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.

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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

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).

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

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).

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.

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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.

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Survival Skills

By Erin Okuno, contributions by Kristin T.

Earlier this week I spent some time listening online to womxn of color talk about their experiences in education. It was renewing to hear people speak passionately about education for people of color. Towards the end of the conversation a question was asked by a Black mom, she said (paraphrasing) “Everything you said is great, and I still need to teach my mixed-race kids how to navigate and survive a school system and world not made for them. What advice do you have?” It got me thinking how we as POCs, especially parents/caregivers of color,  have the added burden of teaching our children how to navigate and stay safe in a world not designed to keep them safe. My friend Kristin, mixed race and raising mixed-race Black children, is a teacher reminded me how these things we teach our children become part of who they are. The survival skills are not equal. As an Asian what I teach my children is different than what Kristin may be teaching her kids due to race and how the world perceives our children. As an Asian it is also my role to be an ally to and disrupt in places so we don’t have to use survival skills.

Artwork by Rue Oliver, Amplifer Art

Survival skills we teach our kids:

  • Don’t play/carry toy guns outside the house.
  • Speak up, but not too much — think about this through racial power dynamics.
  • Listen first before speaking — listen for the code words to know if your contributions will be valued or challenged.
  • Always wear your seatbelt, use your turn signals, don’t cut people off, so you don’t call extra attention to yourself when driving. Put your driver’s license, insurance card, and registration in easy clear reach in case you are pulled over.
  • If you are pulled over, put your hands on the steering wheel, be polite and extra respectful.
  • Code-switching, which is important in both settings or you are acceptable in neither
  • Daughters (especially Black women) need to be taught to guard their bodies and stay out of situations alone with men (of any race).
  • Stay out of the way and don’t draw attention to yourself, always be on your best behavior
  • Work twice as hard as everyone else in the classroom, keep quiet, be respectful, question authority with delicate care. 
  • Don’t challenge authority with direct eye contact / Do look people in the eye when speaking — In some POC cultures it is impolite to look people in the eye when speaking, in others it is important to look at people in the face. Cross racial and cross cultural nuances are survival skills.
  • Speak and write with standard English in certain settings, but switch to other languages when with POCs. Belonging and acceptance are key survival skills.
  • Learn the rules, even though the rules aren’t always explicit or won’t apply evenly to you.
  • Tolerate Euro-centered curriculum, but learn about POC history and curriculum on your own.
  • Don’t wear heavy coats into stores, no matter how cold it is.
  • Don’t touch things in stores unless you plan on buying it and putting it into the cart and basket.
  • Shop at certain stores. Black friends will go out of their way to grocery shop in more POC neighborhoods vs their own grocery stores for comfort and mental wellbeing.
  • Calculate everything, for every push think about the counter-push and strategize to blunt the blow
  • Overbuild and overplan to keep things from being chipped away, but also don’t become too emotionally invested in the results because it can be taken away by white supremacy with one swift action. Keep in mind this takes a lot of extra energy that way drains from other efforts.
  • Limit dreams to protect from being crushed time and again
  • From conception to birth Black and Indigenous babies have to fight to survive. Mommas of color fight to protect and birth healthy babies.
  • Know how to nod and say “hmmm,” to survive a conversation with a white person who is clueless. Know how to extricate yourself from conversations with people who don’t understand your life.
  • Where to travel and where not to — Confederate flags and MAGA hats are signals we may not be welcome. In order to access nature or certain communities, POCs have to travel through places not inclusive of Black and Brown people.  
  • Teaching kids the same experience won’t be felt evenly. 
  • Teaching our children to pay attention to race in a way white children rarely are forced to focus on. 
  • Think of others — your family and community, not just yourself. Survival includes survival of others in your community.
  • How to swallow disdain in a moment, but also to find people who ‘get it’ and help us build for a better future.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time we 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.

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I’m 13 – Why Police Brutality Needs to End

Editor’s Note: This week’s blog post is by Rainna, a 13-year old in Hawaii. She writes about why violence by law enforcement needs to end. And Eid Mubarak to our Muslim relations.

By Rainna Trout

As a young child, I was racially profiled because I’m part Black. Growing up I felt uncomfortable in my hair, my skin, and my culture, because of the way my peers treated me. And growing up as a part of Generation Z, I grew up with access to the internet. From watching videos I learned that children of color at very young ages are taught to have their hands in the air when a cop pulls them over so they do not get shot. As a Black kid it hurts knowing that my brothers and friends could be killed almost every day, or are terrified to go on a late-night run because of police brutality. Why is a thirteen-year-old girl worrying about this instead of what the latest TikTok is? 

Black Lives Matter fist mural
Black Lives Matter fist mural Photo credit Erin Okuno

For about a month my TikTok “for you” page consisted of the Black Lives Matter protests and its importance. The videos start peaceful and then it leads to police pepper-spraying and tear-gassing little kids and protesters. Then it gets out of hand, they bring the tanks, tear gas, take more innocent people’s lives away. And where will that get us? Into more trouble. “No Justice, No Peace,” and that is what the protesters are saying and doing. The protesters are taking a stand — a stand for what’s right, and what’s right is to stop the police brutality and stop Black lives being taken away. TikTok users who go to the protests show what reality is like, the video, the brutal things police do. Instagram shows the videos TikTok can’t show. The videos of Black people getting murdered, videos of a police killing a woman of color, and saying she committed suicide, to hide the reality.

To this day People of Color are afraid to leave their own house because of police, the people who are supposed to make sure you are safe, the ones you’re supposed to call your hero at the end of the day, are killing them. The police are killing children of color, men, and women of color. Why? Because they feel unsafe? Why do you feel unsafe by a person of color? Everyone is beautiful, it shouldn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it’s the inside that counts.

“Why do white people hate being called racist more than they hate racism?”

I first heard this quote on TikTok back in 2019 and it stuck with me since then. The quote hit a hole in my heart, especially when I think about what is happening in the world. George Floyd being choked by a police officer’s knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, until he was no longer breathing — he died because of racism. There are many other victims who have passed away due to police brutality — Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, Tamir Rice, Dana Brown, and many others. The protests and riots to stop police brutality hurts my heart. We shouldn’t have to riot and protest to be treated equally and without racism. People of Color have to fight to just live on Earth, whether you are Mexican, Black, mixed, Hawaiian, Indigenous, etc. You should not have to protest just to feel accepted in this world. 

Not all cops are bad, but there are many I sadly cannot say the same about. Since I live on Oahu I have met some very nice cops, they are friendly and as if they are family, but from videos I’ve seen on YouTube and TikTok, cops in other places around the world don’t show kindness to innocent people in their country. Police brutality and racism should not have to be a thing anymore. This has impacted so many families around the world. It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin tone is, what matters is standing up for what’s right. And what’s right is stopping police brutality and racism. Years and years of innocent lives being taken, I hope one day will come to an end. I hope parents teaching their 4-5-year-old children to be afraid of the cops can come to an end. I hope crying because you are an outcast from the rest of your school will end. I hope racism will end. Skin is skin, love is love, humans are humans. We are all the same so why can’t we be treated the same?


Rainna Trout is a 13 year old student living in Hawaii.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. Please note at this time we 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.

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All Behind Together

Editor’s Note: If you live in Washington, your primary election ballot should be in the mail or at your residence. Be a VOTER — drop it at a drop box or back into the mail by 4 August.


COVID19 has forced us into a situation few of us were prepared for — shutdowns, school closures, an invisible threat. We’re trying to make the best of it. Kids stuck at home, parents/caregivers working, many decisions are out of our control. I also see people seeking relief however they can. Pandemic life is being extended in increments, just when signs of reopening glimmer through, a pause button gets hit again because it is unsafe to move fully forward. Societal commitments to thinking through the greater good are strong in some places and frayed in others — wearing facemask, not gathering, thinking about our personal desires versus acting in the best interest of everyone.

Many school districts are announcing the continuation of remote/distance learning since COVID19 makes it unsafe to return to classrooms and many are seeking out ways to return to some normalcy. As we move forward we should pause and say it is ok to be behind right now, as my friend Carrie said we should be “all behind together.” Now isn’t the time to act in self-interest or the best interest of just your own kids, now is the time to stay in step with everyone else. The actions we take or don’t take will help to close or widen opportunity gaps.

Artwork by Maria Toro, via Amplifer.org

Families are beginning to think about returning to school in fall. Many school districts across the country have announced students will not return to in-person school. With these announcements parents/caregivers are scrambling for solutions and relief. Numerous news articles, Facebooks and Reddit threads have started about the topics. It feels like the latest “it” topic of the pandemic, which in turn becomes the latest privilege/shame/blame topic. There is no normal right now — everything is changing rapidly and with this we need to adjust our expectations. Carrie reminds me “normalcy is a white and ableist mindset.” 

As families begin to think about the fall we need to think about others. This is the time to remember it is ok to “be behind” and not seek out advantages because the opportunity presents itself. Forming a pod and hiring a teacher/tutor to benefit a few students gives a lucky few an advantage. The arguments for it are “I don’t want my child to fall behind,” “I’m not a teacher, I don’t know how to teach my child,” “we were counting on school,” “my kid hates Zoom.” The counter arguments to all of this is we’re all in the same situation and for the betterment of everyone it is ok to be behind, very few of us are teachers and if you are rarely do you teach your own child in a professional setting, and Zoom is hard for many including adults. These exceptionalism behaviors hold back everyone in other ways too, it teaches children they are special and they can buy their way out of problems. It also teaches the “rules” don’t apply to them, they can gather with others because they are special and can do it safely, but the rest of society shouldn’t. My good friend who teaches at an elite private school said parents become enablers in situations like these, and they in turn create entitled children. 

Ironically, I’ve seen these same messages in the same groups where people are discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, the word “equity” was used in these same thread, and the paternalistic notion of “I’d let BIPOCs join the pod for free” were shared. Believing in the social justice movement means we need to also suck it up and hold back at times.

Mutual Aid

Several friends have mentioned they are forming “quaranteams” or versions of pods to seek out support from other families because they need the support. The mutual-aid is sometimes around watching children so others can work outside the house — especially for essential workers, or childcare relief to allow families a bit of respite, mutual support around cultural and language. 

Asking ourselves what the intentions of our actions are helps to differentiate are we using personal privilege to give ourselves or our children an advantage. A colleague who grew up in El Salvador reminded me, self-interest is often defined by our socialization and how we all act as a community. Some of these conversations he can intellectualize, but the emotions and desires are foreign to him since he was socialized in El Salvador. If we are all committed to getting through COVID19 together and acting in the best interest of all, we’ll come out of this faster and more unified.

I’m not here to judge if you do or don’t form a pod, or other decisions people make. Life is hard right now, no one is spared COVID19’s crowned-virus-ball of destruction. But in many ways COVID19 has also forced us to really re-examine how we live and what we value. COVID19 has shown our individual actions make a difference to the whole — us staying home in the early days of COVID19 flatten the curve in many places, our individual actions to advocate, rally, learn and listen are bringing about policy changes (albeit not quickly enough) for Black lives, what we do today will have a lasting impact on how education happens in the next decade. It is also a moment to pause and reflect on being behind together with people I like and care about.

Many thanks to friends and colleagues who added thoughts to this. Special thanks to Carrie Basas who provided “All Behind Together.”


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Moving from Allyship to Solidarity Actions Look Like

By Heidi Schillinger

Editor’s Note: Originally the blog was planning on taking the week off, but Heidi came in clutch and sent in this blog post. The blog is off for a few weeks, unless we get another guest post or I have a burning desire to write. See you in mid-late July. -erin

Graphic of Moving from Allyship to Solidarity. Text of the graphic is in the post below. Copyright Heidi Schillinger, Equity Matters

Over the past month, I have received a high volume of inquiries for racial equity support. As non-Black person of color, specifically Asian, I have been reflecting on what it means to support individuals and organizations right now. How do I justly respond to an increased interest in our racial equity consulting services due to the amplified attention to systemic racism because of the continued death and murder of Black people? I have been sitting with this question. And, trying not to just react without first considering my role during this moment in the movement for Black Liberation. 

One thing I know is, this is the time for me to follow the lead of Black people, specifically Black women. I like lists and I have been collecting articles by journalists of color reporting on COVID-19 since March, and then begin collecting articles by Black journalists covering the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Manuel Ellis, and too many more.

In this long collection of articles, I noticed there are so many Black writers offering concrete actions for white people (and non-Black POC) who want to be allies. Lucky for us because this is a lot of continued Black labor. Compensate Black folks for their labor. If you appreciate the graphic or this blog post, please donate to Black journalists and artists. If you can’t think of any to support, I recommend Converge Media, South Seattle Emerald, Wear Your Voice, Wa Na Wari, Blavity, Black Youth Project, Crutches and Spice, and the Octavia’s Parables Podcast.

The action ideas here are based on 20 articles specifically on “allyship.” All the articles are written by Black authors, and it appears around 75% of the authors are Black women. I counted 142 specific action idea suggestions and noticed some clear themes emerge. After a few long bike rides and the latest episodes of the All My Relations Podcast (Native American), here are the four themes I want to center myself around. If you feel so inclined, join me in making these actions a daily practice.

Why am I here?

First things first, “allyship” frames our work as a solo act, when this is about joining a movement. Remember, we are joining a long Black-led movement striving for Black Liberation. This is why we are here. To paraphrase author Ibram Kendi: If you are only here because of guilt, once you do something to relieve that guilt are you done? We need to frame our work here as being in solidarity with a larger movement. Follow collective Black leadership.

Healing from White Supremacy

How do we continue to heal from white supremacy? As an international transracial adoptee, healing from white supremacy is familiar to me. I spent most of my 20’s, healing from narratives that I swallowed but poisoned my soul; Just be American. You’re so lucky to have been adopted to the U.S. If you were still in Korea, you’d be an orphan. You aren’t really Korean. Returning to Korea – especially where I was born and my life fractured – where it became something different. That has been part of my healing. Without that piece of healing, I do not know if I would be in position to repair, follow, and act. I know I need to continue to heal. I know as a community we need to continue to heal. I know we need to support spaces where Black folks can heal without the gaze of whiteness and non-Black people of color.

Here are four suggestions from the articles to support our healing process. Yes, this is purposely written in the present continuous tense. Because, hey, this work is continuous, not a one-time action. We need to continuously engage in –

  • Learning Black and Native History; Including Abolition Efforts 
  • Learning About Colonization & Systemic Racism
  • Learning about Our Personal Racialization Processes
  • Tapping into Creativity, Hope, Joy, Self-Care, Community Care

Repairing from the Harm of Anti-Blackness.

If you are looking for a new podcast, I highly recommend Octavia’s Parables. It is full of deep questions. Questions that make you stop moving, so your whole body can decide how it wants to answer. One of the questions from the second episode I am still thinking about is – what am I willing to let go of? What am I willing to let go of to repair from the harm of anti-Blackness? I keep asking myself this question. 

How do I look at the ideas I have consumed and bought into and how they manifest anti-Blackness? One example is my love for crime shows. Both embarrassing and true. I used to watch marathon episodes of Law and Order SVU. Mariska Hargitay, Mariska Hargitay. And, more recently true crime podcasts are my default filler podcasts. A month ago, as I thought about how I engage in repairing from the harm of anti-Blackness, I realized I have to give up listening to true crime. Goodbye, Dateline. Goodbye, Crime Junkies. I cannot continue to consume anti-Black and pro law enforcement narratives. Damn this is hard. I am realizing how internalized anti-Blackness is to what I am interested in and what I feed into. I need to do better. I am committed to reading and listening to more fiction by Black and Native authors and spending time with those I love, including my demanding but darling puppy.

Here are four suggestions from the articles to support repairing from the harm of anti-Blackness. We need to continuously engage in –

  • Acknowledging Anti-Blackness; Be Wrong & Genuinely Apologize
  • Unlearning Anti-Blackness; Work to Be In ‘Just Relationships’
  • Honoring Black Grief, Rage, Labor, Joy, Healing, Dreaming
  • Supporting Reparations; Individual, Organizational, National

If you balk at reparations, you need to dig deeper into the layers of white supremacy and anti-Blackness that are enveloping your consciousness. This place we now call the United States of America was built on 10-12 generations of enslavement and 4 generations of legal segregation of Black people (in comparison there have only been about 3 generations of “freedom”). To even begin to repair from generations of stolen labor and stolen lives, we need to acknowledge and compensate Black people. And, yes, our country was also built on the colonization of Indigenous Peoples. We need to be talking about what we owe Indigenous Peoples as well. If you are in Seattle, are you paying Real Rent to the Duwamish Tribe? If you live in other places, learn about the Indigenous people whose lands you are on and make restitution.

I spent a lot of time focused on healing and repair because I believe they are foundational to guiding our actions and staying in alignment with Black-led collective demands. If you want to argue against reparations or abolition, are you really here for Black Liberation or do you want to cherry pick ideas and actions that allow you to stay comfortable. In Seattle standing in solidarity with Black collective leadership demands: “Defund SPD. Invest in community health and safety. Drop all charges against protesters.” This is not about you, or me.

Here are the final two themes and actions suggestions to move us from allyship to solidarity.

Following Intersectional Black Womxn (P.S. Black Trans Womxn are Womxn)

  • Listening to and Trusting Black Voices & Perspectives
  • Amplifying Black Voices & Perspectives; Not White Saviors
  • Participating in Black-Led Collective Actions; Know Our Roles
  • Centering Black-Led Collective Demands; Decenter Ourselves

Acting in Solidarity with Black Communities’ Demands

  • Committing to Ongoing Action; Join the Movement, Not the Moment
  • Speaking Up (But Not Over); Engage Our Communities
  • Resourcing Black Liberation; Black Businesses, Efforts, Orgs.
  • Paying Reparations; Redistribute and Reinvest Resources

Here are some of my organizational commitments to action –

  • Offer the first opportunity to take on new inquiries to the two fabulous Black women on our team, CiKeithia Pugh (she/her/hers) and Chalon Ervin (she/her/hers).
  • Refer training inquiries to Black womxn and non-binary consultants taking on new clients. We are currently referring people to ChrisTiana ObeySumner (They/Them/Theirs/Mx.) and Ti’esh Harper (she/her/hers) [9/1/20 note: Ti’esh is currently not accepting new clients]. Please email me if you would like to be added to our Black womxn and non-binary consultant referral list.
    EDIT: Here is a national list of Black Owned DEI Companies + Consultants Currently Accepting New Corporate Clients, much thanks to the keepers of this list for sharing it publicly.
  • Require organizations requesting “Allyship” workshops for White and non-Black POC staff to offer Black employees opportunities and resources to engage in Black centered spaces (through things like time off, funds to participate in other community events or workshops, etc.).
  • Pay forward 50% of all fees for any “Allyship” workshop to Black collective organizations and efforts.
  • Continue to purchase nearly all of my books from Mahogany Books.
  • Continue to pay forward the profit from the Color Brave Space licensing to Black and Indigenous organizations and efforts.
  • Write this blog post and other blog posts.

Many thanks to Victoria Benson, from Movement Strategy Center, for sending me notes from our recent conversation for this blog post.


Thank you for your Patreon support: This month we’ll be paying a portion of the support forward to POC led and embedded organizations and individuals directly impacted by COVID19 and Black led organizations.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going and ad-free:

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Undoing my Anti-Blackness

Editor’s Note: The blog is taking a short hiatus next week for the long-weekend (if that is even a thing these days) and the following week off. We’ll be back in mid or late July.


This week’s post is personal. I often share bits and pieces about myself and my life in the blog, but this one is more personal than other post. I am sharing it for a few reasons, one is so I can be honest with myself and accountable to others, and maybe in small way it can help others, especially my Asian relations be better allies. The is also a rare moment to talk about this because the twin moments of anti-Asian racism surrounding COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter movement in response to too many deaths of Black people make it an important time to reflect and grow.

Artwork in Seattle’s Childtown International District.

I grew up in Hawaii. It is a great place to be from and it formed my racial self-identity. I knew from an early age I am Japanese American, I knew the word Asian, and race was talked about openly in many settings. Our neighborhoods are diverse and I grew up escaping a lot of overt Asian racism and microaggressions others told me they experienced in other places. That said it wasn’t a utopia or a land of racial inclusion. Now as an adult I can look back and see where racism and othering still occurred, including anti-Blackness.

Hawaii, like many other places, has a class system. Asians, and in particular East Asians, are often perceived to be near the top. White people have a funny place of being on the top but also othered – sometimes accepted especially if they are part of the community, but also criticized because of the colonizer history of Hawaii. Hawaii is a place where how you treat others is how they will treat you back. If you act too uppity or behave like a jerk, people will let you know. Being a POC doesn’t mean you get a pass or automatic social inclusion. Through this social hierarchy I learned to navigate the world and how I see race.

I didn’t grow up with a lot of African American or Black people in my schools, playgroups, teen groups, etc. I remember looking at demographics of the population as a teen and wondering where the Black people lived. They were in the demographic charts but I didn’t see them in my neighborhood. I remember someone telling me many of them were part of the military. This may be true, but also maybe we just saw them as part of the general POC community, which is unfair and erased much of their identity. For the Black people who were in my schools and part of the community, we never stopped to understand their Black and African American identities.

Leaving Hawaii for college and landing in Seattle, I’ve had to learn about race through a new context, including the Black and African American communities here. As an example, I probably learned some about slavery, the plantations, and emancipation as part of American history classes, but we glossed over a lot of the deeper and more nuanced Black history. I know I didn’t learn about the rich African immigrant cultures I see in Seattle. Immigration from African nations to Hawaii isn’t very populous. I went to a few reggae concerts in Hawaii, but the music and culture is so intertwined with island music than linked to Black culture.

As a result of the absence of Black and African American people and cultural references I’ve had to unpack a lot of anti-Blackness over time. I’m grateful to many Black people, especially Black friends, who helped me understand the Black experience, institutional racism, and what I need to do to unpack my own racism. I know this will be a lifelong journey to learn about race and how to be in more just relations with Black people.  

Part of my learning and undoing around anti-Blackness is learning about historical racism. I grew up watching TV and movies portraying Black people that shaped stereotypes. I also grew up around many Asians who would say they weren’t racist, but then speak ill of Black people. I can see how my upbringing in Hawaii taught me anti-Blackness beliefs, but also gave me tools to now undo it.

Learning about historical racism and history from the Black perspective have been important ways for me to understand racism. I’ve sat with many friends and colleagues and listened to their stories. In the beginning I heard their stories but couldn’t fully comprehend them. I would make excuses and tell myself their experience of being followed in a store, being passed over for jobs, or even more blatant racism weren’t because of race. Being socialized in Hawaii I was taught we were equal because we were all part of the POC majority. If you didn’t get what you wanted it wasn’t because of your race or skin color, it was because you didn’t work hard, not being a team player, or being too uppity and pushing too hard – very Asian values. I had to learn about historical racism and how our histories in America give white people advantages and white privileges and hold back Black and Brown people, and how Asians are many times part of upholding the racialized hierarchy. As Ta-Nehisi Coates, wrote in Between the World and Me, “But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming ‘the people’ has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy.”

As an Asian American I see anti-Asian racism, but at the same time it is important to recognize the privileges we have and how we’ve benefited from the hard work many Black and African American people before us. The Civil Rights Movement led by many Black leaders and communities put many structural changes in place that benefit us as an Asian community. Acting in solidarity with our Black kin is important now and always.

I know I have more learning and work to do to be in a more justice based relationship with Black people and to show up as an ally. I know I will mess up, and I hope my Black friends and colleagues will trust me enough to call me out and it and set me straight. Some of them have over the years and I am grateful for their counsel. I also know the work isn’t on them to teach me, it is for me to humble myself and to practice self-reflection, learning, and reckoning with my biases, internalized racism, and remembering this is about Black liberation, not me.


Thank you for your Patreon support: This month we’ll be paying a portion of the support forward to POC led and embedded organizations and individuals directly impacted by COVID19 and Black led organizations.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going and ad-free:

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