamics. White people, your existence in this conversation must be about you reflecting on what power you are holding whether knowingly or unknowingly and how you share it. Use your presence to follow the lead of the African American/Black community. Don’t take up their space, humble yourself and follow, do as asked respectfully and with humility. We will all be better when you create space to hear from others.


Posted by Erin Okuno, with thanks to Heidi, CiKeithia, and Minty whom I’ve never met and doesn’t know it but helped to influence this post.


Welcome to our new readers. If you are a subscriber, thank you. We recommend you check back on the blog,, for the most up to date and corrected version of posts. If Erin is authoring the post she often writes late into the night and goes back to the post in the morning to correct grammar and proofread. If you would like to subscribe look on the right-hand sidebar for a signup box.

Guest Post: Representing the Underrepresented in Academia


Editor’s Note: We welcome back guest blogger Lilliann Paine from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She works in the public health field. Check out Lilliann’s first Fakequity blog post about being a Catalyst for Change.

Research is an important part of my academic experience. As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I applied and was selected to participate in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. The McNair Scholars Program is one of several TRIO Programs historically funded by the U.S. Department of Education supporting the academic achievement from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

**A program supporting academic achievement from groups traditionally underrepresented**

The McNair Scholars Program is where I got my feet wet in the pool of research and scholarship. If not for that research program experience, I would not have the current network of support I lean on…hard. Being a member of an underrepresented group is tough. Being a member of an underrepresented group and an academic is a huge responsibility. I aspire to be more than an inconsequential representation. I don’t want to burn out before my light can truly shine.

As a McNair Scholar, peers with similar aspirations and a shared lived experience, the experience of the traditionally underrepresented, surrounded me. This is a big deal because I’ve only attended Predominately White Institutions (PWI) since kindergarten.

As McNair Scholars, we were equipped to become Doctors of Philosophy—PhD! In fact, the goal was to complete doctoral studies. Through this program, I experienced:

  • A culture of excellence with the prioritization of leadership!
  • We were paired with Faculty level researchers (Mentors).
  • We received GRE preparation (standardized test you are required to take when applying to college).
  • We were tasked with a completing a mini-thesis (asking a research question and finding the answer through literature review and experimentation) with the expectation to defend at the end of our six-week summer program.

The McNair Scholars program is dedicated to preserving Dr. Ronald McNair’s legacy of scholarship and accomplishments. Dr. McNair was nationally recognized for his work in laser physics and was one of the thirty-five applicants selected by NASA from a pool of ten thousand. He became the second African-American to make a flight into space. He was a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger.

I was motivated to honor Dr. McNair’s legacy. I wanted my life’s work and research to answer tough questions about racism and its impact on health. I had hope that I could break down racial barriers like Dr. McNair and would become a trailblazer just like him!

Along the way, I must have romanticized the idea of leadership and collegiality. In the real world, academia provides an “ascription of intelligence” that requires “sanity checks.” A sanity check is an act of seeking out other POCs to help validate the existence of racial microaggressions to check perceptions of racists incidents.

Lilliann’s Personal Sanity Checks
Is this person an assigned mentor – someone who is telling me something that my boss doesn’t feel comfortable saying to me? Is this person a sponsor –someone who is a powerful advocate on my behalf when I cannot speak for myself?
Am I put in this workplace as a diversity quota? Am I put in charge as a leader with autonomy?
Is this work inclusive? Does the work further isolate those who experience marginalization?
Is this work in the name of equality? Is this work the practice of equity?
Is the goal to build a system? Is the goal to dismantle a system?

As an academic, I consider it a top priority to understand the concept of power and how that is confounded by the social construct of race, gender, and class. Within academia, at times, there is a lack of racial consciousness. Almost like a culture of race aversion—unless you are studying a discipline that explores racial consciousness. It’s important to understand racial fallacies exist and the minimization of racism (aka colorblindness) impacts leadership. Studies have shown that when women and non-whites talk about workplace diversity, they are punished. The desired change I would like to see in academia is a culture shift. The raised awareness and critical analysis of racial consciousness. That is the articulation of power and difference at the institutional level. From my experience as a person of color, I’ve learned that leadership can be lonely. However, when leadership is tethered to exceptionalism it is isolating.

As an emerging leader, I’ve held mid-level leadership roles in my short career. With each job, I was looking for the sense of community I had as a McNair Scholar. As one person, I cannot change an entire system. As I’ve learned more about leading for racial equity, I became familiar with the work of two racial equity practitioners: Gina Gulati-Partee and Maggie Potapchuk. They identified concrete ways change could happen at an institution. Through their experience, they acknowledged in order for an institution to work towards racial equity through their philanthropic investments and leadership, they must shine a light on white privilege and white culture both internally and externally. For me, at the root (within academia) it’s about working twice as hard to get half as much. The standard goes back to white and the concept of whiteness—long term objective is the need to heal from historical trauma and intergenerational effects of historical trauma.

What is the value of a TRIO Program these days? Is the long-term goal for higher education to reach transformative racial equity for students of color? Or is the long-term goal to create conditions for students of color to thrive? Or is the goal to do away with institutional racism?

Over ten years later, I am a champion for health equity, doing the difficult work of finding an alternative path based in the community, to meet health objectives while embracing equity. McNair worked for me! We need to continue funding programs that create a pipeline to leadership within academia, business and the trades especially for those that underrepresented. Our collective futures depends on the success of the most vulnerable and underrepresented.

Stop Calling Everything Equity

stop pandaHave you noticed how everyone is saying “it’s an equity issue.” Every time I hear the phrase a part of my soul grows darker and more cynical. The poor term equity has become the diversity of the 1990s and the equality of the 2000s. Equity is now a popular and overexposed term and people are using it incorrectly. We need to stop labeling every problem as an equity problem and begin to use the word correctly. One way to begin to use it correctly is to link a root cause and identify a structural barrier to the equity problem statement.

Let me break this down into less wonky talk. Often when there is a policy problem or an advocacy group wants to make an ask, someone will say “It’s an equity issue! The poor kids need [fill in the blank] because they don’t have enough [blank]. Everyone, especially poor kids of color, will benefit when we do this [because rising tides lift all boats or when they do better we all do better].” For fun watch the public testimony during a school board meeting and someone, probably a white person, will use this formula as they make their ask. What this statement formula fails to do is make the connection back to race and the racialized formation of the problems. White people (and some pocs) become lazy and don’t do their work around understanding how race is connected to root causes and how it is tied to institutional and systemic racism.

Root Causes and Structural Barriers

If you want to make an ‘equity’ argument do your work to understand how the problem came about. The problems facing people and communities of color and marginalized communities (e.g. disabled, LGBTQIA, etc.) today are often rooted in past decision making. Peter Senge’s famous line in the book the Fifth Discipline says: “Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions.” Today’s racialized problems can be traced back to decisions made in the past.

Understanding root causes of today’s problems means looking at how problems evolved for communities of color. As examples segregation is a byproduct of red-lining which traces its roots to white people not wanting people of color in their neighborhoods because of fear and elitism, achievement gaps are rooted in how the education was originally designed to serve (white businessmen who spoke English), unemployment for people of color is often tied to education levels and we’ve already established the public school system was originally designed for white people.

In unpacking the root cause of the problem you’re looking at, you might determine the problem you’re working on isn’t really an ‘equity’ problem. Don’t use the equity word because you want to get some points towards the Woke Awards, like the Academy Awards for Wokeness. And definitely don’t use the word equity to get street cred in the Woke Wars, look at me I’m so badass for working on this hard ‘equity’ project.

Once a root cause is determined, look at the structural barriers in place that need to be undone. The structural barriers are the policies, practices, beliefs, and norms in place. Often data can help to identify barriers, and with some solid thinking, the structural parts can be identified.

Stop Calling Things Equity When They Aren’t

Not everything should be called equity. I spent most of yesterday and today working on advocacy around school buses. Many are calling it an ‘equity issue’ because it impacts low-income students of color. While students of color will be dispropriately impacted by the problem, it is a district wide problem. The solutions proposed by the parent activist are not rooted in principles racial equity. The solutions are equality based, spend money to give everyone the same; in this case, spend $2.3m to provide buses for students. It is a misnomer to label it is an equity problem when we’re not also talking about the root causes and the structural barriers students of color are facing around getting to school.

It also annoys many of us when the ‘equity’ solutions presented are not actually equity-based. Providing a bus/book/thing to everyone isn’t equity, that is equality (giving everyone the same). If we look at the root cause of the problem and the structural barriers in place an equity based solution would determine people of color may need and want something different than a universal/same/equal solution.

Equity is Special, Stop Calling Everything Equity

Please, I implore you, to stop calling everything equity. The word equity means something special and let’s continue to let the word be exceptional in decrying its needs. If you need another word to use, then stop and think hard before choosing something to use in its place.

If you need something that will get people’s attention learn how to call out racism, especially institutional racism. There is a lot of that going around and institutional racism could use some labeling and shout outs instead of equity. Maybe by calling out racism, we’ll begin to see more equity based problem solving happen.

Posted by Erin Okuno, hat-tip to Heidi for the topic

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you! Please check back on the website for the most correct and up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar.

How to Design an Equity Centered Conference

Before we start we need to reflect for a moment on what’s happened over the past week. In Portland, OR, in many ways a sister city to our Seattle, two men were stabbed in the throat and died at the hands of another man who was spouting white nationalist beliefs. During this holy month of Ramadan, I hope we can practice charity, a pillar of Islam, back to our Muslim sisters and brothers.

In our home state of Washington, Jimmy Smith-Kramer, a Native American, was murdered at a campground when he and a friend asked a white man to stop making donuts with his truck. The truck driver yelled hateful words and ran over Jimmy and his friend.

Moral outrage and indignant Facebook posts won’t end racism. I don’t have the answers, I wish I did. I do have faith in our community to bring more progress and not let these hateful crimes become the norm.


I’ve attended a lot of conferences lately and have taken notes about what makes a good event and what annoys me. A lot of what makes a good event has to do with how it is designed. Just putting the word equity into the name of an event or saying the word five times during the introduction doesn’t mean the event is achieving equity.

Before we start I need to own and share my biases. When I see an invite come through my email I try to figure out if it will be worth my time. If I see the word ‘equity’ somewhere in the title I give it extra scrutiny.

As an example, last year I sort of dragged Heidi and our other colleague Mindy to the Governor’s Summit on Equity (or some name like that). The event was focused on equity and there was lots of equity talk, but it was at such a basic level I didn’t learn much about how to deepen my work. I ended up with a lot of notes about what not to do. We still talk about that event and how poorly certain parts of it were designed and how to avoid those literal pitfalls. When I say literal pitfalls, I really mean it someone fell off the stage during the closing session.


1-IMG_4175 (2)

Body language says a lot, photo by a colleague


Lesson One: Clearly describe what the sessions and panels are focused on

Breakout sessions can make or break a conference. Lately, I’ve had more misses than hits on breakout sessions partially because the session descriptions aren’t very through. At conferences, I try to attend sessions that aren’t education sector based so I can hear from completely different speakers and perspectives. The session title and description at the Gov’s Summit was along the lines of Race, Policing and Community Accountability. When the panel started the moderator allowed the conversation to only talk about African Americans and Blacks and law enforcement, an important emphasis but not what was in the title. It wasn’t until the question and answer portion when audience members opened the conversation to ask about what policing looked like with Latino, Asian, Native American and other communities of color that the conversation broadened. Had the description been clear that the focus would be on African American and Blacks we would have known to expect a conversation focused on African American and Black communities and been able to be allies. With the vague description, the question and answer time wasn’t focused and in many ways it squandered what could have been a deeper push and call to action.

Lesson two: Stop with the all-male (white) panels

Sitting with Heidi at conferences is kind of fun. I watch her get annoyed and start scribbling notes in her conference handbook or on her iPad. During two different conferences, she made the remark “people need to stop having all-male panels.” After watching for the power dynamics that Heidi inherently noticed I saw what she meant.


All-Male Panel with a Hoffsome thumbs up

All-male panels, including all poc male panels, cater to the same power dynamics we see in dominant society. This includes one person talking too much, or the panelist don’t allow for dissenting views in constructive ways, or panelist want to show what they know instead of building on other panelist ideas, or they start name dropping and cred-upping (I think that might be a new term, showing off your credentials or trying to over cred other speakers). This website catalogs all-male panels, Hoffsome thumbs up to whoever created it.

Instead of having all-male panels, be inclusive and work to find a woman of color (and other intersectionalities — disabled women of color, LGBQTIA of color, youth or seniors women of color, etc.) to join the panel. Having a woman of color on the panel brings a different perspective and different views on the same topic. If we think back to last week’s blog post about creating Color Brave Spaces, this falls under creating space for multiple truths and stories. By designing the panel to look not only at racial equity but also gender diversity panels look differently and bring different perspectives forward.

Lesson Three: Center and Design for People of Color, White people will be ok without being the focus

I was recently on a call with a national organization talking about their upcoming conference. They described wanting to focus on change but without a deep racial equity focus. Before we ended the call, I said “I’ve been to national conferences where people talk about change without centering racial equity. For the people of color in the room, it is really frustrating to have to sit through race-neutral conversations and know we should go deeper.” I knew my comment wasn’t going to change the outcome but I wanted the organizers to have to sit with that thought. Events planners need to center people of color in the design of the event. White people will benefit from not having an event centered on their needs, there are enough other spaces where we can talk about the needs of white people.

Lesson Four: Go deep, don’t waste time with equity lite

I’m tired of equity lite conversations. I don’t want to go to conferences where we are “scratching the surface” or we can’t use words like “white,” “white supremacy,” or I must watch Race the Power of Illusion again (it is good, but I’ve seen it many times now), or we have to define equity versus equality – these are trainings, not conferences. I want to be pushed in my thinking and not sit there and wonder if the lunch menu will have a decent vegan/vegetarian lunch option.

Going back to lesson three, design the conference for racial equity which means talking about what people of color want to talk about. White people may be a little lost and defensive but they will be ok and eventually catch up to the conversation. White people aren’t fragile, you all are strong so use that strength for good and learn about something other than yourselves.

I want meaningful conversations about understanding race, racism, institutional power, how to undo racism. We all live race every day, let’s be real in having thought-provoking speakers who can address racial equity, racial justice, and diverse and divergent thoughts in productive ways.

Posted by Erin Okuno