Race Neutral = Institutional Racism

Welcome to 2017. I am welcoming in the new year with a heavy heart. A few days ago Al Sugiyama, a leader in Seattle’s Asian American community died after a fight with cancer. I didn’t know Al exceedingly well, but I learned so much from watching him over the past two years. He was a regular presence at the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC). When Al was there I knew, I was watching a master at work. Watching Al I learned how vocal, and at times gentle, we must be in standing up for communities of color. Al would speak pointedly and plainly to whomever the guest speaker was. No matter if it was the Police Chief, Superintendent of Schools, or a Department head, he would let them know the API community is here and growing, we are strong, and we must be taken seriously. He was also gentle in his own pointed way. He coached many of us by reminding us to show up and take our work seriously – show up on time, dress appropriately – no jeans, you never know who you might run into, speak up and call BS for BS, and to fight the fights that need to be fought. Above all be proud of belonging to the API community. Thank you, Al – you will be missed.

Stop the Race Neutral/Blind Processes

8e4246cf01dfee75d266ae6565e6a9a8Over the holiday break Heidi and I were emailing each other, one of the topics we delved into was why race neutral approaches need to end.

Before the break Heidi joined me in a budget presentation my organization hosted to learn more about the looming budget cuts facing the school district. The cuts will be huge and have an impact on every student and educator. Even though Heidi was a participant, she dropped some serious knowledge reminding us the tools used to develop the budget and the way the meeting was formatted come from a dominant culture framework. We were speaking in English and with baseline knowledge of budgeting processes – automatically these tools or modalities benefit some in the room more than others. English speakers can participate faster than non-English speakers and those who understand budgets and have knowledge about the school district are also able to participate more fully. Our job was to slow down and help everyone understand the meeting and participate fully.

As we listened to the budget presentation it became clearer we needed to push for transparency in who will benefit by the decisions made. Decisions made without thinking about race benefit white people. Systems default to preserve the status quo, which currently benefits white students. The status quo hurts students of color, it allows decisions to shift funding, resources, and voices away from who needs it the most. It isn’t good enough to have isolated efforts targeting and looking at racial equity, we need to actively work to embed race conscious decision making into every decision point.

Race neutral processes happen when we don’t think, talk about, and document who will benefit from a decision, a practice, or a policy. Race neutral or race blind processes perpetuate institutional and systemic racism. It is easy to use the words and say “We ran this through the equity filter,” like we’re running something through the dishwasher or the coffee filter – input in, equity out. It isn’t that easy. An equity filter or using an equity lens takes deeper analysis and work to understand.

Racism Isn’t New, Fight Racism by being Conscious of Race

Racism and its ilk (e.g. sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, etc.) aren’t a new phenomenon. It is so tightly ingrained into our systems and ways of thinking we operate in it everyday. Mainstream and dominant culture doesn’t actively teach against these principles. We are taught about the civil rights movement, we celebrate heroes and holidays, but we aren’t taught to sniff out and spot fakequtiy and racism. When we call these things out we’re often slapped down and told to leave things alone – preservation of the group and the system requires us to ignore racism and things that make people uncomfortable.

A race conscious approach requires us to acknowledge racism exist in our organizations AND it is our jobs to actively undo institutional and systemic racism. It is ok to feel like crap when realizing we work in and may even be perpetuating racism in our work. What isn’t ok, is to ignore it and to continue working like normal. We need to acknowledge racism exist in our work and to use a race conscious approach to changing things to drive towards more racially equitable solutions.

How to Have a Race Conscious Approach

To undo institutional and systemic racism, we must talk about who race and power dynamics. After our budget meeting I talked to a few of my coalition partners of color. One partner threw his pen on the table and said “I’m so frustrated, the decisions have been made. What do they want a rubber stamp from us?” Another partner had a similar sentiment saying students of color and the schools they attend are already under resourced so simply ‘holding the line’ isn’t enough to make gains.

Power shows up in situations such as this when we allow white echo chambers to make decisions for people of color. As Heidi pointed out at the start of the budget meeting the tools we use dictate the results we get – the budget is written in English, those with the ability to advocate easily and effectively are heard and prioritized in the budget, technology is used to share information (who has access to technology, don’t give me the bull-shit story everyone has smart phones – no they don’t), etc. A race conscious endeavor forces us to look at who we are hearing from, what are we doing to diversify voices, and to think about racial outcomes of the overall system.

Communities of color need to start demanding transparency in who is benefiting from decisions made. We also need to critically analyze decisions to determine if they are right for our communities. Too often white advocates will say a decision is based on ‘equity’ but it benefits white children more or the opportunity cost (i.e. money/time/resources spent on one ‘equitable’ action prevents greater gains in other areas) is too great.

Students of color can’t wait for the ‘right time,’ ‘right conditions,’ or wait for seconds. We need to start demanding systems think about long term outcomes and use a race conscious approach, anything less is fakequity and reinforces institutional racism.

Posted by Erin

2017 – Make Fakequity Great(er) Again

Last year I wrote an end of year post with predictions. My predictions were mostly wrong – Trump was elected was the biggest one I got wrong. I’m not going to try again this year, screw that thing they call grit and sticking with something until you get it right. Nah, I’m taking the other path and will write something timely – Make Fakequity Great in 2017. Too soon to poke fun at 2017?

Let’s face it the end of 2016 is a bust

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I’m writing this in the waning days of 2016. 2016 is feeling like a bust. Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in Star Wars died of a heart attack, her mother followed her dying of a broken heart. Both women charted their own paths and did so with humor and grace, much like what we need to do. Muhamad Ali, Gwen Ifill, Prince, Bob Santos and many other leaders of color preceded them. Donald Trump is our president elect. He won on a platform of womanizing, hate, and racism. We witnessed a mass shooting in Orlando that killed too many Latinx LGQBTIA. There were too many other racialized hate events targeting African Americans and other people of color.

While 2016 was a tough year, we had victories at Standing Rock and have seen the inter-sectionalities of movements come together. Asians stood up and said no to the Muslim registry recalling the horrors of the US government forcing Japanese Americans into internment, or what some refer to as America’s Concentration Camps. We’ve also heard of individuals stepping forward and protecting others or disrupt hatred in action. We need more of these things coming together in 2017.

“Let’s make 2017 Great(er) Again,” Time poke at that tagline

2017 is going to take all of us to hold the line and fight for incremental gains. Here is our action list, join us.

Stop the echo chambers, especially the white echo chambers: The most popular Fakequity post of the year talked about why Heidi doesn’t believe in cultural competency training anymore. Part of the problem with cultural competency trainings is the echo chamber, white orgs with white people talking about culture — duh, of course the conversation will go towards what they know — their own culture. We need to break up white and/or powered (if the case of poc centered but still maintaining power dynamics – it happens and we need to acknowledge it) spaces.

Action Step for 2017: Force open tables, call it out and say we won’t participate or our participation is conditional upon having a more inclusive space. As an example, I recently joined a board of a mainstream policy organization. Before I joined I said “I’ll give you one year, and within that year the board needs to add at least three people of color.” They agreed and we’re on our way to breaking the white echo chamber. In other cases push your organization to stipend people of color to participate, if people push back tell them to look at their consulting budget and evaluate how much of those funds are going to white ‘professionals,’ time to reallocate some of those funds.

Work to build movements, not isolated actions: The victory at Standing Rock over the Dakota access oil pipeline didn’t just happen, it was a confluence of events that built over time. Native American tribes stood with each other and learned from each other. The environmental movement supported the Native Americans and Veterans got involved too. I’m sure there was backroom politics and criticism, but overall it was about showing up together. In the current political landscape, we need to build for the long-term, not just for the quick incremental wins. Movement building is harder than working fast, it means slowing down and thinking about long-term outcomes. It also means we give up or share a lot of power and control and looking for parallels.

Action Step for 2017: An easy step if find a coalition related to your cause and check it out, also attend a few coalition meetings from other sectors to hear what the conversation is and look for parallels. I prioritize attending the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC) meetings even though they start at 7.30 a.m., brutal time, I enjoy the meetings because I’m not very tapped into the Asian community, although I’m Asian, and I learn about what is happening in public health, immigration, civics, etc., the parallels between sectors is so important to supporting each other.

Call out bad behavior: Can we agree to step up and call out bad behavior?  Those little comments and jabs that have underlying tones of racism need to be called out and questioned. We also need to push back online and share our own narratives.

Action Step for 2017: We need to get quicker at thinking about racism and disrupting racism as it happens. If you aren’t a fast thinker in a moment, then commit to calling out inaccuracies in comments made online. Push back on commentators on blogs or the news, tell people to produce evidence, inject counter narratives, breakup the echo chambers that form in Facebook groups and in the blogosphere. It is hard to compete with people who are out to comment to comment, but offering one counter narrative is important. Don’t get drawn into an exasperating long online conversation but one comment will help to offer new views. I’m enjoying White Nonsense Roundup, they do this very well on Facebook, tag them when conversations get weird and they will have a white ally volunteer to help alleviate the burden on people of color of explaining why something is racist.

Run for office: Out of the 35 people (36 if you count my mom) reading this, I’m hoping at least one of you will consider running for office. We need to break down institutional and systemic racism at multiple levels including from the inside. If we’re building a movement we need people to push from the inside, while advocates work from the outside. Diversifying and getting new voices into office will help to challenge mainstream thinking. In a few bright spots Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), the first Somali American to be elected to office, and Pramila Jayapal (Washington) an Indian-American headed to Congress, and we need more a lot more voices. My friend Leslie said it takes asking a person seven times before they agree to run, consider this your first ask. Leslie already asked me once and I said no thanks, so I’m sharing her ask with all of you — who’s up for running for office?

See you in 2017.

Posted by Erin Okuno

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How Not to Apologize

This week I’ve been thinking about how not to apologize. Caprice Hollins, a fabulous racial equity trainer in Seattle, says in her trainings “If you’re doing this work you’re going to screw up in 20-minutes.” She’s right when wade into conversations around race someone else will say something that raises an eyebrow. The question isn’t if you offend, you will, it is how you apologize and move forward that counts.

Note: I’m using the Skeptical OB’s posts as an example because it was shared publicly on Facebook. Had it been a private conversation or on a personal Facebook page I would respect the author’s privacy. I’m also sharing screenshots versus linking to the post because I don’t want to drive traffic to her site or page since she’s bragged about this as related to the post, and since she’s already taken down one post I wouldn’t be surprised if she removes this post as well.

Lesson 1 – Don’t Blame the Victim

I15578081_626297997566660_2803089298718672083_o’ve been following a Facebook thread by The Skeptical OB. A friend posted a picture from the Skeptical OB’s Facebook page of a mother breastfeeding side-by-side with the Confederate flag making a comparison. Huh?

original-postAfter posting the picture she wrote a “I’m sorry I got caught, but I’m not really apologizing post.” The apology noted she took down the original post because of the pain it caused others. Lesson 1 – when you apologize don’t blame the victim. In her apology post she didn’t name that she perpetuated racism. Instead she underhandedly said “I’m sorry you feel bad for seeing my post,” classic blame the victim versus accepting responsibility for a racist act.

In another example my brother used to work for a video game store. A customer came in to buy some game with a lot of shooting that takes place in the Pacific. Customer dude says: “Oh, this is the one where you get to shoot Japs. Oh, no it’s okay for me to say it because I’m part Japanese too.” Um, still not ok to say “Japs,” highly offensive to say it to anyone. He didn’t apologize but his reaction was another version of ‘blame the victim’ for being offended rather than realizing opp, you said something racist and offensive.

Lesson 2 – Don’t Copy and Paste an Apology or gaslight your way out

1-1The drama on the Skeptical OB’s Facebook apology continued as the day went on. Several people called her out on her non-apology apology. Where it got interesting was when someone wrote an apology and the Skeptical OB copy and pasted it into her post. Smack forehead. Lesson 2 – don’t have someone else write your apology for you, do your own damn work and think about what you did. Copy and pasting someone else’s apology is insincere.

Lilliann shared she once had someone apologize for not standing up for her in a meeting by saying “I’d take a bullet for you,” but moments before in a heated meeting didn’t defend her when the conversation got tough. This is no different than a copy-and-paste apology. Both say, well I want you to think I’m a good person, but I don’t want to do the work of being a good ally. Being a good ally means you stick your neck out and take some of the heat or think about why something you did was wrong and write your own damn apology.

Lesson 3 – Know When to Quit

9The Skeptical OB author didn’t know when to quit. It was an epic episode of white fragility and white superiority playing out online. She kept posting and posting, and her posts 11were demonstrating more and more of her white superiority attitude. Her followers, many of them white, begged her to stop but she wouldn’t (and as of this writing she still hasn’t). She even boasted about how that thread has sent Facebook traffic through the roof; nothing to be proud about: “Hey Ma, I’m famous for making an asinine comparison about breastfeeding to a hate group, and now I’m more famous ‘cause I keep saying racist things!”12

Engaging in a debate when you’re trying to apologize isn’t the best timing. Be contrite and reflective, your apology should say you are here to learn, not prove you were right. Marquita, a friend who’s a teacher, shared a story about a dad apologizing by saying: “I’m sorry it took us so long to find you. I thought you were white.” While not perfect, probably better he stopped rather than trying to explain race theory, get defensive about the situation, or ask Marquita to explain why she has a ‘white sounding name.’

How to apologize better

We all mess up when it comes to race. Learning about race, privilege, and power are personal and it is a journey. Like most journeys there are times where we look and feel like crap. Unfortunately, when it comes to learning about race we must ‘walk-the-walk’ and part of that walk means doing some deep processing and personal reconciliation. Realizing we’ve said or done hurtful things is part of the ‘walk’ and learning how to apologize with grace and equanimity is part of the journey.

Since people like shortcuts, and really there aren’t any shortcuts, but since it’s the holidays I’ll give you a few bullet points:

  • Stop and shut up: Shut up and listen to what others are saying. Don’t get defensive, it isn’t about you in that moment, it is about you learning from others.
  • Don’t fake an apology: If you’re not ready to apologize then don’t. When my kid messes up I sometimes ask him “Are you sorry because you did it, or are you sorry you got caught?” If you’re sorry you got caught saying something racist, then only apologize when you realize what you did was wrong.
  • Don’t cut and paste an apology or get someone else to write it for you: You may want to get help apologizing. I just learned about the White Nonsense Roundup. If you tag them on Facebook a white volunteer will step forward and offer help in explaining the inherent racism involved in the post or situation. This is appropriate help. What isn’t appropriate is posting a fake apology if you don’t mean it or just going through the motions, save us your tears.
  • Cry with your close friends: It is ok to get frustrate and feel the need to vent, but do it with your trusted circle of friends. Let your friends help you understand what happened, hopefully they’ve walked the journey and can help you they know you best and can help you better than a stranger.

Keep engaging and keep apologizing – it means we’re learning and working through things together. Finally, a white friend told me her African American grandmother-in-law called her on a Sunday morning to ask her “You woke?” What a gift it is to say “Yes Gramma, I’m woke.” That means we’ve learned, probably apologized quite a bit, learned from our elders, and we’re still learning how to be ‘woke.’

Posted by Erin Okuno

How White Privilege is Taught

enhanced-buzz-17808-1382919326-3Last Saturday, I saw how privilege is taught to young white children. I don’t think the parent who carried out the offense even knew she was doing it, it was unconscious and entitled. She probably see herself as “a good [white] person.” These privileged offenses happen all the time in little things that whites don’t even think about and people of color don’t always call out.

How Privilege is Taught

My kids and I were waiting to catch the monorail. We were crowded around the platform towards the front of the train because my son wanted to ride in the very front next to the driver – it’s a great view. After a few minutes, we figured out the train we were waiting in front of wasn’t the one in use and switched platform sides. My son was excited and waiting patiently since he was now in the front. As people started moving over two older white kids were angling to get in the front too and their mother came and stood behind me and says in a tone of disapproval “Our kids are really excited and they’ve been waiting. They’d like the front seat.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, she was saying her kids deserved something even though they were set to lose because of chance. The same chance that gave my son a temporary advantage. I was appalled at the mother for asking, but because I was caught off-guard and fuming on the inside, I lost my resolve to stand up for my own son and told him to step aside – I wish I hadn’t.

In that moment, I crushed my son. I had to explain to him we stepped aside because the other kids were waiting longer and life isn’t always fair. I used the word privilege and made up some lie they were from out of town. I also said we rose above the situation, rather than starting a fight or making a public scene (as a Japanese American child I was conditioned to do this). We do what too many people of color are asked and acquiesce to doing which is putting our own needs and desires aside and give to white people because it is easier than making a scene or justifying why we aren’t giving in. He accepted my explanation and stopped moping a little but was still disappointed. The incident ruined part of the afternoon.

Someone reading this will say I’m making this about race when it isn’t. I can’t help but think it is about race. The situation taught those white kids they deserve something more than my Asian son. They were taught they are privileged and someone, another white person, will stand up for them and others will step back to give them an advantage. Their mother also taught them they don’t have to say please, just state what you want and it is given to you. This is how white privilege is passed down generation to generation. This is also why people of color continue to say we are literally held back and pushed back and some say oppressed. As I write this I think about Rosa Park and how African Americans were told/forced to ride in the back of the bus. We haven’t really progressed in attitudes and beliefs.

Someone is also saying I shouldn’t have stepped aside and we should have held on to being first in line. In some ways, I wish we had stood up to the white mother. I know why I didn’t stand up to her, if we had held onto to the front seat the other mother would have made the ride uncomfortable for my family. She would have labeled us as being rude, she would have said we cut in line even though it was chance and luck – the same chance and luck she was entitled to. In the end, she would have taught her kids Asians are rude or Asian kids are pushy instead of realizing the power play she used. I own I’m stereotyping her white privileged behavior, and I feel if I don’t label it and call it out I’m complicit in allowing privilege to continue unchecked.

I’ve seen this white privilege play out before, this isn’t the first time a white person has used their privilege to push their own needs and agendas. Once in Hawaii a white tourist told my aunt and me we were cutting in line when we weren’t. When confronted on his attitude he said “fine just go,” I said “no because then you’re going to think we’re cutting. We’ll just stay right here, where you want us.” He was all habuteru (Japanese for grouchy and annoyed) because we called him on his attitude of superiority. The lady behind us encouraged us to move forward but my aunt said politely but loud enough for him to hear “No can, the haole (white) said we’re cutting in front of him.” He really pouted on being called out again. It’s funny how white people like to be in the front of the line, but only on their terms.

Proving You’re Good, Doing Good, and Being Uncomfortable

If I had met the white mother in another setting with leveled power dynamics such as work, she probably would have tried to prove she’s a good white person. She would tell me how her kids are generous and donate to the food bank, or better yet use part of their allowance to buy toys for poor kids. I would nod and say “that is great.” She would want me to validate her as a good person and affirm her status as an ally. Giving in this manner is nice and makes white people feel good, but it teaches charity rather than personal empathy and connection. It allows white kids to dictate the terms of giving rather than realizing their white privilege: “oh we decided to give because those people are poor, and its not fair,” a.k.a. tokenism and savior syndrome. The mother also probably would have told me she didn’t realize my kid is Asian. Colorblindness is a form of racism, it says they only see people of color as people of color when it suits them. What all of this teaches white children is they are privileged and they don’t have to be uncomfortable to give. This isn’t a lesson children should learn. White children need to learn it is ok to feel discomfort, it is ok to give up something that didn’t belong to them to begin with — they will be ok.

What I want to tell that white mother is instead of proving how good you are, teach your kids how to be aware of their own privileges in everyday settings. Instead of telling me to step back and give up my spot in line, accept chance and luck are a part of life, and your kids will be ok without being at the front of a line – would sitting a few seats back diminish their chance of attending Harvard or Princeton, probably not. Instead of trying to prove you are a good white person, be a good white person and step back – you and your kids will be ok. Your white child doesn’t have to fight for every advantage especially when it is at the expense of people of color.

Posted by Erin Okuno

Oh, those Fakequity Emails

2016-12-08-14-27-46This week we’re sharing a collection of emails colleagues have shared with us and fake responses we’ve come up with. These are the responses we can’t write back because they are a bit brusque and people would probably stop talking to us. The messages are heavily altered so if you think we’re writing about you, rest assured no one will know it is you unless you out yourself. Feel free to send me your favorite emails about race and equity, they might make a future post: fakequity@gmail.com.

Email 1: “Save the Date for the Brain Trust on Housing for Refugees and Immigrants Please join us in creating a unified vision for supporting housing for immigrants and refugees in a way that that honors families, provides culturally responsive practice and is informed by national best practice.” Attendee invite list are academics, government agency reps, and elected officials. No one from the community, let alone newly arrived immigrants and refugees living in low income housing.

Email 2: Response when asked why the invite list didn’t include immigrants and refugees: “We have space limitations but we are hoping to get some names of folks that would be interested in being a part of future work that comes out of this meeting.” Smack forehead.

Dear Dipstick,

How do you expect to have a conversation about immigrants and refugee’s housing needs and their assets if the room is stacked with people who look and sound like you. That is called institutional racism. You may be shutting down and ready to delete this email because you don’t like admitting you work for a racist organization and are perpetuating racist practices, but you are. When we do things like have meetings to talk about others, which is code for people of color, without them in the room it is a form of racism and white supremacy.

You are probably thinking “they won’t come,” or “we don’t want to inconvenience people who say they are busy,” both are true but that means you need to change the system for which you are inviting them. Reallocate your resources and pay them to be there to give technical assistance. Now you’re probably saying we don’t have a budget — then stop paying so many white consultants who talk about the community and give it to people of color who are doing the work.

I’m refusing to participate because I can already predict how the conversation will go without immigrant and refugees there or in token roles. Good luck. Call me when you’re ready to change.

—-

During a staff meeting the group worked on organizational values. This email exchange came out after one white leader objected to the word ‘diversity’ even though majority of the staff and all of the people of color voted on diversity:

“Respect is a more appropriate choice than diversity because it’s more applicable by definition than diversity. Diversity is such a loaded term, I don’t think there is a definition for diversity that will satisfy everyone in the organization.”

Dear Respectful Dipstick,

What is up with your resistance and white superiority? Are you afraid of ‘loaded’ terms like diversity? Is the word doing something to you that makes you feel unease? If so that unease is called White Superiority, with a touch of fragility. You are feeling the discomfort of realizing that others are different and its ok to be different.  Why does everything have to cater to you and make you feel ok? I’m not ok with you being ok.

Respect is one value and diversity is another. Why can’t we have both? Your insisting we drop diversity and roll it into respect is disrespectful. If we must drop a value to appease the group’s artificial limit of values please drop joy, cause I’m not finding joy in this tone policing.

P.S. If you think diversity is controversial you should hear what my friends are talking about — racial equity, race, racism, anti-bias work, and topics you’re so not ready for. Diversity is so 1990s, get with it we’re going to leave you and your diversity work behind.

—-

Dear Fakequity,

I’m on the board of Children Matter a Lot to Us nonprofit and we’re hoping to do more equity work. Since I know you from the golf team I’m hoping you’ll do some pro bono consulting work for us.

Dear Children Matter a Lot to Us,

Thank you for emailing and inquiring if I would like to work with you and the board. The short answer is no. I’ve met with your leadership team three times to ‘bid’ for contracts and you want to meet with me again? You guys seem to think I like hanging out with covertly racist people who think they are doing God’s work or something like that. No, this is a business for me and if I meet with you again, you can pay me my hourly rate of $500/hr, I’m charging you double because I know I’m not going to enjoy this meeting and to recoup part of my losses from the other three meetings with you.

I also have a practice of doing pro bono work for clients that align to my personal and professional values. If your organization is led by a person of color and your work is embedded and centered in communities of color let’s talk, otherwise pay up. You’re probably thinking “we don’t have money.” You do, you’ll find the money for things you prioritize and find important. How about stopping your payments to consultants who aren’t helping you reach communities of color and refocusing your dollars toward this or other efforts closer to communities of color. Good luck with your work.

—-

Dear Fakequity,

I hope you are well and had a Happy Thanksgiving. I would like to meet up with you before Christmas, I have some thoughts I’d like to bounce off you during coffee or lunch. Please send me some dates and times you’re free.
Sent from an iPhone

Dear Dipstick who Wants Free Advice,

Thanks for the email. I see you sent this email from your iPhone, is it an iPhone 7? My Samsung 7 might blow up at any moment so let me be equally brief: No, I don’t want to meet with you.

You’ll get more out of meeting with than I will even with free food. I’m a sucker for free food, but you didn’t say where we’re eating so it could be anywhere from Columbia Tower Club to Chick-Fil-A where my people are not really welcomed.

The real reason I don’t want to meet is I don’t want to hear your ideas — I’ve heard them before from other rich people trying to get ‘woke.’ I feel like you’re using me to validate your ideas or you want some free information. This isn’t a tit-for-tat but I don’t feel like you’ve invested in me or my causes the way you’re asking me to support you. If you want to meet my hourly consulting rate is $250+that ‘free’ lunch. I looked you up on LinkedIn you can afford my rate and if you can’t then go do your own racial equity work. I only do pro-bono work for partners who are authentically from communities of color; being a poc sista ain’t gonna cut it either. Go do some work on getting woke and check your privilege then we’ll talk.

And finally if you want to meet with me, you do the harder work of checking your calendar to suggest dates. Don’t you know scheduling protocol? The first to extend an invite also sends dates and times – get with it.

P.S. Say please if you want me to do something, your email didn’t say please. A please and humility goes a long way.

—-

If you think we’re writing about you, simmer down– we’re not lots of people are still stuck in writing these emails. But if you think it is you maybe you should ask yourself if you’re guilt of practicing fakequity. It is ok to feel the discomfort and work to change. Heidi got an email from someone telling her she asked people to feel things too many times in one hour. I would have said “Feel? Do you feel my blood pressure rising?” or “Ok, I’ll turn off my feelings if you turn off your covert racism.” Heidi is much calmer and social work smart, she said we need to feel the discomfort so we’re motivated to change.

Posted by Erin Okuno

Jaded – yes, but time to be grateful

I’m jaded, I admit it. Lately I’ve been more jaded and crabby when it comes to equity and fakequity. A lot of people took the election hard, I was already annoyed and jaded so in some ways I wasn’t as devastated as maybe I should have been. This week was no different; yesterday I spent the day listening to the recast of a school board meeting. It’s amazing how much coded and blatant racism comes through at these meetings. Everything from public comments to language said by elected officials, wow – maybe one day the fakequity team will unpack it in a blog post. I need to pull myself out of that jaded-ness, it’s time to find the not fake-equity and focus on the little things that equal bigger gains. Here are a few things I’m grateful for:

Books

1-2016-12-02-09-29-36Tonight, I stopped by the library to return Rad Women A-Z and picked up my three holds. We enjoyed Rad Women or as my kid called it Women Rad. He surprised me by listing it as a favorite book. When I first brought it home and tried to read it my kids they whined and said they wanted to read Star Wars and some book with a pony with a stamp on its ass. He decided to write about the book for his homework assignment and tonight we used the companion book Rad Women Worldwide for tonight’s homework. He even asked what does ‘rad’ mean. Being young he wants equality, he asked “Where is the Men Rad book?” We talked about why women need their own book and men don’t it as much – the beginnings of understanding equity versus equality. I can’t be jaded when a seven-year-old boy is beginning to understand feminism.

When I picked up my holds from the library I smiled. The three book covers featured children of color – yes! My youngest and her dad read the new book Little Professor Skye. Skye, an African American, sees herself in different professions everything from a swimmer to a scientist. It’s a little wordy for a four-year-old (and her tired parents) to read every word but we looked at every page and talked about the pictures.

The other book in the pile we’ve been reading is a book of Japanese folk tales. I’m excited to share it with my kids since it was a book I read when I was their age. The tales of Little One Inch and later Momotaro will be passed one more generation forward.

Diversifying the books and media my kids see is so important to helping them understand who they are and their valued place in the world. They belong to a community with many different voices and stories and seeing books with children of color featured helps them learn about other narratives. It is also helping to give my children a cultural identity and connecting them to family and friends.

Thanks Seattle Public Library for constantly filling our book requests and adding my purchase suggestions to the collection. I hope you’ll go check out some author of color books from your library.

Chicken and Waffles

This week I’m thankful for chicken and waffles. Last night I had a delightful meeting with a funder and we met at Nate’s Chicken and Waffles – a Black owned business in a heavily gentrifying neighborhood. It was sooooo good. The conversation was even better. My cholesterol is probably soaring today, but I ate a carrot today to neutralize it — that is how it works, right? Kidding, only sort of. I’ll let my cholesterol take a temporary hit in the hopes we can get more funding to communities of color.

Spending time catching up and investing in relationships makes the harder racial equity stuff easier in the long run. Over chicken, waffles, and mac-n-cheese, we shared what we’re working on, traded notes, I rolled my eyes she politely nodded and was nice (cause she’s a better human than me), and we walked away stuffed and with deeper and richer networks to support each other’s work. We need to take time to build networks so we can push each other forward. I’m also grateful a funder is willing to meet at a neighborhood joint versus a stuffy coffee shop.

Network of Supporters and More Food!

Tuesday my not-boss-bosses reminded me it is almost the end of the year and if I want to get reimbursed for my two-inch pile of receipts I better file an expense report. Looking through reams of receipts it is clear I spend a lot of time drinking tea and eating on the job – this week I’m extremely grateful for all the eating I’ve done over the year.

Last week and most of this week I’ve been contact with colleagues around the projected $74-million budget shortfall at Seattle Public School. It will be painful, for now I’m grateful our organization has invested in building strong relationships with both Seattle Public Schools and our community partners. In the coming weeks, many of the relationships and the trust built over tea and beer, French fries, and bowls of pho will be used to navigate this crisis and try to hold the line on the gains we’ve made to close opportunity and achievement gaps for students of color. I’m also reminded students of color don’t need us to just ‘hold the line’ they need us to make bigger and strategic gains, holding the line isn’t enough we need to see gains even with the conservative nature of where we are nationally and when in crisis. We can do this if we leverage our networks and push for sharing and redistribution of resources and power.

Not Fakequity, and Not Jaded

This week I’m going to double down on being active. Part of getting jaded is sitting on the side and watching as things explode and then needing to go in and drop equity bombs – the comments where we tell people why they are being jack asses and not practicing equity. Being active could lead to being jaded, but at least my jaded-ness will be justified — righteous jadedness vs. just passive jaded-ness, and I tried.

Here is my “I will try not to be jaded” action plan:

  • Lunch with Heidi – because we all need our people and I owe her a favor because she unpacked coded racism for me. Investing in the relationship over food goes a long way.
  • Read at least one author of color book before the end of the year.
  • Watch an anime show about baking bread, a new friend explained it was the best show he’s watched. We had a great conversation about culture and art between Native Americans and Asian influences. Action is doing something different and slowing down.
  • Write another email to my Congressional representatives to tell them cut off the Dakota Access Pipeline. To understand the situation in a few minutes, watch this Trevor Noah clip from The Daily Show, and go read more articles preferably by Native American’s most impacted and from reputable sources, cause we all know social media is filled with fake stories, and there is a lot of double speak like saying alt-right vs. white supremacy, so go to the source and understand there are multiple truths and sides to every story.
  • Mobilize and get messages out to protect high poverty schools and programs supporting students of color. We need to speak up it is how shit gets done.
  • Say thank you more. I will say thank you more. Saying thank you is an action, saying thank you slows us down to care. It is simple and hard to do at times.
  • I’m also going to work on spending time making my kid’s wishes come true because it is the holidays. Kid #1 wants to understand how Santa transcends time zones and physics, and #2 wants to know how to put pillows on the roof so Santa doesn’t make noise. We need to play and spend time together to un-jade ourselves.

Posted by Erin

What Did You Talk About at Thanksgiving?

Its Thanksgiving night and I’m nicely stuffed from dinner. A friend surprised us with a turkey. She said a friend of hers donates turkeys to her and her partner and asks them to distribute them to people working on behalf of community and social justice causes. What an amazing gift. I promised my friend I will pay the gift forward.

Originally, the Fakequity team had planned on a two-part Thanksgiving special. Week one was themed: Things We’re Not Thankful for, with a running list of annoyances, problems, and stuff that we make fun of signs that say “Prioritize Equity!” Thanksgiving week we planned the good list, Not Fake Equity. However, with the election of President Elect Trump and the anxiety this has provoked as well as the militarization of the Native American Siuox tribe standing ground to protest the North Dakota pipeline at Standing Rock, and locally anticipating a $73m Seattle Public Schools shortfall with the fear a lot of the gains made on behalf of students of color will be gutted. I just don’t have it in me to write that blog post about what is good and bad.

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picture credit: http://www.itworld.com

Instead, I want to know what was your dinner conversation. This year before Thanksgiving I noticed more colleagues and friends were anxious about dinner conversation. One white friend said she was traveling with her family to her in-laws who voted for Trump, she didn’t vote for Trump. She was dreading what would come up during their time together, her partner sent an email to the family saying “we’d like to have a nice visit, let’s leave politics alone.” I saw a Facebook post (in a group, I don’t know the person who posted it) where the family signed a pledge to avoid talking about the election and politics at dinner, on another post the host created a drinking game where people had to take a sip if they said something racist or politically charged, there’s going to be some hangovers.

Allies Did you Eat Your Talk?

I’ve been wrestling with the thought that Thanksgiving is about family and friends, but I’m also annoyed with allies who are avoiding tough conversations because it is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is about being with people we’re ‘stuck with.’ Because of the stuck-ness there is a chance to coach and guide people to understanding why race matters. Back in July people were outraged when Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, both black men were shot by white police officers. Many people were outraged, including many white friends. My Facebook feed lit up with calls for conversation about race, white people posting how outraged they were, words like allies and solidary were used and subsequently the posts were Facebook ‘Liked.’

Fast forward to the November presidential election and again I saw a lot of social media posts sharing articles about “Parenting Advice for the Trump Era” (has some good content, but centers whiteness a lot), resource lists of books and articles to read, posts asking how the country allowed Mr. Trump to be elected. I’m also seeing a lot of posts about Standing Rock and how outraged people are at the use of water cannons and violence directed at the protesters. Social media is for the like-minded, we are often social media friends with people who have similar values or a connection in some ways.

The problem with focusing on social justice actions online or with like-minded people is we’re talking to people who already ‘get-it.’ President elect Trump didn’t just happen, bigotry and racism have been simmering unchecked because we’re too lazy or avoidant to call out people about their values and language. As this article explains our democracy depends on talking about politics at Thanksgiving dinner.

Have the Conversation – The Hard Ones

We all have ‘our people’ those in our lives where we must continually help them understand why race matters. For some it is family members or close friends, for others it might be colleagues, clients, or neighbors. There is an element of trust in those relationships; they trust us enough to be open and honest, maybe show a little ignorance, ask questions that they know they can’t ask in certain places. With this trust we can have tough conversations in everyday settings like at family gatherings and in the office. If we only get outraged during big events, we are complicit in allowing things like police shootings of African Americans/Blacks to continue or Donald Trump to be elected. Only talking about race when it is convenient is fakequity, real race work takes place at family gatherings, in the car, and in my case over food– I like to eat, if you offer me food there is a good chance I’ll talk to you about race.

A white colleague was telling several of us about an op-ed he is planning on writing. He has the basic outline and named two other white allies to co-author it. After he finished telling us about the op-ed, I challenged him by saying “you realize all three of the co-authors are white,” he paused and got a little defensive listing off their titles and how great they are (I admit they are great). We talked more and I explained part of undoing racism is realizing sometimes those with privilege, especially white privilege, need to step back and use our privilege to try something different. He later told a colleague he was grateful someone was willing to call him out about his natural tendency to center whiteness. This is where the everyday work of being an ally happens.

Back to Thanksgiving did you talk about the election and race with your family and friends? I hope so. I hope you had a civil conversation about a topic you care about–immigration, police accountability, gun control, education, environment, etc. In some cases, the conversation really isn’t worth having, because a person’s fundamental belief is so far ingrained they won’t change. But we still need white allies to tackle hard conversations with your white family members and peers. At the Washington State Budget and Policy Center conference the keynote speaker Anat Shenker-Osario told the audience our messages should highlight our values and with that we’ll win-over undecideds.

If you missed having a hearty conversation about race at Thanksgiving, you still have the winter holidays to try again. I’m not going to Christmas/Eid/Hanukkah/Solstice dinner with your family as a ‘plant’ or imported poc, so step up and have the conversation with your own family. I’m going to be eating pancit, lumpia, and sushi rice with my family and talking about immigration, race, and the latest family gossip. Change happens when we have a relationship in place to invite people to think differently, step into the conversation – it makes a difference.

Posted by Erin Okuno

Your System isn’t Broken, it is Getting the Results it was Designed to Get

Every few meetings we present an idea or a statement and someone will blurt out “But if we only give the parents books to read,” or “if their parents cared,” or “ we just need to educate people.” It is easy to want to look for Band-Aid solutions or to blame someone else. Those quick-fixes ignore the underlying problems of systemic and institutional racism. Systems get the results they are designed to get. Institutional practices do the same, if they are designed to get inequitable results they will produce inequitable results, and vice versa with equitable practices built in they will get more balanced results.

Before we get into this here are some basic definitions:
The City of Seattle defines institutional racism as: Policies, practice, and procedures that work to the benefit of white people and the detriment of people of color, usually unintentionally or inadvertently.

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The Revolution WILL be Given Permission by Matt Lubchansky

In fakequity snark institutional racism is doing things that benefit white people. It is often unintentional. Excuses include: “That’s the way it is, we’ve always done it this way.” In other words, dominant society has catered to itself and given itself first preference at the fattest piece of the pie. We cast off the scraps to communities of color and say “here you go,” and when they say “hey, we’re getting less!” power holders say “You should be grateful to get anything, do you know how hard I/we worked to  get this,” ignoring that people of color have been working just as hard but with greater barriers to access the same power and privileges.

In real life this looks like things like the environmental cap and trade programs which allows corporations to buy credits to keep polluting, and often who gets screwed is poor communities of color when the pollution is next to them. We agree with the principle of less pollution, but not to screwing communities of color for the overall goal this is racism.  In local context institutional racism shows up in public process that allow the voices and opinions of wealth, mostly white, north end (a.k.a. higher-income, white, English speaking) residents to have a louder voice and more influence.

Unpacking Institutional Racism and How to Undo Bad System
We can’t fix big systems problems through easy solutions. There are times for individual actions, such as reaching out and tutoring a child, volunteering for a program, or donating food to an organization you care about, but we have to realize these actions aren’t the answer to institutional racism. In order to undo and address institutional racism we need to be intentional about undoing it. Just working as normal and saying “we help all clients,” isn’t a strategy for undoing racism.

To undo institutional racism we need to unpack and really look at the policies, practices, and procedures that are giving us inequitable results. Today, Heidi was reading an education report to look for ways to help teachers build their racial equity skills. In one-hundred pages she found the following words mentioned this number of times:

  • Race – 0
  • Identity – 0
  • Bilingual – 0
  • Equity – 0
  • Bias – 0

This is how organizational practices uphold being “color blind” and continue the racialized opportunity gap/structural racism. We can’t undo institutional and systemic racism without talking about being intentional about addressing race.

We Need to Bake in Equity
We can’t fix big problems like kids not graduating, a pipeline near a sacred Native American site and an important water source, or homelessness by doing the same things. The definition of insanity/fakequity, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We need to change and we need that change to “have equity baked into it not sprinkled on top” as Manuel Pastor, PhD, said at the recent Washington State Budget & Policy Center Budget Matters conference.

In order to fix our broken systems we need to look at the policies, practices, and procedures and admit they are broken. This doesn’t mean your organization is bad, but it does mean you need to do better in serving people of color. Baking in equity into your organization means really examining every point of interaction in a project. When we work to bake in equity it means we center people and communities of color, and we acknowledge our shortcomings and biases and work to resolve them. If you are serious about address structural racism, here are some ideas:

Distinguish your “Access” work from Racial Equity work- Access isn’t equity. Access efforts like translation, outreach, education, and board/staff diversity are important, but should not be called racial equity work. Outreach and engagement efforts provide access to the same system, the same systems that uphold structural racism.

If you’re confused about how access efforts uphold structural racism read the article, “How to Uphold White Supremacy by Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion.” Racial equity means you’re changing the system that upholds racism, not trying to fix or ‘save’ people of color. Racial equity work means that you’re sharing power, decision making and resource control. This can be scary work, as it means you and your organization need to let go of control. Too many times this idea is met with, “yes, but” or “what does that mean for our mission?” or defensiveness to change. Rather than putting your arms out in a defensive posture, try leaning back, believing communities of color, and letting go of some control.

Challenge other white people and resistors when they unilaterally rely on mainstream, mostly white, data and news as their justification. Listening to people who sound like us reinforces the echo chamber effect. We often do everything we can to hold onto our truths, and as humans we are resistant to change. Equity work is about intentionally deciding we are open to change and challenging the stories and narratives we believe. The media and voices we take in defines the actions we take and the systems we create; we need  to diversify and listen to a wide variety of voices in order to create more racially equitable systems.

Accept your organization and you will need to change. This isn’t about you and your work. Racial equity work needs to be racial equity driven. If we say we are about a cleaner environment, closing achievement gaps, or improving health outcomes, or whatever your mission is, it needs to be centered in people of color. This being defensive and making excuses, saying “but we’re different because our clients are blah, blah, blah.” Trust us when we say every organization uses that excuse, we all like to think our work is special, unique, and we deserve a break. These excuses uphold institutional racism, stop the defensiveness and be open to examining why you need to change to see better results. Every organization can go deeper and do better work.

Take on your share of the burden and take action that is in line with your disproportionate power. We all uphold these systems, but people with privilege whether by being white, English speaking, hold positional power, or other forms of privilege have disproportionate control over resources, agendas, and access to social networks and power. Take responsibility that aligns with that power and share your access and power.

Be explicit about your stance for racial equity and commitment to eliminating structural racism. Colorblindness and not talking about race perpetuates structural racism. Be explicit and use words such as racism, people of color, white, etc. The clearer you are in talking about race the easier it is to infuse equitable practices into your organization and undo institutional and systemic racism.

Posted by Erin Okuno and Heidi Schillinger
Cartoon credit:Great Moments in Peaceful Protest History, The revolution WILL be given permission by Matt Lubchansky

A Trump Presidency, No we Will Not Give him a Chance

Tuesday was a historic election day. It was an endcap to a long and contentious presidential campaign. As former political science students, we have confidence our entrenched bureaucratic systems, which are infuriating when trying to push through change, will also insulate many of the policy wins we’ve pushed for over the years. The small incremental gains have gotten us far and we will continue to push our government to do right by us, especially people of color. The president is one person in a powerful position, but still one person whose power comes from the people. We need to remember the president isn’t a king, he is a democratically elected president accountable to all of us.

Our colleague Selena Velasco, reminded us of this when she said: “Wherever we go, we bring the resiliency of our ancestors through our stories with us.” We have our elders’ and  civil rights leaders as our guide, and we carry their strength within us. Our elder’s stories and strength are now woven into the fabric of America, a country they built; America wasn’t just made by white men, it is inclusive of our communities of color.

Today, we take a stand and say no, to a one-dimensional demagogue. No, we will not give Mr. Trump a chance, we will hold him accountable to leading a nation that is inclusive of people of color. Here are some thoughts about our new ear of a Trump presidency.

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Left on a training binder. NO!

We will not give him a chance. This is exactly how sexism and racism work. We give the unqualified white male the “opportunity to learn” and “prove himself” on the job – even the Presidency. But people of color and women, must be overqualified to even compete for the job. And, one misstep or mistake disqualifies us. Imagine if Secretary Clinton or President Obama said or did one of the things that Mr. Trump did on the campaign trail. When do we stop giving people “a chance” or “the benefit of the doubt?” We need to hold white men to the same high standards expected of people of color and judge them by their experience, skills, and actions.

No experimenting with lives on the line. If you’re open to giving a Trump presidency a chance, it means you are insulated by a bubble of privilege. It means his “learning on the job” will probably have little immediate impact on your life. But it has already started to have a greater impact (more direct and more explicit racism) on the lives of Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Asians, Immigrants and Refugees, undocumented, and LGBTQ folks. We’re not ok with Mr. Trump experimenting on our lives, and neither should you.

He didn’t earn this opportunity it was granted to him via white privilege and white supremacy. Stop saying Mr. Trump earned this opportunity to lead. He did not earn it. He has no public service experience, he is a racist, sexist, ableist, and has spouted hate against immigrants, refugees, and women. He did not earn the presidency. It was given to him by the privilege of being wealthy, exposed on TV, and by the underlying racist tendencies of our nation. White supremacy doesn’t just show up as cross burning and KKK membership, it shows up as allowing a white man a pass when he says outrageous things in a job interview.

Stop talking about the rural–urban divide without putting it into the context of race. This election was about a rural urban divide, but it is also about a racial divide between rural and urban settings. This is about segregation, slavery, and historical redlining. If we look at where people live historical context matters. Rural and affluent areas of the country voted for Mr. Trump. White allies where were you in getting uncomfortable with your white peers in explaining this election was just as much about race as it was about gender, economics, and policy?

This racist shit has been happening forever. Racism is all around us, it’s in our systems, in our practices, in our language. Since the start of the presidential campaign many have felt more free and been more brazen in spouting racialized hatred, it has ramped up since Tuesday’s victory. As communities of color we’ve lived with this overt and covert racism for generations. In modern context, look at what is happening in Standing Rock with the oil pipeline. As many Native Americans have pointed out, it doesn’t matter who’s been president, Natives have continually had their sovereignty questioned and lived through cultural genocide.

White people, we’re tired of making you comfortable. When our lives and ways of life are in danger, we do not have time to make sure you’re comfortable with the conversation. We need to act, start with calling out racism, take a stand. Mr. Trump didn’t get elected by just one segment of America, he won fair and square, there are no hanging chads or recounts. To our white allies, we need you to be bold, brave, and face your friends and colleagues of color and say “I pledge to do my own work around race. I pledge to call out racism and hate, and I will do it even if it makes me uncomfortable.”

We need to take care of each other. Before you think this is all doom and negativity, there is always love. Many of you have sent emails, had hallway conversations, or commented on Facebook posts checking in with each other. Many of our educators and social service workers have responded to children and clients saying “we care for you and we will fight for you.” This love is a bold action against the winter of anxiety many face. Love comes in standing up and taking a stand. Take a bold stand by inviting people to have a hard conversation about race — doing that takes more risk, love, and sometimes even rage. Change happens when we have relationships and can invite people to think differently.

Now we rise up and honor the legacies of elders. On this Veteran’s day we also honor our veterans who defended our right to live in a country as beautiful and as flawed as we are. One president cannot and will not tear us apart. We respect the democratic process of the election and the office of the president. We must continue the work already started and say we have limitless capacity to hope and push for change.

Posted by Heidi Schillinger and Erin Okuno

Guest Post: Failing International Adoptees

Editor’s Note: This week we welcome another guest blog post by Marki Schillinger. Marki writes about a current event involving a transracial international adoptee and failures of our adoption systems and government to embrace adoptees. Broadening our views and being made aware of different experiences and lives is an important of racial equity work. Today we share a perspective from the international transracial adoption community.

Please also take a moment to vote. This is the last Fakequity blog post before the 2016 presidential election. Every election is important, but this one is really important. We won’t tell you who and what to vote for, but we will give you a virtual high five or fakequity onion (an old joke for longtime folllowers) for voting. -Erin, fakequity editor

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Imagine a three-year-old boy. Maybe it’s your own child, a neighbor boy, or your nephew. Can you picture him? Maybe he has dark curly hair, beautiful eyelashes, or that little crooked smile. Is he speaking yet? What are his favorite words? Does he know the A-B-C song? Isn’t it cute, the way he sings it, but misses some of the letters? Take a moment to picture that child you know, and hold him in your mind.  Now imagine that everyone is telling the mother or caretakers of that child that sending him overseas will improve his life. He will have opportunities not available to him here. The child is moved to a foreign country to live with a new mother, father, and family.

The boy is being adopted. The adoption agency has arranged for him to travel and live with his new family in a foreign country. The new family makes promises to embrace the boy and raise him as their own with all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of that country. The adoption agency accepts money to help the new adoptive parents make the boy their son. Maybe he’s packed his favorite toy, bundled in a jacket, and you sneak a few of his favorite crackers into a bag for him. You give him his favorite book and tuck a picture of the two of you inside. You hope and pray he doesn’t forget you. In the new country, the little boy tries to communicate with his new family. The new family speaks a different language and doesn’t understand what he is asking. The boy starts to cry. The boy cries harder, because the people all around him look so different, they don’t look like the people back home. The new mother offers the boy something to eat, hoping he will calm down. The boy cries even harder, because it doesn’t look like food, it doesn’t smell familiar, and he wants to go home. Home to a country now lost to him. The boy’s experience is familiar for many transnational adoptees.

Adam Crasper, a 40-year old Korean Adoptee who is pending deportation back to South Korea, a country he has not called home since being adopted at three. Adam was adopted from South Korea with his older sister. His first American family r gave up, and returned Adam and his sister to foster care when Adam was 10 years old. His parents and American systems failed to naturalize Adam and make him an American citizen. After bouncing around several foster homes, at age 12 Adam and his sister were separated and Adam was adopted by his second American family, Dolly and Thomas Crasper. Adam joined several kids already in the Crasper’s care, as many as 10 other kids at one time. However, at the age of 16, it Adam was kicked out of the Crasper home and alleged the Craspers abused him. News articles report Dolly and Thomas Crasper were arrested for physical and sexual abuse, and rape. The Craspers also failed to ensure Adam was naturalized as an American citizen. After being kicked out of the Crasper home, Adam tried to survive, but either did not have the skills and/or made poor decisions and was convicted of crimes including burglary and assault.

Later, as an adult who had put his criminal past behind him, Adam found that he did not have American citizenship. He tried to start the process by applying for a Green Card. However, his attempts were cut short, when Federal Authorities realized Adam was not an American Citizen and based on his criminal history, he would be deported back to South Korea, the Country he had not called home since the age of three.

Adam was legally bought and paid for by American parents, so he could be raised here in the USA as their son. Adam was forced to migrate to the USA. This was not Adam’s decision.  Adults made this decision and Adam’s life was radically altered. Adam’s American parents, likely white and definitely not Korean, made promises. They promised to raise Adam as an American with all the benefits and responsibilities of an American citizen. Not only did they fail, but I don’t see that they have taken any responsibility for this failure.  Our judicial system has given them a pass. They bear no legal responsibility, nor consequences for their failure to protect Adam from deportation.

Adam’s second American family, likely required Adam to live up to American standards and assimilate into their American lifestyle. Their failures are attached to Adam as he sits without American citizenship awaiting deportation. They added to the complicated emotional toll that Adam already faced having lost his family in Korea, rejected from his first adoptive home, and separation from his only biological relative, his older sister. Adam was made responsible for this heavy emotional toll, furthermore the Crasper’s do not appear to bear any responsibility for Adam’s failure to gain citizenship.

I wonder, is this the American life that South Korea envisioned when they promoted the adoption? As Adam faces deportation, are adoption agencies bearing any responsibility for their failures to ensure safe and competent adoption placements? Adam appears the sole recipient of consequences related to failures of the adults in his life to help him gain and/or ensure he gained American Citizenship.

Yes, Adam broke the law and yes he owes a debt to society. Those are his responsibilities. However, if the adults in his life had met their responsibilities he would pay his debt and move forward rather than now face deportation to a country he was taken from once before. In our racial equity work we must think about the potential consequences of our actions or inactions. We should think about those who need a voice and work to fix systems to ensure harm isn’t done.

Our American adoption system failed Adam and other international adoptees of color. I don’t want to fail Adam. I want my voice heard – I want Adam and countless other transnational adoptees, who do not have citizenship, to know that I support them and know they are American citizens who deserve those rights and responsibilities. Please join me in supporting the Adoptee Citizenship Act (ACA), which will bestow citizenship to countless adoptees who, like Adam, had adults fail to ensure they received it after adopting them. Please sign the Adoptee Citizenship Act postcard by November 21, 2016 to add your voice to protecting international adoptees.

Written by Marki Schillinger.
Marki is a Korean Adoptee who grew up in the fabulous Pacific Northwest. She is fan of most sports, a WNBA season ticket-holder– Go Storm!, and works in public service in order to support her bike-touring adventures.