Community Engagement is Not About Appeasing, it is about Redefining Self-Determination

Artwork from Amplifer Art by Nicolas Lampert

We have 10 days until the 2020 election. I’ve been hearten to see so many people posting their #votingselfies, or when I walk by my local ballot box there is a steady stream of people depositing ballots. Keep it up. If you can’t vote, please help someone else vote. We all have a role to play in this election.


I’ve been thinking about community engagement over the past few weeks. Maybe it is because of COVID and King County, WA being stuck in a perpetual Phase 2 loop – like those Star Trek episodes where the scene repeats, but only one character realizes it is a loop; I’m a bit tired of the standard engagement practices. Thinking about this right now is a good thing. Engagement is something we should always be doing, especially now since we’re forced to think differently about how we engage with people and COVID is forcing us to reimagine how we engage with each other.

I’m not writing about online engagement or even what “authentic” engagement could and should be – that will be for another day. Instead I want to think about the results of community engagement work.

First, let’s lay a few truths (or at least my truths):

  • Community engagement is not to appease people – it isn’t meant to be a gripe session to allow people with privilege to get what they want
  • Community engagement is not designed to hear from everyone equally
  • Not everything said or talked about must happen, this is where leadership and prioritizing come in
  • Community engagement is not about talking at people, it should be about listening and at its best shifting power to communities furthest from justice
  • Community engagement exist on a continuum of practices – one-time events to power sharing
  • Community engagement can be one time, but at its best evolve over time into a mutually beneficial relationship

When done well community engagement is about really engaging with people who often are not heard from in a process. Such as white (and some POCs), English fluent, access to technology, and know how to navigate systems often know how to be heard in some way – send emails, start petitions, use social media, call a press conference to be heard, write an op-ed, have a network of people who can help them influence others, etc. Community engagement shouldn’t be about engaging with people who fall into this category. I am in this category for if the topic is around education; if you’re reading this post you may fall into this for something you’re affiliated with. For engagement related to education I shouldn’t be the target of engagement – in this case I’m overly privileged and can cause more harm since my opinion will be substituted for others who have a stronger need to be heard from. What I should do is to refocus engagement opportunities to others in my network who have a large stake in the work and help to connect them to the opportunity to engage.

Community Engagement isn’t Meant to be Equal Engagement

A friend recently shared one of the parts of community engagement she struggles with is hearing people share things, especially white people, and then the white community expecting to get what they want because they engaged. They may feel they played by the rules, they showing up en masse and coordinated with messaging sometimes even matching shirts, therefore their opinions matter so much that their desires should be met.

Community engagement should be about engaging with people who can’t access the system through traditional means. Sometimes they don’t feel safe or seen at a general community engagement event, language may be a barrier, transportation or technology may be a barrier. Engagement will probably look different for these families and they won’t be wearing matching shirts and holding coordinated messaging signs (nor should they feel pressured to engage like the mainstream to be heard).

White people sometimes have a hard time realizing just because they show up doesn’t mean they can get what they want, even if they feel they are advocating for POC needs. Not every idea shared can or should be acted upon, and people need to learn to be ok with this. Earlier tonight a friend said she was listening in on a presentation about a school being rebuilt. A homeowner complained the new building will block his view of the lake. Should the school lower their building to preserve one or two homeowners views? Community good vs private interest.

Community engagement is rarely democratic, by this I mean not every idea has equal merit and not everyone showing up or engaged has a vote in the project. Heidi often preaches access and inclusion, in this case engagement, isn’t equity. Just because people engage or accesses an engagement process doesn’t mean their feedback is equal. Often times engagement is designed to hear from people and a leadership body sifts through the data and chooses what to act upon. They should be accountable to those who gave input and explain and defend their decisions. This is also where those with decision making power need to have a strong grounding in race and using a strong racial equity process to weigh the feedback.

The decision making body needs to decide who is farthest from justice and to do the harder work of disaggregating their input and prioritizing their engagement and feedback. This may feel really uncomfortable to white people (and others with privilege) to realize their priorities may not be as important, otherwise hoarding of resources and white privilege will happen again.

Community engagement centering communities of color can reshape and redefine our work, our systems, rebalance, and allow POC self-determination. If we reframe engagement in these ways we can make a difference.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

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We Need Capacity Building for Learning About Race

Artwork from Amplifer Art. Statement from Amplifer: “For Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020, we partnered Nia Tero and IllumiNatives to release a new artwork series, education tools, & a large scale nationwide public art takeover leading up to the November presidential elections because we believe EVERYDAY should be Indigenous Peoples’ Day! … This artwork features Roxanne White (Yakama/Nez Perce/Nooksack/Gros Ventre) and was created to uplift her work advocating for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. … The epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people affects Indigenous peoples worldwide, and invisibility adds to this crisis leading to a lack of awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. Because of inadequate laws around non-tribal citizens on reservations, human trafficking and murder, Indigenous people, specifically Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirits are the most likely to be effected by this epidemic. Roxanne works with families and communities to bring voices to the missing and murdered.”

The 2020 election is in less than 3 weeks. Please put together your voting plan and start or continue to learn how election results could impact different poc communities.


Earlier this week I complained on Twitter one of the reasons I dislike breakout rooms in Zoom and other virtual meeting rooms is I don’t want to process with other people. Unlike in an in-person situation oftentimes with Zoom breakout rooms you don’t know who you’ll end up with. At least in person you can scan the room before choosing your seat. I know why we use breakout room conversations– they allow for more intimate conversations and keep people engaged in conversations. As a facilitator I often use them as a tool as well and hopefully with decent results. While all of this is true I still dislike participating in them.

During COVID work at home time, I’ve signed up for virtual events or conversations because I want to hear from the speaker, learn about a topic, or some other reason. What I am not signing up for is to help white people or others who are learning about race process their feelings or to be asked questions about how they can learn more. I had this experience earlier this week when a white person in our  four person breakout group asked an innocent question about who is doing deep racial equity work. I hope my camera wasn’t on so she didn’t see me roll my eyes. While she was well intentioned, I found the question annoying since we had just spent the presentation part of the call listening to a conversation how the host organization built a strong racial equity organization. At the end of the call I was annoyed with having been put into that situation – I went into the call excited to learn and to hear from others who are doing great work around racial equity and instead I had to spend time processing with a white person who is learning about her own racial equity journey. I applaud her for learning, I unfortunately wasn’t practicing graciousness that day.

Technical Assistance That Can Help

My buddy Vu who blogs at Nonprofit AF often writes about capacity building for nonprofits. He successfully built an organization that is dedicated toward capacity building for Seattle based nonprofits, RVC (Rainier Valley Corps). He also writes that we need technical assistance that matters, not wasting time on task that won’t advance our field or organizations.

I agree with him on this. For me technical assistance that would make a difference is being given time and space to deeply explore race, identity, community building, and advocacy. Too often the opportunities presented are either short seminars at conferences where the audience is coming from a wide range of backgrounds so the presentation is tailored towards newbies, or fellowships that are competitive to get into and often (during non-COVID19 times) require travel and time away which is hard for parents with school-age children, people with disabilities, or small organizations with limited staffing. If we are meant to advance the field we need to create a third pathway that is more intensive then a conference, but not so regimented as a fellowship that requires a lot of time and travel.

Earlier today I was listening to a colleague who shared her experience building a program from the ground up – idea to conception. She lamented that she had been under resourced for most of her time, but because of her experience as a POC she kept plodding ahead because she felt she had to, and as too often happens with pocs we don’t realize we should ask for more and few white people stop to check in, or because we’re in survival mode we can’t stop to figure out how to meaningfully use other people’s help without feeling like we’ll slide further back from stopping to triage and accept help.

Deep(er) Learning – Third Pathway

In order for our nonprofit field to advance and achieve our missions of acting in more anti-racist ways and pushing for racial justice we need to invest in ourselves in learning about this. We also need funders to fund it in ways that make sense for nonprofits.

Part of what is needed is cohorts where people are coming in together at similar stages of learning and investing in high quality facilitation and training. A few years ago, I was part of a professional learning circle that was funded by a grant. The idea was sound and I met some amazing colleagues who I still keep in touch with today, but the facilitation of the group wasn’t great. Many of us who were in the cohort had deeper racial equity knowledge than the facilitator and thus the cohort fell apart over time. Finding and selecting the right people is half of the work. The people selected for the cohort need to be at a similar place in their understanding of race and desire to learn.

We can create deeper opportunities that don’t require yearlong commitments or involve intensive travel. There are trade-offs, such as often times being in a longer term cohort allows for relationships to be built and maintained, more opportunities for learning, and when travel involved it also allows for people to bond during the “down time.” Some of my fondest professional memories involve the afterhours conversations during work travel.

What we can build are opportunities such as 5-10 week cohorts that meet just a few hours a week, in-person when we are back to meeting in person, or now remotely due to COVID19. The cohorts need to be well staffed, participants carefully selected for diversity, experience, etc., facilitators and trainers should be the highest quality so participants can learn and not have to do the teaching. We need to invest in racial equity skill building as much as we insist on teaching other technical skills such as grantwriting, legal basics, accounting, etc. We also need to value these racial equity skills as much as technical operational skills and expect our nonprofits to advance them in order to thrive, meet changing needs, and to serve communities of color well.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

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Discrimination – What is it?

Artwork from Amplifer Art by Ashley Lukashevsky 

We are weeks away from the 2020 presidential election. Now is the time to put your voting plan in place. If you are voting by mail fill out and return your ballot ASAP to avoid delays. If you are voting in person, make sure you know the poll hours and location. Help others too, especially new voters get their voting plans in place. VOTE!


Last week I read a social media post by a mom who felt her son had been discriminated against because of political signage at her house. I won’t go into the details because they really don’t matter. The mom wrote, shame on the other person for discriminating against her son for something he didn’t choose to participate in but had to experience disappointment because of something he couldn’t control. Others were quick to point out her son wasn’t discriminated against. Was he discriminated against, or wasn’t he? This got me to thinking how often we use the word, but do we really understand what it means.

Discrimination is a word that is thrown around a lot, and the technical definition is wide. In life we differentiate and discriminate daily. Such as when I buy produce, I’m making a value judgment on which fruit and veggies I like more than others. I’m differentiating which fruit and veggie types I like over others. I have a bias for tropical fruits, I grew up eating papaya, mangos, dragon fruit, and star fruit. If I act on this bias and constantly shun other fruits like berries and stone fruit it would be fair to say I am acting in a discriminatory way towards berries. In another example, if I only ate red vegetables but skipped green veggies consistently it would be fair to say I discriminate against green vegetables. In the example I am making a decision to group, class, or choose one group over another – tropical fruit over other fruit, red vegetables and not green ones.

While those are somewhat innocent examples if we begin to apply discriminatory principles towards people it can challenge our sense of fairness and justice. We begin to see unfair and unjust practices against people play out because of things they can’t control – like whether or not they have a disability, national origin (where a person was born), age, gender, race, sexuality, social class, etc. As an American society we’ve decided to protect religious beliefs, pregnancy status, and veteran status. Many of these protections help to temper blatant discrimination in many settings such as the workplace, housing, education, government services, etc. It still happens, but less overtly, this is where microaggressions happen, or practices that are ‘legal’ but still discriminatory.

More recently I’ve seen more conversation about people feeling discriminated against because of their political beliefs, immigrant or citizenship status, and during the current COVID19 pandemic people feeling ‘discriminated’ against for not wearing a facemask.

In some cases where a person feels discriminated against, isn’t really discrimination. It may be a redistribution of privilege, especially white privilege. White people sometimes feel discriminated against when they don’t get their way, but really it is the system trying to rebalance itself and to encourage more people that have been historically discriminated against to access the services. As an example, affirmative action allows colleges to acknowledge a person’s race in admissions processes thus giving Black/African Americans, Native American/Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islanders, and others with lower rates of admission to the school a better chance of getting in. There are white people (and some Asians and others) who feel this discriminates against them because it doesn’t seem “fair” someone else is getting an extra point and may hurt their chance of getting in even though it wasn’t an equal starting line to begin with.

Is it right to discriminate against a discriminator?

My lawyer friends tell me to never ask a question you can’t answer – Is it right to discriminate against someone who discriminates? I don’t know.

I know someone out there will say, no it isn’t right and we should show tolerance and work to understand their point of view. Others will say why should we work to understand others who discriminate so blatantly against others. Many pocs will say it isn’t our job to “educate,” show compassion, or work to change the view of others.

To wrap up, here is the cheat sheet version of what I’ve learned about discrimination this week from reading a bunch, and watching way too many YouTube vids on the topic:

  • Everyone discriminates – if you are alive and making choices you discriminate
  • Discrimination is a problem when people are treated unequally based on traits they cannot control – race, disability, citizenship and immigration, age, social class, etc.
  • Exclusion and rejection happen with discriminatory behaviors. The United Nations statement on discrimination says: “Discriminatory behaviors take many forms, but they all involve some form of exclusion or rejection.” (Note: I cannot find the original source document for this quote.)
  • Feelings of rejection, sadness, outsider status, etc. are byproducts of discrimination
  • Discrimination can happen to achieve gains (e.g. best food, land, popularity), to stay in a social group or class, or to protect gains.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Alison, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke C., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Catherine L., Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Mary Jo, Matias, Matthew, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah, Sarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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Fakequity, 6-month Mark

Street art in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District
“Please be Kind to Yourself” photo credit Erin Okuno

I was planning to try to write something serious since we are weeks away from the 2020 election and we recently passed the six-month mark for COVID19 disrupting our lives, but with the latest news of President Trump and the First Lady testing positive for COVID19, the profundity is not jelling. Instead I’ve gone to the dark side; the dark humor of where I’m at. I think it is part of the six-month slump and rather than fight it, I’m going to ride its wave.

Just a few weeks ago, 9/11 to be exact, was the six-month mark of schools closing in Seattle. On 9/11 I was much more introspective and grateful versus in the dark humor mood. The hardships we’re all enduring has flatten-the-curve (remember that mantra from a few months ago). The measures we’ve taken have prevented many from contracting COVID and has kept many people alive. Thank you. All of us making collective sacrifices keeps precious supplies available for those who need it, keeps medical staff focused on the most sick, and we can further take care of each other.

Now the dark side.

Bleach – If you got it use it. Time to disinfect our timelines and views. I don’t have enough time to entertain the Proud Boys and their loudest mouthpiece. Bye boys. I’m not even going to denounce you because there is nothing there to denounce.

Flatten the curve – Remember that saying from March? I hope you’re still adhering to it. Stay home, stay safe. You’re less likely to run into someone yelling “All Lives Matter!” This past weekend I drove by someone yelling this in a small coastal town. I shrugged and sent him thoughts and prayers.

Zoom-Bombing – I recently wrote about incidents of racism online. It isn’t anything to joke about, but sometimes you have to laugh at the absurdity of people and how they spend their time. Someone is so sad and lonely they sit around looking for meetings to join that they don’t want to be in to begin with? Dark, seriously dark times. I have nothing smart to offer about how to deal with these sad incidents other than thoughts and prayers, and hot-tip don’t publish your meeting links.

Wildfires and smoke – Once upon a time if you said the word smoke, it meant “Yo, let’s take a smoke break,” or “let’s go smoke a joint.” Now it means spending more time indoors with those you love, as if you haven’t already, to avoid the smoke. Climate change is real folx. If you don’t believe it come to the West Coast and stand outside for 10 min breathe in this crap. A friend and I were texting back and forth that gentrification is causing the smoke hanging in my neighborhood, it was a dark humor conversation, but there is truth to it. Gentrification is pushing people of color out of the city, which adds to their commute times. No amount of Teslas driven by gentrifies will fix this.

Facemask – One of my favorite stories of the pandemic was how at the National Cathedral a masonry remembered seeing a case of N95 facemask in the crypt. Something about the word crypt and a hidden case of precious coveted and needed N95 facemask made this story something to remember. If you have a crypt, please go check it for a hidden cache of mask, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Another friend shared how she several years ago had ordered two cases of N95 facemask after a really bad smoke storm swept through Seattle and she wanted to make sure they had a stock on hand to hand out to unhoused people. Now we need those N95 facemask for both COVID and smoke, who would have guessed in 2019 this is where we’re at. Please take care of our homeless neighbors right now too. Thank you to everyone wearing a facemask in public.

That Debate, what Debate – If you watched the Presidential debate earlier this week, you will understand what I mean. It wasn’t a debate. I’m not sure what it was. Have we learned nothing from the past few month of virtual meetings? Every kid who is in a virtual classroom knows the power of the mute button. Just watch a kid who accidentally gets host control, THE POWER they have – they can mute anyone they want and eject anyone from the meeting.

Allowing a bully to keep talking isn’t a justice based way to lead. One of my favorite books is The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. In it she writes a host job is to protect the gathering, the debate moderator team (I place blame on the entire debate committee, not just the moderator) they knew who they were dealing with and did not protect the audience from the verbal tirade.  

We’ve lost a lot of talented people in the past few months – Rep. John Lewis, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Chadwick Boseman, Rahwa Habte, and many others during the past few months. Some of them were taken by COVID19, some by related causes, and others through natural causes. Somehow their deaths sting more right now. Maybe it is because we’ve lost the ability to mourn in ways we have traditionally known. No humor here, just reflection and gratitude, and a mix of other emotions.

Please VOTE. If you want to see our way out of 2020 we’ll need some collective goodwill through voting.

Lastly, earlier this evening when I planned to write something more profound I pulled out one of my other favorite book The Book of Joy by his Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I revisited the passage on intention setting. My intention this Friday is to be ok with 2020: I accept you 2020 and all your needs, quirks, and however you want to emote – you and I will be ok 2020. 2020 and all of us here is the Tibetan prayer of the Four Immeasurables to marinate and pray or reflect on:

May all beings attain happiness.
May all beings be free from suffering.
May all beings never be separated from joy.
May all beings abide in equanimity.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Alison, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke C., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Catherine L., Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Mary Jo, Matias, Matthew, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah, Sarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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Your Shock and Outrage are Noted – The masking of violence

Art from Amplifer Art: yana Soto: “The United States of America is a country that constantly brags that it is the greatest in the world. Ever since its inception it has led us to believe that it runs on principles of justice, liberty and freedom. But if you look closer those values mask privilege, exploitation and inequality. Its time that we reveal every side of America and remember that until we acknowledge our underlying issues we cannot acknowledge what we claim to stand for.”

The masking of violence

Dominant culture is good at covering up its violence. A Black person is killed and people, especially white people are shocked and outraged. They post to social media, put out statements condemning violence, maybe even take an action such as join a protest or make a donation, then life moves on. The violence becomes normalized and eventually forgotten or dismissed.

Dominant culture is good at reworking, rewording, redefining violence. It comports the violence to protect itself and to make violence acceptable. It explains it away and blames others. The blame sounds like this: “They shouldn’t have been there,” “He shouldn’t have had a gun,” “She shouldn’t have dated him,” “Why did they take their kid to the protest?” All of these excuses deflect blame and cover up the violence that preceded these statements. It is a way to normalize violence and to create an emotional safety net of believing it couldn’t happen to us, somehow our privileges will protect us.

Violence is in the bones of America

Violence like racism, protects itself. It creates ways to continue forward, switching its tactic and comports itself to continue perpetuating harm. Violence is in the bones of the country. The country was founded and built on violence. If you read history from a POC perspective you’ll understand what I mean – original settlers coming to America because of their anger at the crown, Native Americans forced off their land, slavery, incarcerations of people of color, etc. Violence against people of color is deep in the American psyche. Tonight as I read the March Book 3, by Representative John Lewis to my kid, I had to pause and remember the story was from the 1960s even though so much of it is the same violence happening today. I chafe at the phrase of history repeating itself, more like we never made came to terms with our racism and racist past.

Recently in an online group I watched a thread about a racist incident go through its motions. After people read the post about the racist incident, white people wrote they were shocked and outraged and then began to get dismissive and wanting to focus on how it happened versus the intent of the racist violence. When white people say they are shocked, it is another form of violence since it is saying “OMG this is the first time I’m learning about something.” Many POCs have little tolerance left for this type of commentary, and many find it retraumatizing since it forces them to re-explain, defend, refocus people on the original intention. This is where many POCs say they are exhausted – exhaustion by the original violence and then having to relive it, explain it, think about it, be present for it.

Systems Change is Important

Before I end on a depressing note, there are ways to combat the violence. One is we have to do our personal work around understanding race and reckoning with our emotions, thoughts, and reflect on how we are complicit with the systems of racial violence we live with. The second is we need to work towards better systems to prevent violence towards Black and Brown people, and when violence does happen to hold people accountable for that violence.

Systems change attempts to stem violence by fundamentally changing the policies, behaviors, and practices that lead to violence. It isn’t perfect and still needs people to implement the change, but it gives anchor points for people to point to change mindsets, behaviors, and hold people accountable for when they do act unjustly.

We can achieve systemic changes if we work towards them, we also have to acknowledge the harm and violence of the past as we do so. Police reform is a must – white people need to get behind this movement and follow the lead of the Black/African American community working on this. Voting rights and allowing everyone to vote, including felons and immigrants. Why is those with the most to lose can’t vote – it isn’t by accident felons, immigrants, poor people, Black and Brown and others who are marginalized have to fight to vote. We also need systems change in honoring Native American rights, recognition of Pacific Islanders (look up COFA – Compact of Free Association), environmental protections and working towards more climate sustainability, health care as a human right, holistic education for students of color, housing, and employment without discrimination.

VOTE.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Alison, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke C., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Catherine L., Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Matias, Matthew, Matthew M., matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah, Sarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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Parent-to-Parent Moment

Fakequity now has a curated collection of books on Bookshop.org. These are books I enjoy and happy to share with others. This is an affiliate link, the proceeds raised will go towards purchasing books by authors of color and donated to public schools or youth programs. If you prefer to purchase books you see here from POC owned bookstores, please do so.

Black Lives Matter Mural painted by artist of color in Spokane WA | photo credit Erin Okuno

Earlier this week a friend told me about an anti-Black incident that happened online. A student entered another class’s online classroom and “Zoom bombed” the class. The teacher is Black and the person hurled racist insults towards the teacher. When the incident was shared in a local parent Facebook group, people immediately commented with disbelief – “I’m speechless…,” “I’m disgusted…,” “How did they get in?” Then the conversation turned to online security – how did the person get into the class?, wasn’t there a password?, blaming the teacher for not using a waiting room, and so on. I will admit when I first heard about it, my first question was “How?” I wanted to jump to a belief that it is an isolated incident and if we make technical fixes these forms of violence and racism can be squashed quickly. After a dense-moment of pause I realized no matter how many technical fixes we put into place the classroom racism, online or in person, won’t end. The racism there is the same racism everywhere it is now just in our living rooms because of online classrooms via Zoom. Google Meet, and Teams meetings. We didn’t invite it into our living rooms, but its always been there.

What people in the group missed is there is no technical fix and as parents, especially white parents, we need to take responsibility for the actions of our kids – especially online since we are now the adults present in their daily learning lives. COVID19 means many schools are online and with this comes a new set of responsibilities. Racism has always existed in education and within schools, and remember racism is always self-correcting meaning since people aren’t gathering together to learn, racism will now find its way into online spaces as well. No technical fixes (e.g. stronger online security) will end online racism. Sadly, the people on the Facebook thread kept wanting to talk about online security, deflection of responsibility back to the school system, and do anything but consider what their roles are in allowing racism to now move online.

“… about the system, the way of life, the philosophy…”

I’ve been reading the March Book Three, Rep. John Lewis’ graphic memoir about the march on Selma and his civil rights journey. The book opens with the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, on Sunday, September 15, 1963, where four young girls were murdered in the bombing. In his eulogy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, said: “They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.”

The words “the system and the way of life, the philosophy” produces what it intends to produce brought me back to the online conversation and how very few people were willing to step forward and say “I will talk with my child tonight about online racism,” or something along the lines of understanding, acceptance of responsibility, and action. When we don’t commit to these direct actions we allow “the systems and way of life” to continue forward and allows racism to continue. Disbelief and looking for technical fixes won’t end racism.

Earlier today I was in a conversation with two amazing Black women colleagues. We were prepping for a meeting and as we did so mentioned how interested they would be in how different people would answer a prompt about what people need in order to show up as an anti-racist disruptor. Would people be down for the work, or “just here to learn.” Saying you’re learning without action is just another form of harm since it allows the systems of racism to continue.

As a parent I don’t expect my children to learn by simply exposing them to a topic. Children need to build their skills around understanding race, and disrupting racism. This conversation will look different for different families, especially for families of color and white families. Just tonight I talked to my kid about what Asian privilege is and how it shows up. As we were reading the book March Book 3 by the late Rep. John Lewis, my kid asked about voting rights and why Black people couldn’t register to vote in the 1960s. In many ways he couldn’t process the police violence against Black people who wanted to vote. We talked about how the history of state violence and police brutality. He asked where Asians fit into the history of voting. This allowed us to explore Asian privilege, anti-Blackness, and how systems of injustice continue today. He probably doesn’t know all of the technical language and lingo, but he has a better sense of what racism is.

What will you do as a parent?

This is a parent-to-parent* moment, especially non-Black and non-Indigenous parents: What actions are you committing to taking around race with your kids? As parents we have incredible spheres of influence with our kids, their peers and fellow families, and with their schools, clubs, and other spaces. What are you willing to do to disrupt racism? We can’t continue to be appalled, blame others, or to think our children aren’t exposed to racism. We need to do our part to disrupt racism everyday.

*When I say parent, I include anyone who is caregiving of a child, not just the traditional definition of parent.

If you need concrete actions here are a few:

  • Be explicit and ask your child(ren) if they have witnessed racism, whether in real life, or now virtually. Give them an opportunity to talk about it and make sense of race and racism.
  • Ask your children what they are reading – if you notice it is light on books by authors of color, borrow some from the library or order it from a POC owned bookstore and read it with them.
  • If you hear of a racist incident, especially online, don’t blame the teachers and school staff for the incident.
  • Support educators, especially right now, with their work around creating anti-racist education. A teacher friend offered the suggestion of asking teachers if you can buy them a book from their wish list so they can build a more inclusive classroom library. I’ve never known a teacher to turn down a high-quality new book, especially new titles that are timely.
  • Ask your school’s PTA or other parent clubs and groups what are they doing to create welcoming environments for families of color. Avoid savior complex of wanting to solve POC engagement problems.
  • Ask your PTA, sports associations, clubs, etc. what conversations they are having about race and how it shows up within their community.
  • Hold other parents accountable for their actions too.  

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Alison, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Catherine L., Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Matias, Matthew, matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah, Sarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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Communicating during COVID

Image from Amplifer Art

West Coast relations: I hope you’re staying safe amongst the forest fires, smoke, and heat. Please stay indoors and check in on others to make sure they have what they need right now. To the essential workers who must be outside right now – thank you for your service. I wish I could offer you more than my thanks.

Please also register to vote. The November election is coming up and this is an important year to be a voter.


I’ve joked with a few friends (via text) that my usual gossip mill is non-existent. I miss catching up with people in the hallways and parking lots before and after meetings. Through all of this it made me think about how we’re communicating with communities of color through COVID19, social distancing requirements.

COVID has disrupted the way we do everything, including the way we communicate. With my normal gossip flow is disrupted, I no longer have as many chance encounters with friends and colleagues at restaurants or office buildings. Now the communication has migrated to text streams and social media. I recently pulled up my cellphone bill and looked at how many text messages were on my bill, it was over 1,400 for a month – a bit appalling.

What this means is realizing my bubble of knowledge has skewed over the past few months. I’m probably not hearing as much from certain people and I’m hearing a lot from people who are like me. Realizing this I now have to make sure I’m reaching out and pro-actively communicating or seeking out appropriate places to connect.

Community of Color Networks

Pre-COVID I would preach that communities of color appreciate in-person communication. Knowing this we now have to see how and where the communications lines have shifted during COVID and social distancing requirements. In some places it is just figuring out where and how the community has adapted. As an example, my colleague Selam Misgano saw a need to get information out to the Amharic speaking community right after COVID started. She quickly organized a weekly video call where people could call in and ask questions and she’d share what she knew. It was her attempt to make sure her community received accurate and timely information. Over time she realized people were asking more complicated questions about unemployment, health, education, etc. so she invited experts to join to answer questions. I share this as an example of how the community took the lead and organized itself, and others like school systems and others could follow the community’s lead and help to support their efforts with resources (e.g. money, time, expertise, relationships, etc.).

Another colleague who works with the Chinese immigrant community invited me to several virtual meetings she organized with parents. The same with the Black community. Sitting in and listening and watching how others move through virtual space is a great way for me to connect and learn, and hopefully over time build trust and share gifts back with them too.

In other places, the communication network is through apps such as Wee Chat or Kako. Finding out where and how people communicate naturally is an important part of meeting people where they are at and accepting the privilege of communicating with them in their preferred way. Too often mainstream systems require people to receive information through their preferred channels – email, text, websites, etc. Meeting people where they are at builds trust and you’ll hear more authentically what people are needing and where the bright spots are.

New Ways Of Operating

Through COVID we’ve had to shift how we communicate. Video and virtual adaptability is a must, but that doesn’t mean everyone can participate equally. We’ve blogged earlier about how to make sure online communication is inclusive of Deaf and Hard of Hearing community by providing ASL interpretation or captioning, and other accommodations for people with disabilities. In other places groups are having to figure out how to provide language access in virtual spaces, including simultaneous interpretation of meetings. These new ways of working are important and we shouldn’t give up because we think it is “too hard,” “too expensive,” or we don’t have enough time to learn a new system.

While the COVID shutdown has required programs and meetings to move online, in some ways this has opened up new ways for people to attend meetings and participate. With the shift to online, I’ve noticed some meetings I regularly attend in person now has more people attending online. I’ve also appreciated how arts organizations have adapted to allowing for digital passes of their programs and recording them so people can listen or watch when it works with their schedule – a plus for people who are caregiving and can’t always participate live. I hope when we eventually get out of COVID we don’t lose some of these new ways that accommodate more people.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Catherine L., Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Matias, Matthew, matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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Questions with No Answers

Three rocks on a beach, photo by erin okuno

Hi All,

I’m going to be honest, I have no idea what to write this week. The week has been a whirlwind of unwinding from summer amid a pandemic and prepping for the unknowns of online schooling starting tomorrow.

For this week’s post here is a series of questions I’ve been pondering. They are random and non-linear, each deserves some deep thought which I know I’m not giving them at this moment. Maybe you’ll have some deep answers to share back with me. Read them with an eye towards race and equity, even though the questions are brief.

  • When will the pandemic end?
  • What gifts has the pandemic brought us? I’m not dismissing the hurt, pain, and loss which we’ve all felt.
  • How has COVID impacted you and your neighbors across racial lines?
  • How have I built trust within POC communities in this moment?
  • Where have I misused trust during COVID?
  • Will my internet access hold up with three video-calls and streaming Netflix in the background?
  • How will families without internet or stable housing navigate this online world?
  • Who is working on net neutrality (remember that from several years ago) and treating the internet like a public good and utility?
  • Should I keep Disney+, which was only supposed to be like a one-month treat, but alas people in my house are now hooked and watching Hamilton on rerun (I still haven’t sat down to watch it all the way through yet).
  • Did I read enough authors of color to fill my summer BINGO card? And does reading about Pokemon count towards animal so I can fill in that square?
  • What books should I read next? Especially thinking about Indigenous and Black experiences.
  • Am I spending my money to support Black and Indigenous owned businesses recover faster from the economic disaster COVID has brought?
  • A few months ago, a group of us sent about $100 to a Black colleague in recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement. She wanted to take her family to dinner at a Black owned restaurant but couldn’t find one in her city. She emailed the mayor to ask how they could work together to get COVID recovery money to boost Black business ownership, I wonder what happened to this? A small donation triggered a larger conversation about economic recovery for the Black community.
  • Will the families at my school, which 50% qualify for free and reduced lunch, be ok this fall?
  • If, and when, the second wave of COVID19 hits will we have better systems in place to support families of color?
  • Should I order another Costco pack of toilet paper now in case we have a second wave? If I do is this hoarding and abusing my economic privileges?
  • When can I fit in a blood or platelet donation appointment?
  • Will the postal service survive COVID and the presidential interference? This was supposed to be their moment to shine.
  • What will the Tuesday, November 3 election look like?
  • How can we work together to ensure POCs are able to vote?
  • Will my friend’s 70+ year old African American aunt have to show up in person risking her health just to vote when she could do it via mail instead (she registered for an absentee ballot but so far the paperwork hasn’t gone through).
  • Should I buy another facemask because it’s cute?
  • Who needs masks, can I get them some?
  • When will I have to use my alarm clock again? I haven’t used it since February when I had to quarantine.
  • Should I KonMari my work clothes? I haven’t worn them since February, probably not since they still spark little sprinkles of joy.
  • What sparks joy now?
  • How are our leaders of color? Are they ok? So many of us are pushing against systemic racism which they inherited in their organizations and need to fix, but at the same time they are POCs who need support too.
  • Who’s emails and calls have I neglected – are they POCs?
  • How do we leverage this rare moment to fix our broken systems?
  • What do I need to pause to reflect on versus just moving forward?
  • Who do I need to thank today for their good work and good relations?

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Deidra, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Matias, Matthew, matthew w., Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Mickey, Mickey L., Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Natasha D., Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Porsche, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Su, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

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Do The Work

Note: I’m taking next week off from blogging. It is that time of the year where Seattlites and parents try to eek out the last bits of summer before the return to school schedules. Stay safe.

Mural near Franklin High School, Seattle, WA | Photo copyright Erin Okuno

At least once a week I hear someone say something along the lines of someone needing to “do their work” around race, this is code and shorthand for the person hasn’t done a lot of thinking or have a deep understanding about race. I remember nodding along when colleagues more woke than me would complain others, especially white people of privilege, hadn’t done their work around race. I nodded like I was part of the club who understood. In the back of my head I knew I was an imposter and didn’t fully understand what it meant. Over the years through being in spaces and conversations with people that have done their work around race, I decoded the term and continuing to do my own work around racial awareness, learning, understanding, and healing.

This post isn’t a super deep post or racial justice manifesto. My one hope for this post is it can help people just starting out on understanding race what we mean when we say “do the work.” Use this as a crutch to understanding what that means and as a way to start out.

What does “The Work” mean

My version of the term “work” around race includes learning, understanding, reflection, analysis, and healing around race. In order for a person to do their work around race means having to actively take part in all of these steps. A person can’t read a book or watch a documentary and say they have now done their work, that is one step but not the destination, or the end of their work. They should also reflect and spend time thinking about what it means for themselves.

Several years ago, I read the book The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. It is a hefty book and it took me multiple borrowings from the library to finish it. I read it because many people recommended it and I wanted to learn more about the African American experience, something I didn’t grow up learning much about. As I read the book it started as more of an intellectual exercise – read the history, connect it to events I learned about over time, and so on. I put the book down for a while and came back to it, this time I was more ready to grapple with the complexity of the stories included. Including reflecting on the migration story on my own ancestors (my brother calls it the “coming to America” family story – it involves pineapples and sugar cane). By the end of the book, I had a better analysis of historical racism, African American migration in the US, understood the strengths of the African American community, and trauma that happened to African Americans. This was work I needed to do on my own and to connect with to show up as more of an ally and accomplice to social justice work. I also know this one book isn’t going to teach me everything about the African American and Black experiences.

Reading this one book, is a step, the deeper work requires reflection and grappling with emotions and noticing the layers of harm, damage, and hurt that we’ve inherited, perpetuated, and participate in everyday. If you stop at just noticing but not grappling with the harder stuff, then you’re no help to the racial justice movement and as I heard on a webinar: “You may be woke, but you’re still in bed.”

“Get Out of Bed” — Analysis

I’ve also seen people begin to understand race and they show up in meetings speaking proudly and loudly as warriors and champions for people of color, but when you listen to their words they haven’t stopped to fully contextualize or analyze how race and polices and practices impact Black and Brown people. Analysis and deepening our understanding of how policies and practices impact POCs differently is an important part of race work. This is also a much harder step to take, since impacts are felt different by race and ethnicity, education, socio-economic status, disability, etc. Doing “the work” means also understanding personal privilege and realizing how to “show up,” and how to be an ally. Being woke, means also getting out of bed to show up in helpful ways. It sometimes means putting yourself out there, it means being uncomfortable, sometimes it may mean even personally putting your body on the line to protect a Black or Brown person.

“Don’t Burden Black and Brown People”

Black and Brown people get asked all the time by sometimes well-meaning people and sometimes ignorant or aggressive people to explain why they aren’t racist, how they can’t be wrong, and how they are good white people. If you are doing the work, you’ll understand the fakequity in my statement above. White people, in particular, y’all need to do your work around race in ways that doesn’t burden Black and Brown people. Find friends, especially white people, that are more experienced in understanding race and explain why you want to learn about race. Be willing to acknowledge your white and other privileges.

If you do ask a Black or Brown person to explain race and racism, you better be prepared to believe them. No asking follow up questions where you try to poke holes in their stories or justify the experience. As people of color we’ve lived through racism and when it isn’t believed that is just one more experience to add to the tally. As my friend said several times today “Believe Black women, just believe us.”

The work never ends

The good news and hard news is “the work,” never ends. You don’t get a woke badge after you read 10 books and know 10 Black and Brown people. The work also requires continuous learning, reflection, healing, and being in relationships with others. Work on those things and you’ll make good headway on “the work.”

If you need some tips on how to start “the work,” check out the 2020 and 2019 Fakequity Pledges, or the 2018 list of things to do and not do. They have some ideas for ways to deepen thinking and force us out of our comfort zones. Please keep in mind these were written pre-COVID19 so some of the ideas like dining out (unless it is take-out) or traveling should not be done right now.  

A few different reading list are on Fakequity as well, start here, for list with more children and young adult books check out these two lists Reading for Pride and Justice 2019 and 2020.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Matias, Matthew, Maura, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Mickey, Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, RuchikaSarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. Please subscribe, the sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version).

Returning to School during COVID19

Public Artwork at El Centro de la Raza — Seattle, copyright Erin Okuno

School has started for some school districts in the US, and in other places reopening plans with COVID19 still raging are now in planning phases. I’ve followed school reopening plans since it is part of my job, also as a parent of school age children I am intimately entangled in this new way of schooling. I still remember when schools closed in-person instruction in Feb/March 2020. Back then I never would have thought we’d start this school year remotely.

Since school is reopening remotely/virtually for many students I thought I’d share some general trends and thoughts I’m noticing from sitting through reopening meetings, reading a lot of articles, and thoughts as a parent.

Family Engagement – Just because many schools are virtual/remote learning doesn’t mean family engagement stops. In fact right now educators need to double down on staying connected to families overall. Parents/caregivers have always been a child’s first teacher. Now they really are more involved in their children’s education because of stay-at-home orders. Building a relationship with parents/caregivers is an important partnership.

For education systems and educators this means checking your privilege, biases, and digging deep to focus on how race impacts school-family interactions.

If your school is in-person but limiting who enters the school building to limit contact, please remember for many families this doesn’t feel great. For families who have a mistrust of the school system because of historical trauma and racism (e.g. Native American boarding schools, bullying, anti-Blackness by school systems, etc.), sending their children into a building and knowing the doors are not open to visits or their involvement may not feel safe or comfortable.

Re-evaluating priorities — As we think about returning to school, we know school won’t look like it did in February of 2020 – right before many school districts closed in-person instruction. We need to be ok with school not being ‘normal.’ As my friend Carrie reminds me often, ‘normal’ is a social construct, and defaults to white-ableism beliefs.

After schools closed to in-person instruction many school districts pivoted to making sure kids were fed and otherwise safe. One of the first text threads I ended up on was with a partner organization that quickly pivoted to providing hot meals three days a week. A local POC owned restaurant, Super Six, made it clear she wanted to support community efforts and keep her employees working as long as she could. WA-BLOC also wanted to help by feeding their students and families, they raised money and have since paid local POC owned restaurants to keep their meal sites going. This new ‘normal’ is an important way of redefining priorities.

Re-evaluating our priorities is an important step as we navigate the new normal. As parents/caregivers, educators, and community members this moment is a rare gift of time to think about how do we want to redefine our thinking. I totally understand how exhausting it is to be forced out of comfort zones, to have to search for new answers, to navigate new ways of working (hello, Zoom-fatigue), to having people/kids/pets constantly around (hello again, introvert who likes alone time is now rarely alone). Despite all of this we can redefine our thinking to prioritize anti-racism ways of acting, undoing systems that uphold privilege. Now is a great time to rethink our priorities.

Don’t Pit People Against Each Other — As we return to school, decisions will be made to prioritize services. Such as who gets laptops first, which students should return to in-person instruction first, how to provide services to disabled students, etc. Hard decisions need to be made and I don’t envy people who have to make them.

As decisions are made it is important not to pit people against each other. As an example, we shouldn’t say one essential worker is more valuable than another. A doctor isn’t more deserving of status than a delivery driver or a grocery store cashier. If you are confused by this thinking, here is an example: “But the doctor saves lives…” yes, AND the childcare worker who makes just above minimum wage who is watching children of the doctor and other essential workers children needs support too. Saying one is more important excuses the educational system (and other systems) from creating a wholistic community centric approach to education. The burden should be put back on the system and not individuals to fight for inadequate resources. This is where we value our community as a whole and we also remember to think about privilege, racial justice needs, and how to support racial equity values that lead to racial justice.

What to do – Hold true to racial equity and racial justice principles and decision making — Several friends complained how they’re tired of the phrase “Students furthest from educational justice.” I had to laugh and confess I am the original author of that phrase. A quick Twitter search will yield a tweets of people saying “Ok, I guess my [white] kid isn’t going to get to go back to school.” The phrase has been co-opted, but overall the sentiment still needs to be held to. We need to think about students furthest from justice and prioritize their needs first, yes white children will still be served.

Earlier in the post I wrote don’t pit people against each other, which is true, AND we need to make accommodations and provisions for Black and Brown students who are feeling the effects of the pandemic and the impact of other social violence – violence against Black people, anti-immigration policies, Indigenous erasure, anti-Asian racism due to COVID19, etc. Remember returning to school isn’t an equal experience for every student. Students have experienced COVID19 in many different ways, some more acutely than others, such as COVID19 illnesses and deaths in families, housing instability, job loss, food instability, technology gaps, socialization absences, etc. We need to understand these experiences, build relationships with our POC families, and make sure they are ok. We can’t close achievement gaps until we close relationship gaps.

Double down on learning about race and its impact on education. We all have spheres of influence we can impact with smarter thinking and decision making. Push for racial justice everywhere you can. Call it out, ask questions, support each other. We can make returning to school more racially just if we try.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving helps to keep the blog ad-free, pay for back end cost, research cost, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe we’ll appreciate it.

Abby, Adrienne, Agent OO1, Aimie, Alessandra P., Alessandra Z., Ali, Aline, Allison, Amber, Amira, Amy H., Amy P., Amy R., Andrea, Angelica, Angie, Avery, Barb, Barrett, Beth, Betsy, Brad, Brian, Brooke B., Brooke D.W., Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie B., Carrie S., Catherine, Cedra, Celicia, Chandra, Chelsea, Clara, Clark, Claudia, claudia, Colleen, Colleen, Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danielle, Danya, Darcy, Darcy E., David, Dawnnesha, Deb, Debbie, Denyse, Diana, Dick, Don, E M., Ed, Edith, Elizabeth, emily, Erica L., Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, Francis, Hannah L., Hayden, Heather H.x2, Heather M., Heidi, Heidi H., Heidi N. and Laura P., Heidi S., Hilary B.A., Ivy, J Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Jady, Jaime, Jake, Jean, Jeanne, Jen, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jennifer W., Jessa, Jessica F, Jessica G. Jessica R., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon G., Jon P., Jordan, Julia, Julia S., Karen, Kari, Kate C., Kate G., Kathryn A., Kathryn O.D., Katie, Katie O., Kawai, Keisha, Kelli, Kellie H., Kellie M., Kelly, Kimberly, Kirsten C., Kirsten W., Krista, Kristen D., Kristen R., Kristy, Kumar, Kyla, Laura B T., Laura G., Laurel, Lauren, Laurie B., Laurie K., Leah, Lisa C., Lisa P.W., Lisa S., Liz, Lori G., Lyn, Lynn, Maggie, Maka, Marc, Mark K., Matias, Matthew, Maura, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michael, Migee, Mikaela, Mike Q., Milo, Miranda W., Misha, Molly, Myrna, Nancy, Nat, Natasha, Nathan, Norah, Norrie, Peggy, PMM, Polly, Rachel, Rachel S.R., Raquel, Raquel S., Rebecca, Rebecca S., Risa, Rise Up for Students, Ruby, Ruchika, Sarah B., Sarah L., Sarah S., Sarita, Seam Ripper, Sean W., SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Shelley, Sierra, Siobhan, Skyler, Steph, Stephanie, Stephen, Susan C., Susan L.M., Susan U., Tana, Tania, Tania T.D., Tara, TerraCorps, Terri, Tracy, Vanessa, virginia, Vivian, Willow, Yoko, Yvette

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. Please subscribe, the sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version).