By Carrie Basas and Erin Okuno
We welcome back guest blogger Carrie. We poke a little fun this week with some sloths to help us.
Last week’s fakequity post was about how white people need to stop being lazy and start developing their own solutions around undoing racism. This post developed as a tangent to that post, a bunch of ways people default to when they don’t want to think or do harder racial awareness and racial equity work.
With access to easy and quick media and entertainment people want easy stuff — Cosmo quizzes, Facebook polls, online horoscopes, a flow-chart telling you what color panda you would be if you were a panda (hint it is either black or white, or maybe an elusive red panda). These are easy, people can stay in their comfort zone and feel like they earned their woke points. Carrie has been in meetings where people seriously ask her for the Top 3 Things They Can Do to Eliminate [Fill in the blank problem] (e.g., racism, ableism, lack of diversity in hiring, complaints about access, frustration by students and families). We’ve even written and posted these blog posts, but the problem is when people get lazy and stop here.
Lazy questions and demands for checklists are largely asked by people who don’t want to do the deeper thinking work around race. They are sloths when it comes to racial justice. Rather than honoring their need for oversimplifying complex, deeply historical, actively-fed contemporary oppression, we offer the Sloth Checklist and accompanying scoring guide.
The Sloth Award Checklist: The Higher the Points, the More the Privilege. Your award is the title of Fakequity Sloth.
- Hosting all white people speaking panels or events.
- Assuming and defaulting to speaking English.
- Speaking really slowly to BIPOCs assuming they don’t speak English. Or assuming BIPOCs are the interpreters when we show up at events. Tip: Don’t make an ass-of-yourself and assume things.
- Thinking all Asians are the same, assuming all Latinx people are Mexican, referring to Africans as Africans versus realizing Africa is a continent not a country, and leaving out Indigenous people overall.
- Thinking all Native Americans are the same, versus recognizing the sovereignty of Native American nations.
- Assuming People of Color are interchangeable — yes, this happens to white people too, but it’s not the same so trust us on this.
- Having a token or as Heidi recently wrote about two-kenizing BIPOC.
- Getting your racial equity training from another white person who will make you feel heard and not threatened.
- If you are hosting an event or planning a project, having an all-white person planning team. Bonus points if the event is supposed to explicitly address racial equity.
- Allowing or encouraging white people to talk over BIPOC, so that they don’t have to stop and listen to people of color.
- Hosting meetings in predominantly white neighborhoods so they can stay in their own comfort areas and don’t want to have to lock the car doors to drive through the “bad” part of town. (As Carrie’s friend recently pointed out in a workshop, the people you’re locking the doors on hear your car beeping. Pro tip!)
- White people stay quiet when someone says something racist, which is not doing the harder work of pointing out why something is wrong. Way to stay in your safe zone and not expend emotional labor or use any of your privilege.
- Providing refreshments at meetings that are the least common denominator of whiteness, such as chips, cookies, alcohol, cheese plates, and finger foods, without considering cultural, ethnic, dietary, or religious values and needs. Bonus points for serving pork to Muslims or Jewish people, having a lunch meeting scheduled during Ramadan, or saying someone’s food stinks.
- Asking BIPOC friends to introduce you to their BIPOC friends so that you can meet briefly to get a project underway and begin the transactional relationships that will never go deeper. Extracting without compensating BIPOCs happens all the time. White people and historically white organizations call it “networking,” “this will be good exposure,” or claiming it is an honor to be included in the event. Erin’s recent favorite was being approached to put together a session at a conference geared towards white people. The invite said they wouldn’t pay speakers but offered discounted prices to the conference — so BIPOC speakers were asked to do volunteer work AND still pay to attend, no thanks.
- Not challenging your workplace hiring, promotion, or retention decisions, especially as you see talented BIPOC candidates and employees being weeded out.
- Treating some BIPOC colleagues or stakeholders as those you feel safe enough to share racist comments with, especially putting down other BIPOC in your community. (We’ll call this the “you’re not like them, you’re more like me” exception that is violence.)
- Assuming all Black and Brown people attend certain/poor schools or live in certain neighborhoods.
- Saying minority, people of color, or other vague terms when you really mean Black or Brown people.
- Blaming others rather than learn from your mistakes. “I can’t be racist, it is their fault…”
- Quitting. If you quit working on learning about race you get the Ultimate Sloth Fakequity Award.
15-20 items: Fun sloth fact for you: Sloths can take 30 days to digest just one leaf. If you were a sloth, you’d still be staring at the leaf. Put down the leaf and go straight to anti-racism training and find communities where you can have deeper, ongoing discussions about internalized racial oppression.
10-14 items: Fun sloth fact for you: Sloths have those cute faces that look like they are always smiling. It turns out that their faces are frozen that way and that smile can be anxiety, stress, fear, and pain. Do you have the skills to recognize those emotions in others marginalized by systems or are you looking for smiles to feel good about yourself? Racial equity work isn’t about you, it is about being a uncomfortable and stretching your thinking. Unfreeze your face and fake smile and begin to really engage, it feels good– trust us.
5-9 items: Fun sloth fact for you: Sloths can turn their heads on a 270-degree axis. That means they can see almost all the way around them. We bet you are working on that, too. We see you trying often and openly. In fact, Carrie feels pretty good she is in this category, but not complacent. Don’t be complacent because you are complicit then. Identify your areas of growth. Ask others for feedback and recognize what you don’t know. Look at your interpersonal relationships and whether or not they build and lift up community or chip away at it. Keep going!
1-4 items: Fun sloth fact for you: Moths, sloths, and algae all have a symbiotic relationship. Sloths gives algae food and shelter. Algae camouflage sloths in trees. Moths swing by to eat the algae on sloths, thereby cleaning them and nourishing themselves. When it comes to racial justice, you have some strong symbiotic relationships of support and authenticity. Bad news– you’re fighting laziness everyday and that means we like you, but you aren’t going to win the Sloth Award. We know some days make you want to ask the moths to take care of things while you nap. We need you to keep seeing what is going on and being outraged. We need you to keep that love for community and wholeness fed and to feed others. Take comfort in the beauty of others fighting around you and put down that load sometimes and celebrate what you’re learning together, what you know now that you didn’t before, and what you want to know.
Side note: Who knew so much about sloths before this post? And did you see how cute animals can teach you about white privilege? A final comment about sloths, two sloths are endangered the pygmy and maned sloths. Since Earth day was earlier this week, this is a reminder to study up on how BIPOCs and the environment are impacted by climate change — work to protect habitat, don’t take selfies with exotic animals – it encourages other bad behaviors in people, reduce your carbon footprint.
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