White People: We Don’t Have Solutions for You

Super High Pandas memes | quickmeme

picture of pandas asking “Do you ever like think like… why? Ya know?” “Totally.”

A few days ago, I was chatting with a colleague and we somehow landed on the topic of white people being lazy in their social justice and racial justice work. We sighed and chuckled as we recalled how well-intentioned and well-meaning white people get so exasperated and frustrated when they realize they don’t have all of the answers in talking about race.

They sometimes know the basics such as listen to pocs, show up, know when to step-back, etc. but they stop there. Inevitably what comes out is “tell me what to do – tell me what to read and how to learn this.” What I hear is: I’m tired of being wrong, I don’t like being uncomfortable with not knowing or not being right, I don’t want to sound or look stupid or ignorant, I don’t want to mess up, and I want you to like me. I get it, no one likes feeling that way, but if you are human and engaging with the world all of those emotions, possibly shameful feelings are part of life (at least according to what I’ve read in the Brene Brown books).

This may sound counter to what I’ve written before and what other BIPOCs may have told you, but here it is: BIPOCs don’t have solutions for you. We often say stop and follow Black and Brown people’s lead, listen to us, and stop coming up with solutions to fix poc problems. I still wholly believe in this message, but here is where I want to nuance it – stop asking us to think and come up with YOUR solutions for your work and problems. On Monday my friend and colleague Vu wrote about Solutions Privilege – how privileged (white) people don’t want to accept or do the hard work of looking for solutions to problems. He points out the same problem through a slightly different lens.

I can’t fix your problems and my BIPOC friends can’t fix them for you either. In some cases, we’ve tried –we’ve explained, broken down examples, expended emotional labor, given data and in the end things stay the same. I can’t fix others, the only person who can change is the person who is ready to change.

It is time for white people to put in some deep thinking and work around finding solutions to your own racist problems. There isn’t a worksheet developed by people of color that will teach you how not to mess up, there isn’t a manual or a TED Talk that will easily bring you to woke-ness. Tools like worksheets and reading articles and listening to NPR’s Code Switch podcast will help you learn but you must be willing to put in the time thinking, analyzing, talking to others and being willing to be humble to learn.

Stop Looking for Easy

Expecting others to spoon feed you solutions is too easy, like being given a grade school reading primer before reading chapter books. You’ll learn something from the easy books, but you won’t learn how to think for yourself, nor will you acquire the skills needed to have a deeper analysis around race.

We’re all thinking people who are capable to doing more than just accepting what is told to us. Racial equity work requires us to contextualize what we are learning and to humanize it. We can learn to hold multiple versions of stories and develop empathy for others. No single workbook or TED Talk will give you that, take the time to do some deep thinking and reflecting around race and power.

There also isn’t one way to gain this skill except to constantly practicing and asking yourself questions about race. As an example, today I was talking to a friend who teaches adults. She said in one of her classes she assigned students into several groups by race since the lessons were around identity work, the white students were evenly dispersed into the groups. The BIPOCs enjoyed the conversations and delved deeply into the session. The white students didn’t even notice the racial formation of the group. My friend said she was disappointed with the white student’s racial blindness. She’d been pushing them for several weeks to be more aware of their surroundings and how race plays into it. It also showed how the white students expect to be comfortable in most settings.

Do Some Harder Work

Start being conscious of how race impacts people’s daily lives. As an example, spend one day or one week recording where you spend your money. At the end of the day or week categorize where you spent your money – was it at predominately white owned businesses, who were the workers at the businesses – who is in management and who isn’t at the business, what neighborhoods did you shop in, if you shopped online why did you choose that business over another that is poc owned. Questions like these force us to think and examine how race impacts our lives. This isn’t a hard thing to do but it is uncomfortable forcing ourselves to slow down and really think about our choices in life.

There are many other ways to do harder work and harder thinking, but I’m not going to give you all the ways to do it – that would be the lazy spoon fed way of servicing your needs. Go think and enjoy the harder thinking.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Adrienne, Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ashlie, Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chandra, Chelsea, Claudia, Cierra, Clark, Crystal, Dean, Denise, Denyse, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Janis, Jean, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, John, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kristen C., Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Makeba, Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Nicole, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah S., Sean, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie S., Tana, Tara, Terri, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

 

Identifying the Problem: Closing the Opportunity Gap is NOT Racial Justice

Editor’s Note: This is part two of the blog post “Closing the opportunity gap is NOT racial justice.” Be sure to go back and read part one to get a fuller understanding of this blog post.

By Heidi K. Schillinger

Fakequity Checklist 1.0Last week I asked you to do some homework. Did you identify what stage of denial or acceptance you and your organization are in with upholding the opportunity gap?

Once we can admit our organizations are upholding systemic racism, we can start looking for the root causes of the problem. This is going to be the start of a list, but not an exhaustive list.

Only a Single Lever: Changing the narrative is important, but a narrative change alone doesn’t dismantle systemic racism. It can be an important pivot point to get people to, in the words of organizational psychologist Adam Grant, “doubt the default” and engage in different conversations. But as we have seen with racial “equity,” talking about racial equity is not the same as implementing racial equity (#fakequityoriginstory). Narrative changes without also changing decision-makers and approaches, still upholds the status quo of systemic racism.

Ignoring the Impact of History: Too many people and organizations ignore or don’t make explicit connections to historical practices of forced assimilation of Indigenous Peoples through boarding schools, enslavement of Black people, and segregation of all people of color in education to why we currently still have systems where whiteness is still the standard. In the United States, we need to acknowledge that education has been weaponed as a tool to oppress people of color, especially Native and Black people. If we don’t make these explicit links, we uphold the implicit racist narrative that schools have mostly white leaders, white teachers, white curriculum, white norms because white folks are superior. Or white folks have been here longer. Or that the pervasive whiteness in our system is normal. All these statements are false, widespread unconscious beliefs that uphold racial injustice.

Dominant Society [Whiteness] Appropriation: Using the Closing the Opportunity Gap narrative has become the safety pin/easy version of performative organizational racial equity work. The origins might have been rooted in racial justice, but the appropriation of the term by mainstream organizations from school districts to philanthropy has watered down this term. It is like watching the same people who told me kimchi smells now making a fortune off selling their “more palatable version of kimchi.” And now, this new trendy and profitable version is more recognizable and popular than the authentic, smelly kimchi. #appropriation

Same Ole’ Tools that Use Whiteness as the Standard: My main argument around why “closing the achievement gap” is not racial justice is rooted in the fact that we continue to use the same ole’ tools. The continued obsession over standardized test scores and graduation rates as the indicators for “closing the opportunity gap” keeps our misdirection guided by whiteness as the standard. Before I get a lot of nasty notes, I am not making a statement about the usefulness of standardized testing (although I could), I am making the statement that using standardized test scores as an indicator of “closing the opportunity gap” keeps our strategies and approaches focused on “fixing” kids of color to meet this standard set to whiteness. It is also a standard that uses mostly East-Asians as a model minority tool to uphold this racist standard. This cannot be called racial justice work. If your closing the opportunity gap work is fixated on standardized test scores as the main or even primary indicator, we should not be calling this racial justice or racial equity work. Likewise, if your organization relies heavily on [read: white] evidenced-based programs, [read: white] promising practices, and [read: white] evaluation tools, you are using tools that uphold white supremacy and racial injustice.

Individual Support vs Disrupting Systemic Patterns: Somewhere in the national conversation, we have established an overdeveloped muscle to talk about individuals and an underdeveloped muscle to talk about systems. This is how this plays out in the “opportunity gap” conversation. It has organizations focused on meeting “individual student needs” and believing this is racial equity, as if being racialized Black or Native alone creates an individual need for a student that we need to “fix.” This is another of the roots of racism; the false narrative that race creates biological differences that we can attribute to the societal gaps we see. The continued, albeit mostly implicit, false belief that people of color are inherently and biologically inferior. Being racialized has nothing to do with individual effort, it has everything to do with unfair policies, practices, and narratives. Want to hear real examples of systemic racism in education, check out Start Up Podcast’s Success Academy 7: The High School Episode.

Racial justice provokes us to understand and change the dominant white systems that create these patterns of disproportionate outcomes. Differentiating for an individual student based on interest, needs, or culture is not unimportant, it is just not racial justice. Racial justice looks at broad patterns of disproportionate outcomes by race and changes the system for all, yes even white folks will benefit from systems that don’t constantly center whiteness. Specifically, it asks us to acknowledge we have education systems that have mostly white decision makers, mostly white teachers, mostly white curriculum, mostly white cultural norms, and mostly white kids “succeeding.”Racial justice asks us to not make excuses for this system, to not continue to push an education system that is rooted in white supremacy. Racial justice work is a movement towards real, specific, and tangible changes to create systems (leaders, teachers, curriculum, norms, etc.,) that don’t have these predictable patterns by race. If you want more on shifting from thinking about individual support to identifying systemic patterns, check out this article The Achievement Gap vs. The Justice Gap: Race vs. Redemption.

Required, Not Desired: Seek, compensate, and follow the wisdom and leadership of the people most impacted: communities, families, and students of color, especially, within Indigenous, African-American, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Southeast Asian communities.

So how can we get closer to racial justice in education? We need to engage and support power from within communities of color who are farthest from the current default white system. Communities of Color are context and content experts in how the system is broken AND experts on proposing new ideas and ways to test and try. We need to seek, compensate, and follow the wisdom and leadership of the people most impacted: communities, families, and students of color, especially, within Indigenous, African-American, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Southeast Asian communities.

This work needs to be required, not just desired. And, if you are reactively thinking, well show me what that looks like, I gently remind you that there is no such thing as an easy answer. We need to continue to engage in the hard work. But we do have numerous examples of how our communities of color have come together to set our own educational standard, they are just not usually publicly funded or deemed a “best practice” by whiteness. Consider some of these examples:

We are talking about communities of color, not individual people of color. One person or even two people of color cannot and should not “represent” the vast array of different racialized experiences. Too often white systems tokenize or two-kenize – a phrase that captures when we have two, not just one token – it is a phrase I heard on a podcast (I can’t remember the name of). All the examples above bring a specific racial (or ethnic) community or a coalition of communities of color together and allow us to show the complexity and humanity of our communities. Although we may be connected by race, our racialized experiences are complex due to other factors of identity such as class, gender, age, sexual orientation, faith, disability status, immigration status, language, etc. This diversity of racialized experiences will never be recognized if white systems continue to tokenize or two-kinize one or two people, continuing to uphold racial injustice. We can do better. We must do better if we want to pursue racial justice.

If you’d like to apply some of this framing to work outside the “closing the opportunity gap” narrative, try using this simple checklist with your team, co-workers, organization. It is inspired by the book, The Checklist Manifesto. It is a “read and do” list.

We’ve created a Fakequity Checklist 1.0 to help guide you through the checklist thought process. Like all toolkits and checklist, it is only as useful as the time and effort you put into it. Print out several copies, mark them up, rewrite, analyze, think, and write it up again. Share what you’re learning with others and have some deep conversations with accountability partners about the problem to get to better results.

Since PDFs aren’t always screen reader friendly, here is the text of the worksheet:

  • Name / Team / Group / Department – be race conscious
  • Date
  • Title of Problem – What is the Racial Injustice you’re trying to address?
  • Accountability Partners
  • Historical context of the racial injustice
  • What parts of the racial injustice are we upholding?
  • Who is impacted – Which Communities of Color are most impacted?
  • What is within our personal or organizational control, what are we upholding or what can we change?
  • How are we currently learning in public and what else can we do to learn in public?
  • Identify the societal systemic levers that uphold racism. Be specific to the racial injustice identified on page 1 (of the worksheet)
  • Identify our organizational systemic levers that uphold racism, be specific?
  • Document the required processes and approaches to seek out, compensate, and follow the lead of Communities of Color most impacted by the racial injustice — be specific. DON’T TOKENIZE. Is compensation for BIPOCs in your plans?
  • Notes, comments, reactions from accountability partners.

I am testing this new checklist to practice learning in public. If you use it, let us know how it works for you. Maybe we can write a post sharing the way people used the checklist and propose a next draft to test and practice using.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Adrienne, Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ashlie, Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chandra, Chelsea, Claudia, Cierra, Clark, Crystal, Dean, Denise, Denyse, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Janis, Jean, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, John, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Makeba, Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Nicole, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah S., Sean, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie S., Tana, Tara, Terri, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

Closing the opportunity gap is NOT racial justice

By Heidi K. Schillinger

KateDeCiccio-AmandaGorman-WeTheFuture

We the Future Write Our Own Liberation. Artwork from Amplifer by Kate DeCiccio

Okay, Peeps, It’s Time to Admit “Closing the Opportunity Gap” is Not Racial Justice or Racial Equity.

I’m glad you’re intrigued enough by the title to keep reading. You’re a fakequity fighter. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t open to trying on a different perspective, right?

Commitment to Learning in Public

I’m embarrassed to say, it’s been about a year since I last wrote a Fakequity blog post. It’s been a long time. I have a long list of excuses, some more valid than others; a lot of life changes, a lot of Korean dramas, a lot of miles on my bike. Recently, I asked myself why I have such a hard time putting my ideas out in writing. My initial thought was I feel more at ease expressing myself through speaking. That made sense, I speak to groups about racial equity on a regular basis. So, I went on this quest to see if I could start a podcast. Attended a podcast conference and found out it is more complicated than I anticipated.

I haven’t given up on a podcast, but I realized that if I am being honest with myself, one of the reasons I don’t blog a lot is because I have perfectionist tendencies. I want to fully think through my ideas, consider all the potential resistance, and all the potential missing perspectives before putting my ideas out in public. I think these perfectionist tendencies come from adoption trauma, learned behavior as a woman of color who is constantly challenged to defend my ideas, and from the infection of white supremacy that asks us all to try to aspire to unrealistic expectations such as perfectionism.

After a lot of internal dialogue, and sparked by listening to the podcast, All My Relations, I decided I need to make a stronger commitment to learning in public. One of the All My Relations hosts, Dr. Adrienne Keene, frequently talks about “consenting to learn in public.” (Side note, if you haven’t checked out the All My Relations podcast, please do. They describe it as “a podcast to discuss our relationships as Native peoples– relationships to land, to ancestors, and to each other.”) 

Here is what I realized. I am constantly evolving. My ideas are constantly evolving. I develop drafts and drafts in my head while I am riding my bike. I am constantly being influenced by other people’s ideas, questions, and perspectives. I am guessing I am not alone, and I need to model the vulnerability of learning in public that I am asking other people to make. So here we go.

The Admission: I Uphold Systemic Racism. I Uphold White Supremacy.

Yes, you read that correctly. I am making the admission. Even as a woman of color I uphold systemic racism. I fall easily into the default ways of whiteness that are rewarded in our system. I am asking you to make this admission too. No, this is not a “we are all equal” statement. People of color, especially Black and Indigenous Peoples are disproportionality impacted by these systems, but we can all uphold systemic racism.

This might be the hardest part of undoing systems of racism, the admission phase. Here is how this works as it connects to the “opportunity gap” narrative. What stage of denial are you and your organization in right now?

  • Straight Up Denial: Racism doesn’t exist (anymore). All this emphasis on the “Opportunity Gap” or “Achievement Gap” or whatever you want to call it is reverse racism [read: against white people]. What about all [read: white] kids? What about poor [read: white] kids? What about my [read: white] kid?
  • Fakequity Denial: No, my organization has worked a long time to switch our language from “achievement gap” to “opportunity gap” [read: but everything else stays the same; same mostly all white decision makers, same mostly all white designed “evidenced based” programs, same mostly all white framed evaluation tools, etc.] and we are now on the path to racial equity.
  • Fakequity Fighter Denial: No, we have pushed so hard to change the narrative from “achievement gap” to “opportunity gap.” I read [the 2012 article], Please Stop Using the Phrase ‘Achievement Gap’ and changed my framing. We’ve even pushed philanthropy and government to start using the phrase opportunity gap. No. No. . . .Okay, maybe the phrase has gotten appropriated, maybe people changed the words but not the [mostly all white] decision makers. Maybe people are still funding and pushing “promising practices” asking students of color to change by developing grit, studying harder, etc. rather than changing the systems. Maybe I am, unintentionally, supporting approaches that ask students of color to learn how to survive in education systems that have mostly all white decision makers, mostly all white teachers, mostly all white curriculum, and mostly all white cultural norms.
  • Acceptance: Yes, it me. It is my organization. We are pushing programs, approaches and processes under the banner of “closing the opportunity gap” that uphold systemic racism and white supremacy.

Does the resistance sound familiar? It is hard to confront and reflect on how we operate and to realize we uphold practices we claim to be working to undo. Have you worked through your resistance?

Are you ready to make the admission and move onto identifying the problem? Next week I’ll share more about how closing the opportunity gap is not racial justice. Your homework for the week is to identify which level of denial you or your organization is in, and to identify ways you’re upholding systemic racism.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Adrienne, Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ashlie, Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chelsea, Cierra, Clark, Crystal, Dean, Denise, Denyse, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Janis, Jean, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, John, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Makeba, Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Nicole, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah S., Sean, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie S., Tana, Tara, Terri, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

Cake time

20180217_181958It is time to celebrate! Thank you to the 102 people who are Patreon subscribers to the blog. I wrote when we hit 100 Patreon supporters we’d celebrate with a virtual cake, so here is our cake. I also decided we need to do more than just celebrate with a picture of a cake, we’re going all in – a whole blog post about cakes in different cultures.

I asked friends to weigh in on the topic. My friend Bao asked if I was writing just about cakes or more broadly sweets since cakes come in many different forms. There are sweet cakes and savory cakes, cakes you eat in the morning and some you eat at night. The world of cakes and sweets is rich and deserves a post.

Cakes and Cultures

Many have studied cultures and have determined the essential elements that define cultures – language, religion, values/attitudes, social structure, communication, and some people list food. I believe culture defines food, and vice versa food defines culture. How we celebrate with food is also a defining part of a culture. Many cultures have their own versions of sweets and cakes. Bao mentioned the Vietnamese word for cake is bánh, which is part of the name of bánh mi — the name of Vietnamese sandwiches.

fruit cake

Ice cream cake vs. Asian fruit cake –h/t Stacy for finding this on Facebook

During mid-autumn festival, harvest time, mooncakes are popular treats in the Chinese culture. These round cakes symbolize togetherness and reunion and are often served with tea. Stacy, a friend, said she coveted the mooncakes with the salty egg yolks, and through her church, she discovered other types of mooncakes – red bean paste, lotus paste, and even durian. Some other Chinese sweet and savory treats are niin go, rice cake cut into diamonds, and the beloved Asian/Chinese fruit cake – a white cake with layers of fruit in the middle. If you’ve had the fruit cake you’ll remember it – not sugary-sweet like Costco frosting filled cakes which is disappointing as a kid, but delicious and appealing as an adult.

One of the best pound cakes I ever had came from an African American friend. She took care of my babies and only later did I discover Miss Nicee, as the kids call her, is a baker on the side. Her pound cakes are nothing like Sara Lee’s from the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. Her pound cakes are buttery smooth and just the right amount of sweet. Caramel cake, soul food, is on my list of cakes to try – all of that caramel soaking into that cake, deliciousness on a plate.

My friend recently had a baby who is about to turn 100-days old. To mark the occasion they’ll be eating and making Baekseolgi-tteok 백설기떡, a white steamed cake. According to my friend, it is a delicious treat, but very cumbersome to make since it needs to be steamed. The tradition is the more people who share in the cake eating the longer life the baby will have. I want her baby to have a long life so I volunteer to eat a bite or two.

Not Sweet, but still Cakes

20180408_112854

Okonomiyaki — so delicious. Photo copyright Erin Okuno

At another time we’ll have to explore pancake culture. For years I’d dutifully eat an American style Bisquick made pancake because someone took the time to make it and to feed me. Pancakes were never my favorite, I’d much prefer savory eggs or something sweet like a piece of leftover cake for breakfast. A few years ago, I read a Seattle Times article that I now can’t find, about the best pancakes in Seattle. The food writer looked at pancakes from many cultures and regions such as Chinese scallion pancakes, crepes, Dutch baby pancakes, etc. Some of my favorite pancakes are Japanese okonomiyaki, a pancake with cabbage and savory elements cooked into it, and Korean pajeon.

The not sweet part of sweets is looking at how colonization, and sugar, in particular, have shaped our world views. I won’t go into detail on this since this is a more celebratory blog post thanking many of you for supporting the blog, but in researching the topic I had to stop and consider how sugar has shaped our BIPOC communities. For Japanese in Hawaii, including my family, my ancestors most likely immigrated from Japan to Hawaii to work on the sugarcane or pineapple fields. The poverty and economics of working the fields were hard. Many Africans were stolen from their motherland and enslaved on sugar fields. Gabe, who is Native American, reminded me of the legacy of how the US government provided commodities and food that wasn’t indigenous thus changing food culture for many Indigenous people. Recently I heard from a food justice organizer about how berry pickers in Washington organized and went on strike over poor working conditions in the strawberry fields. Food justice is integral to being a whole and just society.

Sweet!

Thank you to everyone who supports the blog by being a Patreon, subscribing, or reading and sharing the blog. The fakequity team enjoys hearing from you and knowing so many of you are working on undoing the legacies of racism in your own ways and in your communities.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ashlie, Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chelsea, Cierra, Clark, Dean, Denise, Denyse, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Janis, Jean, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, John, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Makeba, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Nicole, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah S., Sean, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie S., Tana, Tara, Terri, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). 

We Can All Do Something

20190322_003253

Student artwork from Rainier Beach High School, summer 2018. Artwork of people who did something to fight racism and injustice.

“Do you know the fastest way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” A friend shared this as a metaphor for undoing racism. She was making a point that we won’t undo racism in one fell-swoop or by blowing up systems with a big kaboom.

Big and small bites make a difference, they may not feel like progress in the moment since it often feels like we’re compromising or not really getting what we want, but those bites are important when we step back and realize those small wins and bites eventually amount to larger changes.

The backstory to my friend’s comment was it was in response to a person who felt paralyzed and stifled to make racially just changes in his organization. Many in the room empathized, but we were also impatient and not in the mood to hand out pity or platitudes. Pity and platitudes aren’t going to help our babies — we wanted to hear about the bites he was making to tackle racism.

Take a Small Bite – What is your small bite?

Racial equity work can be paralyzing and tough. A few weeks ago, I spent time with several womxn of color colleagues and friends over a delicious dinner of homemade couscous and fragrant chicken cooked in a tagine. Over dinner we swapped stories, laughed, and talked. As we traded stories I noted the changes we were talking about took place over time and they happened because we were willing to take steps and small bites, building slowly but persistently to change. None of us had stories of sweeping change where we got to racial justice overnight.

During the dinner, we joked about how many of us are really good at writing letters and emails demanding change; it is the nature of our jobs and one of the ‘tools’ we use. Our ‘one-small-bite’ often starts with a “Dear [blank], I’m writing to comment on [blank].” As we chuckled about our letters writing skills, our letters work as a form of action — our one small bite. One friend shared how she wrote an email to the head of a major company detailing racism she had experienced from the company and within a half-hour of hitting send the CEO of the company called her to apologize and they talked through changes she wanted to see happen. Through that phone call, my friend asked to speak to lower-level decision makers, figuring they had more direct lines of communication with front line workers who interact with the public like her. When she spoke to the mid-level managers, she asked them questions and they brainstormed changes that will reach multiple parts of their company. All of these changes happened because she took one small bite at calling out racism. I acknowledge there was a lot of privilege that played out in being able to take that bite. My friend has safety and security in calling it out even as a poc, she’s English literate, has access to technology, can code-switch — that said she used her privileges to disrupt racism as we all should.

Another colleague shared how frustrated he was with the inactivity within his organization around racial equity. They are doing some of the low-hanging fruit such as book clubs and a few talks inviting guests to meet with the staff. I reminded him these small changes over time make a difference if they build towards bigger changes. The movement building takes persistence and being willing to be in for the long-game.

Bigger Bites

While I’ve been talking about taking small bites and saying ‘something is better than nothing,’ I’m imagining my friend Kirk sitting across from me at a lunch table giving me his stare down and telling me this approach is wrong. One of the many reasons I enjoy Kirk, he keeps it real or as he says “100.”

Many times we don’t have time to wait for incremental change. Babies can’t wait for adults to stop tripping over ourselves tinkering with little changes in the hopes they snowball into complete overhauls. Kirk constantly reminds me Black and Brown people have been waiting for generations for change to come. There are times to be bold and to go for broke – borrowing the motto of the 442nd Japanese American WWII infantry.

We can lead for bigger changes by putting in our work and being willing to put ourselves and sometimes our bodies on the line. Big changes take investments of time, talent, and resources. It takes having sharp analysis and marshaling the tools that we have in a coordinated way. Pressure from multiple directions is faster and more impactful than waiting for policy change. Movements such as Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo are examples of how big bites resulted in large scale awareness and change.

Do the Work

Do something, sitting on the side and watching others take the lead isn’t going to change things. The more you practice and ‘do’ things the easier it gets and the more you can do it well. Here is a short list of things to consider doing:

  • Disrupt racism – if you hear something ask a question to probe why the speaker feels that way, lead them to your belief.
  • Develop deeper analysis – all the data in the world is meaningless to disrupting racism if the analysis of it is missing or poorly done. Develop a deeper analysis of race and social justice issues by surrounding yourself with people who can push your thinking. Share your thinking with others as a way to lead for change.
  • Thank someone and yourself – I’ve been thinking more about gratitude and how acts of thankfulness need to be embedded into our long-term work. Saying thank you to our elders who laid down their bodies for us, saying thank you to people who share their stories, and saying thank you to ourselves for being in the physical and emotional spaces to do something hard are important to remembering and staying focused. Thank you to all of you for devoting time to thinking about race and its impact on our lives.

For more suggestions about actions to take check out the 2019 Fakequity Pledge. As I write this it is Persian Iranian New Year, Nowruz (21 March 2019), so a perfect time to renew your new year’s resolutions and pledge to do something.


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Privilege – you’ve got it, now use it for good

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“United Against Oppression” Artwork from Amplifier by Courtenay Lewis

Yesterday, I talked to my friend who teaches English at a private high school in Hawaii. She was sharing how hard it is to get her white students to understand the concept of racism. Her white students complained they couldn’t relate to the text or concept because they had to stretch their brains to understand a different point of view and it took too much energy to relate to the poc characters and viewpoints. They also argued they shouldn’t have to relate their lived experiences to the book they were reading because they’ve experienced racism by being in the minority in Hawaii. My friend was frustrated with her students for giving up, for playing the victim, and not realizing their white positionality in the greater society. As we talked, I suggested instead of tackling racism to start with a more personal and self-reflective concept. I asked if her students could understand the concept of privilege and recognizing and being grateful for the privileges in their lives.

It is also a good week to think about privilege in light of the college admission scandal where people with money were caught buying their children’s ways into elite colleges. Is anyone surprised that rich people behaved badly to get their precious snowflakes into school? I’m not, the education system is rigged in favor of wealth. Privilege begets more privilege. Imagine if the people who got caught said, “My privileged kid isn’t using their privilege wisely. They can barely fill out their own college applications. Instead of spending a half-million on lying to get into an elite college, we should give that half-million to an underfunded school.” It would have saved them a bunch of money on lawyer fees too. Uber-privilege rarely ever gets redistributed on its own.

What is Privilege

My working definition of privilege for this blog post is a right or afforded advantage you may have earned or unearned. If I were explaining it to my kids I may say: “You are lucky you have [fill in the blank], not everyone has [fill in the blank].” All of us are privileged in some ways. If you are reading this blog post you have the privileges of being connected to the internet, being English literate, most likely have the privilege of vision or hearing if you are using a screen reader, you may also have the privilege of time – stealing a few minutes for ‘research’ or pleasure reading.

Realizing our privileges takes intentionality and self-reflection. It is hard to sometimes step back and step out of the feeling of discomfort. I also don’t want to minimize the impact of systemic oppression on our communities because of race. Many Black, Brown, and Indigenous people have systematically had and continue to their privileges stripped. Tonight I was reading a social media post by a Black neighbor who was visiting an elderly Asian neighbor to check in on her. Another ‘neighbor’ called the police. The privilege of walking down the street was stolen because someone else claimed the right of wanting to feel secure and comfortable. 

It’s important to understand privileges and recognize when we have it so we can work to share our privileges. I checked in with a colleague about a project she is facilitating and she mentioned how there are a few people recognize their white and other privileges but don’t do anything about it. They will say “I know I’m using up a lot of air time…” or “I know I’m privileged…” and they keep talking. The problem doesn’t go away if you recognize your privilege and fail to do anything about it. The correct response is “I’m talking too much, so I’m going to shut up now” and start listening.

Here is an incomplete list of some of the privileges you may not be aware you have. I’m purposefully not including many of the privileges found on other list or activities (e.g. white privilege, male privilege, etc.) because those lists already exist and I want to stretch ourselves to think about other forms of privileges that are often times forgotten.

  • English language fluency and literacy
  • Access to technology
  • Ability to walk or move freely
  • Ability to communicate and be understood
  • Time privilege – taking time for a leisurely activity or to think
  • Travel – having the ability to travel and move freely, and the funds to do so
  • Education
  • Access to transportation
  • Privilege of walking into a room and being recognized and accepted
  • Privilege of seeing others like me in prominent roles (e.g. sports, politics, entertainment, news, etc.)
  • Privilege of using language and not having it define you (i.e. swearing, not being deemed too uppity or lower class by the language you use)
  • Ability to know where to turn when we have a problem – having a support network, access to professionals, etc.
  • Privilege to congregate in public without harassment
  • Having a home to return to

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White Superiority

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Picture of a Black man holding a cardboard written sign “White’s made color an Issue!” Photo by Erin Okuno, do not use without permission

Earlier this week I was working with colleagues who think about data all-day everyday. They throw around words like data regression analysis, spiraling and not as it relates to a spiralizer in cooking, and other data terms I know little about. As they were talking and mapping out the project, we were working on we stumbled on the phrase superiority. We were talking about the motivations behind gatekeepers and their motivations. We had a fascinating conversation about attitudes of superiority as it connects to gatekeeping. Superiority is something we live with every day but rarely acknowledge or name. It is part of the power dynamics we live with, but it is also a cousin to power.

To explain this concept I’m going to use a metaphor from the cartoon and comics Avatar The Last Airbender by Gene Luen Yang. In the graphic novels, Aang is the last Airbender and he needs to master all the elements to eliminate the nemesis Fire Nation. Let’s say power is like the wind or air, always present and sometimes it is felt and sometimes it is still, but as an Airbender Aang can use his power to control the air and move it from a light breeze or a hurricane felt wind. Superiority is different, it isn’t always present but when it shows up it is like fire – it can be used to destroy by consuming everything in its path. We need to think about superiority because we currently don’t, and when we don’t talk about something it becomes a tool that destroys.

Superiority is the quality or state of feeling and being superior to others. In human and community concepts this can mean someone feeling superior, acting superior, or uses their power to make others feel inferior.

Supremacy vs Superiority

When I write white superiority, I do not mean white supremacy. A quick online search pulls up results for white supremacy, not superiority but the two terms are not interchangeable. I differentiate white supremacy from white superiority. To me superiority is the attitudes and beliefs that allow for white supremacy to take place. Feelings and beliefs of superiority allow people to unfairly use their power over others, which leads to white supremacy. I also want to pause and say I’m not an academic scholar who researches these terms, others may feel differently about my line of thinking and terminology.

As part of my working definitions, white superiority is the belief that white people believe they are better than others, this is their individual beliefs and actions. White supremacy is the collective actions that take place when white people believe they are entitled to whatever they want and they take it because they feel superior, they use their collective power to achieve their agendas. Superiority = the individual power, Supremacy = the group manifestation of superiority and power. This is an important distinction because when we only talk about white supremacy we don’t focus on individual beliefs that lead to the mob that shows up.

As we think about this in terms of race, we live in a society that places white people on top and gives them a superior position — who has the top jobs, who makes the most money, who is in control, who gets promotions, who can walk into a store wearing a bulky jacket and not be stopped by security, etc. White superiority is a real thing. Many white people feel and behave and feel like they are entitled to superior treatment simply by being white.

In an example, many of us saw the picture of the white teenage Catholic schoolboy wearing a red hat with the Trump slogan “Make America Great Again” while smirking at Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder. The two were standing less than a foot-apart. The MAGA hat wearing boy was exuding a posture of superiority. He was standing in a posture that said “I dare you,” I dare you to tell me to stand down, I dare you to do anything to me because I know I am more powerful than you as a white person regardless of age, wisdom, or group dynamics. White people saw the image and defended the teen – the comments saying the teen was right because Phillips walking into the fray, the teen was being unfairly persecuted because video clips only showed a narrow picture of what happened, etc. These superior beliefs of being right is rarely granted to people of color, or at least not without a fight. These beliefs leads to the white supremacy as a collective.

Superiority isn’t Real

Superiority only serves to uphold the patriarchy. While you may strive for superiority, doing so only makes you a tool of upholding a system in which you will never ever be on the top. There is no top, there is no superior place for you, it is all a farce and a myth created to hold us in place and to create a system that serves itself. If you do want to believe there is a top, it is for the .001%, and at what price does that .001% pay to hold that spot. Think about that and then work to undo the superiority and supremacy in your life. That is the path to justice and wholeness.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Clark, Dean, Denise, Denyse, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, John, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Makeba, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Milo, Minesh, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Sean, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie S., Tana, Tara, Terri, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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Can You Handle My Truth?

By CiKeithia Pugh

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Artwork: Photo taken of words: “To Every Black Girl Who Creates Her Own Power In Her Own Way.” Photo by Erin Okuno

Erin clearly knows when to maximize those moments when I make that afternoon call. I’ve described them before in previous blog posts. They are usually late afternoon after a long and draining week. After a week, hell let’s be honest the whole month, of fielding whiteness I found myself at the point where I needed to put my thoughts and feelings down on paper.

I am in white spaces a lot, and I get asked all sorts of questions by white people. Most of the questions are benign but there are some questions or statements where I want to say “Did your brain allow you to say that? The filter between your brain and mouth is too porous at the moment.” I get it, I’m your safe Brown person, but here’s a question for you – can you handle my truth? This is not a how-to manual, that’s your work, I’m giving you some unfiltered thoughts.

Relationships

Too often I’ll be in a meeting and someone will speak glowingly about their project and how it is doing great things. I’ll ask, “so how do you know it is doing great things? For whom is it doing great things?” The room gets quiet and someone mumbles an answer, cause the truth is it isn’t doing great things for BIPOCs, it probably isn’t reaching people of color. Then someone will say “Can you introduce me to Bilan/Mohamed/Omar/
Maria/Lauren/Nguyen/Heidi?” No, I will not introduce you to other brown and black people. Do your own work!

Relationships matter so when you ask me to connect you to others in my community to save your time, the answer will almost always be no. I’m also not willing to put my credibility on the line for someone I don’t know or trust. It has taken me years to build these relationships and these relationships are something I value. You should value relationships too and do your own work to build them.

Data

Stop asking for data and take me at my word. You know the disparities exist, you choose not to see them. My lived experience is all the receipts you need in order to understand. I don’t ask you as a white person for data on your over-privileged life. “Please show data on how many times you felt safe walking through a grocery store,” or “Please show me the data on how you’re oppressed, I’ll compare it to my list and we can compare and contrast,” or “Show me the data on how many white kids from your neighborhood are expected to graduate from high school?”

Ask Yourself Do you REALLY Want to Know My Truth

What did you expect? Did you expect me to give you credit for asking for data? Did you expect me to be excited about wanting to introduce you to my Black friends? Did you expect to hear a yes, but I said no and now you don’t know what to do with those feelings. I will give you credit, this is, after all, an opt-in conversation, but you don’t think I am going to center whiteness do you?

My job in these conversations is to not make you comfortable. My job is to push, spark thought and hopefully inspire commitments to action. Comfortability is what got you here. It’s time to experience the discomfort. Everything I know I learned about discomfort I learned from sitting in your spaces. It is ok for you to feel that same sense of discomfort I feel when I sit in your space. Take those feelings of anger, annoyance, frustration, loss, and confusion and process them. Most emotions only last 90-seconds so use that 90-seconds to figure out if you really want to know my truth.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Clark, Dean, Denise, Denyse, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Makeba, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Milo, Minesh, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Sean, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie S., Tana, Tara, Terri, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

 

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Reading for Pride & Justice – A birthday project

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Picture of books, early hashtag that didn’t stick

I’ve been working on a side-project for a little over a month. This year for my not milestone-birthday I decided I wanted to do a book project. Back in January, I decided I wanted to collect 41 new books by authors of color and have them donated to schools in my neighborhood. I wanted these books to be new because I have a visceral warm feeling when I open a new book and I want every child to experience this as well.

The first step was to assemble a booklist using a fancy spreadsheet (h/t Brooke). I posted on Facebook to ask friends for suggestions. It was fun to see what people recommended. I easily could have chosen 41 books by myself but reading other people’s suggestions was worth the ask. Carrie saw the Facebook post and mentioned she was intrigued and wished she could do something similar. I invited her to join the project since she also has a February birthday. We expanded the focus to include books by disabled people or about disabilities. The project was born and after many failed hashtags it became known as the Reading for Pride and Justice book drive.

Why Books and Why Pride and Justice

Growing up I loved the school library, I was even in the Lincoln Elementary Library Club. We shelved books and helped with the card catalog. All of this is a bit ironic since I struggled as a reader as a kid. My elementary school grades for spelling were Cs an Ds, probably due to an undiagnosed learning disability. As an adult, I’m at the public library several times a week– if I got points for the amount of material we borrow I would be in the premier club. All of this to say access to books are important to me and being able to share high-quality books by authors of color sounded like a dream project when it popped into my head.

50058541_10156989339546499_4670238298256441344_oThe books my kids proudly bring home from their school library are incredibly well-read and sometimes held together with tape. We also know that most books are by white authors. In my neighborhood, we are a majority BIPOC community and I want children to see themselves reflected in the books they are surrounded by. They should feel a sense of pride picking up a new book that reflects themselves. When Carrie jumped onto the project it became even better. She brought a focus on disabilities justice and we collaborated on finding books we felt good about sharing with others.

A month before my birthday I put up a post on Facebook with a soft ask to invite people to participate. They could purchase a book from the wishlist, contribute money that I used to purchase books, or suggest other book titles or send good wishes – this wasn’t about money or material items. I was surprised by how excited our friends got about the project. Books started arriving on my doorstep ordered from the wishlist. Friends sent money for us to order books from BIPOC owned bookstores, and most importantly people were enthused and excited to see and hear more about the project.

What I Learned

When I first conceived of the project, I ran the numbers and thought I’d do it on my own. It wouldn’t be cheap, but I could self-finance it as my contribution back to my community. Many of my friends already donate to many worthy causes and I didn’t want to impose on anyone. I’m glad I opened myself up to talking about it to others because friends embraced it and enjoyed the project just as much as I did.

diversityinchildrensbooks2015_fI learned so much more about disabilities and the intersection of race and disabilities through this project. I knew the world of high-quality BIPOC authored books was small, they are there but it takes intentionality to find them. Finding books about BIPOCs and disabilities takes even more hunting. Carrie was very specific about the disabilities books she was looking for: first-person authored was best, no books featuring inspiration-porn, and no books about death, bonus points for authors of color. We found a few books by disabled people of color, but overall this genre is exceedingly slim.

We also wanted to invest money into BIPOC businesses. I knew of Mahogany Books– Black owned, Birchbark Books– Native American-Ojibwe owned, and Kinokuniya– Asian owned bookstores. I placed orders at these stores. I also found Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse a Black-owned comic bookstore, and Heidi shared Duende District Bookstore a Latinx owned bookstore. By ordering through these bookstores and browsing their curated collections I found a lot of new titles. It also felt great to place orders into these BIPOC owned businesses, magnifying the impact of this project into an economic justice one as well. I ordered some of the books from the mega-online-store because they carried books on disabilities that I couldn’t find in other places. A gap in the market is a bookseller focused on disabilities justice and/or having BIPOC booksellers stock more books about disabilities.

We’re set to deliver books to schools next week. On one of our many snow days, I involved my kids in the project by having them help me sort the books to give to schools. The books are now boxed and in a precariously tall pile awaiting delivery. Thank you to many who contributed. I’m sharing the story because it has been fun and I owe the story to those who contributed – while it started as Carrie and my birthday project it now belongs to many others who shared in the project. With much much thanks and gratitude back to all of you who contributed and cheered it on. Thank you for sharing my birthday with me and so many others – mahalo nui loa.

The Booklist

Finally, the booklist! Several people have asked to see the list of books donated. I haven’t read all of these, but I look forward to reading my way through the list. The list isn’t sorted and it has a mix of books for various ages on it. The notations are my best guess, apologies if I mislabeled any. Enjoy.

  • The First Rule of Punk, by Celia C. Pérez -BIPOC – Latinx
  • The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism, by Naoki Higashida , KA Yoshida, et al. – POC- Asian / Disability-Autism
  • Black Girl Mania, by Bria Royal – BIPOC – African American / Black
  • Proud to be Deaf, by Lilli Beese – Disability – Deaf (note this is about British Sign Language)
  • Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
  • Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates – BIPOC – African American/Black
  • Black Panther Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith – BIPOC – African American/Black
  • Hush, by Minfong Ho -BIPOC Asian – Thai*
  • Heart Berries, by Therese Mailhot – BIPOC/Disabled – Native American / Mental Illness*
  • You’re Welcome Universe, by Whitney Gardner – Disability – Deaf
  • A Boy and a Jaguar, by Alan Rabinowitz and Catia Chien – BIPOC illustrator / Disability
  • A Splash of Red, by Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet – Disability, features a physically disabled African American artist*
  • Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille, by Jen Bryant and Boris Kulikov – Disability – Blind*
  • Ghost, by Raina Telgemeier – Disability – Sibling relationship (graphic novel)*
  • BINGO Love, by Tee Franklin, Jenn St. Onge – BIPOC African American/Black, Queer (graphic novel)
  • My Friend Isabelle, by Eliza Woloson, Bryan Gough – Disability – Down Syndrome
  • 12 Months of the Year (Chinese), by Ms Jane C Thai – BIPOC – Asian, Chinese
  • Beacon Hill Boys, by Ken Mochizuki – BIPOC – Asian
  • Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña, BIPOC- Latinx*
  • Ugly, by Robert Hoge- Disability
  • The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui- BIPOC – Asian- Vietnamese*
  • Beauty is a Verb, The New Poetry of Disability, by Sheila Black – Disability
  • The Thank You Book, Elephant and Piggy (Chinese translation, requested by a teacher) by Mo Williems
  • Harry Potter (Chinese translation, requested by a teacher)
  • Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls – Disability – physical disability
  • El Deafo, by Cece Bell – Disability – Deaf*
  • Supersorda – El Deafo (Spanish), by Cece Bell -Disability – Deaf (Spanish)
  • What to Say Next, by Julie Buxbaum – Disability
  • Woke Baby, by Mahogany L. Browne, BIPOC – African American/Black (board book)*
  • All the Weight of Our Dreams On Living Racialized Autism, edited by Lydia X. Z. Brown, Disability – Autism
  • Blood Child, by Octavia E. Butler, BIPOC – African American/Black
  • Meet Yasmin, by Saadia Faruqi, BIPOC – Middle Eastern Pakistani*
  • Firebird, by Misty Copeland, BIPOC – African American/Black*
  • Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns by Hena Khan, BIPOC Middle Eastern (Muslim religion focus)*
  • World of Wakanda, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, et al. – BIPOC – African American/Black
  • Jasmine Toguchi Drummer Girl, by Debbi Michiko Florence – BIPOC – Asian, Japanese*
  • The Epic Fail, by Pablo Cartaya – BIPOC – Latinx, Cuban
  • Hey Kiddo, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka – Disability
  • So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo – BIPOC – African American/Black*
  • The Big Bed, by Bunmi Laditan and Tom Knight – BIPOC – African American/Black*
  • Ada and the Living Computers, by Elizabeth Dion
  • A Bike Like Sergio’s, by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jone
  • Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith – BIPOC – Native American
  • Mina vs. the Monsoon, by Rukhsanna Guidroz and Debasmita Dasgupta – BIPOC – Asian, Indian
  • The Memory of Light, by Francisco X. Stork
  • Game of Silence, by Louise Erdrich – BIPOC – Native American*
  • Porcupine Years, by Louise Erdrich – BIPOC – Native American*
  • Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich – BIPOC – Native American*
  • Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, BIPOC – Native American*
  • Maple Moon, by Connie Brummel Crook and Scott Cameron- BIPOC – Native American
  • We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement That Restores the Planet, by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Justin Spizman – BIPOC
  • Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories -BIPOC – Asian, Japanese
  • March, by Sen. John Lewis – BIPOC African American/Black*
  • Nelson Beat the Odds, by Ronnie Sidney II, Traci Wagoner -BIPOC African American/Black
  • Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha), by Tomi Adeyemi – BIPOC – African American/Black
  • I Am Enough, by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo – BIPOC – African American/Black*
  • Proud (Young Readers Edition): Living My American Dream, by Ibtihaj Muhammad -BIPOC Middle Eastern
  • Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison – BIPOC African American/Black*
  • Young Pele, by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James Ransome – BIPOC Latinx
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid Chinese translation (requested by a teacher)
  • Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly – BIPOC African American/Black
  • Down These Mean Streets, by Piri Thomas – BIPOC Latinx
  • Exit West: A Novel, by Mohsin Hamid – BIPOC
  • The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead – BIPOC African American/Black
  • The Angel of History: A Novel, by Rabih Alameddine – BIPOC Middle Eastern
  • Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon – BIPOC African American/Black
  • The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson
  • A Separation, by Katie Kitamura – BIPOC Asian
  • The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride – BIPOC African American/Black
  • A Tale for Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki – BIPOC Asian Japanese
  • Whereas, by Layli Long Soldier – BIPOC Native American
  • Home Fire, by Kamila Shamsie – BIPOC Middle Eastern Pakistani
  • The Mothers, by Brit Bennett – BIPOC African American/Black
  • Invisible Man
  • Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, by Kathleen Collins – BIPOC African American/Black
  • My Fox, by Helen Oyeyemi – BIPOC Asian
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  • A Lucky Man, by Jamel Brinkley
  • The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas – BIPOC African American/Black
  • Brazen, by Pénélope Bagieu
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 2 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chris Sprouse – BIPOC African American/Black
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, by Gene Luen Yang- BIPOC Asian
  • Black Panther: Long Live the King (Marvel Premiere Graphic Novel) by Nnedi Okorafor and Andre Araujo – BIPOC African American/Black
  • Sam Sorts, by Marthe Jocelyn
  • Imagine, by Juan Felipe Herrera- BIPOC Latinx*
  • The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls
  • The US Civil Rights Movement for Disabilities, by Baby Professor – Disabilities
  • Darius the Great Is Not Ok by Adib Khorram – BIPOC – Middle Eastern
  • Dreamers CD, by Yuyi Morales BIPOC Latinx
  • Short, by Holly Goldberg Sloan – Disabilities
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama -BIPOC African American/Black*
  • Rain of Gold, by Victor Villasenor – BIPOC Latinx
  • The Tea Dragon Society, by Katie O’Neill
  • Batman: Nightwalker, by Marie Lu, BIPOC Asian
  • An African-American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz -BIPOC Latinx/AA
  • Crux: A Cross-Border: Memoir by Jean Guerrero – BIPOC Latinx – Disability*
  • Puerto Rico Strong, by Various Artist, BIPOC Latinx
  • Frida Kahlo, by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Gee Fan Eng, BIPOC Latinx – Disability*
  • 47 Strings, by Becky Carey – Disabilities, Down Syndrome
  • Dog Man (Spanish translation, requested by a teacher)
  • Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt – Disabilities
  • Mia Lee is wheeling through school, by Melissa Shang – BIPOC Asian / Disabilities
  • Invisible Emmie, by Terri Libenson- Disabilities
  • Where’s Halmoni?, by Julie Kim- BIPOC Asian – Korean*
  • The To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han – BIPOC Asian – Korean
  • All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir, by Nicole Chung – BIPOC Asian – Korean
  • We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson – BIPOC African American/Black
  • Claudette Colvin, by Phillip Hoose – BIPOC African American/Black
  • Birmingham Sunday, by Larry Dane Brimner- BIPOC African American/Black
  • How We Are Smart, W. Nikola-Lisa – BIPOC African American/Black
  • If the World Were a Village, by David J. Smith and Shelagh Armstrong
  • Lincoln’s Way, by Patricia Polacco
  • Enrique’s Journey, by Sonia Nazario
  • Freedom Rides Journey for Justice
  • Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper
  • Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure by Naomi C. Rose
  • Kid Caramel
  • Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic – BIPOC Asian
  • It’s Shoe Time, by Bryan Collier – BIPOC African American/Black
  • Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai – BIPOC Asian
  • There There, by Tommy Orange – BIPOC Native American
  • Baro Tirinta Af Soomaaliga: Learn to Count In Somali (Somali Edition), by various authors – BIPOC/Black – Somali (bilingual)*
  • Princess Boy, by Cheryl Kilodavis-  BIPOC African American/Black – LGBTQ*

*Books Erin recommends


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Clark, Dean, Denyse, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Milo, Minesh, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Sean, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie, Stephanie S., Tana, Tara, Terri, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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Snow day in International District Chinatown, Seattle, WA Feb 2019, photo by Erin Okuno

By Jondou Chase Chen

I’m a tender-headed guy. Tender-headed as in I’m really sensitive. Just about anything will set off my cough. Cold air. Musty dust. Mammal dander. Electrical buzzing and flickering lights give me headaches as I wonder about their source and why can’t they stop. And then there are those conversations that don’t get anywhere, or more specifically don’t get to where they can and they should …  

Ten days into our PNW adventures with snow, I’m feeling pretty sensitive.

There’s snow. Yes. This is the season for snow. This is Seattle snow. That means there’s snow on hills. There’s snow melting quickly into slush and ice. Our geography – our terrain, our proximity to the ocean, our latitude – can make snow more challenging (although according to Seattle.gov, this is only reason #8). This is our snow story, and it has been since time immemorial. I’m good with that.

Then there’s the amount of snow. It’s historic, yes. And is it possible that it is connected to climate change? Despite what our President says, yes, it is actually possible that it is connected. Not only that, it is even more probable that we will continue to experience weather like this moving forward. Are we talking about this? Sure, some of us are. But is the conversation moving forward into action? Moving beyond social media critiques of climate change deniers?  I’m not so sure …

Then there’s social impact of our recent snow. Most immediately we’ve seen our transportation systems shut down, bogged down, and mired in ice, slush, and mud. Power has gone out for thousands as our above ground utilities infrastructure remains exposed to the elements. And there have been the daily staring contest as families with children in schools wait to hear if we need to make emergency care plans and educators work to update and re-update lesson plans. Again our city and governing bodies acknowledge these challenges, but in a way that describes our situation and their response, rationalizes our minimal infrastructure, and removing themselves from liability or responsibility to do more.

And then I’ve heard the jokes. Jokes from folks across the country at how this amount of snow is laughable. Jokes that seem to frame this as being about regional dispositions and individual incompetencies rather than attending to geographic and sociopolitical differences. I’ve seen the memes from exhausted Seattle folks who have the capacity to turn to the internet to vent about our exhaustion and frustrations which are incredibly real.

But here’s my point: when we blame the weather, our geography, our infrastructure, and our disposition, we’re not entirely wrong. AND we’re also missing the opportunity to say something just as important: to acknowledge the ways in which what is happening is deeply systemic and the ways in which we have agency and responsibility to act differently. The snow and its associated challenges reveal rather than cover deep intersectional injustices.

In terms of race and social class: What areas and corridors of the city have seen more snow plows? Who is more likely to live there? Who is more likely to profit there? Who can afford to live and work closer to public transportation, especially the more reliable options like the light rail and express bus lines? Who are the folks more likely to be on salaried positions whose overall income and pay schedule are less likely to be impacted by the past two weeks? Who are the hourly and part-time employees who lost the opportunity to earn during the past two weeks? Who was more likely to spend extra hours while risking their health and wellbeing to be out in the snow? Who was more likely to have positions that allowed them to telecommute and work from home and to afford deliveries for food and other necessities?

In terms of age and ability: How many and whose children had to be unsupervised or attached to screens because their parents had to go in to work? How many mobility-impaired folks faced even steeper than usual challenges in traveling to access work, groceries, and other day-to-day needs? How many of our fellow Seattleites weren’t able to access social programming and human connection because of closures and cancellations and inadequate transportation options when we know that such opportunities greatly improve life outcomes, especially those marginalized by age and dis/ability.

Thankfully, through the snow and my tender-headedness, there were moments of relief and release. Seeing those who were able find joy in their first snowflakes or their fiftieth sled run. Working with neighbors to make sure that people got home safely and had the groceries they needed to make it through the snowmelt. All of this lifted me up, and reminded me of how capable we are of advocating for systemic change to ensure that the next time this happens that we don’t have to witness the further amplification of social inequities. It made me appreciate the efforts of so many of our local sibs of color at organizations like Got Green and Puget Sound Sage, who have taught me so much about how addressing climate change is about intersectional racial justice. And about acknowledging these lands and waters, their ecosystem, and our First Nations … we still have a long way to go and so much more to learn and do.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Annie, Annie G., Ben, Brooke, Brian, C+C, Calandra, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Chelsea, Cierra, Clarissa, Clark, Dean, Denyse, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica, Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Gregory, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Janis, Jennet, Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessica, Jillian, Jody, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kumar, Laurel, Laurie, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Matthew, McKenzie, Megan, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Milo, Minesh, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Nathan, Norrie, Paola, Priya, Rebecca, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Sarah, Selina, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Stephanie, Stephanie S., Tana, Tara, Terri, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version).