Cake time

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

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

Cakes and Cultures

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

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

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

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

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

Not Sweet, but still Cakes

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Okonomiyaki — so delicious. Photo copyright Erin Okuno

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

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

Sweet!

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


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

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

We Can All Do Something

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

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

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

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

Take a Small Bite – What is your small bite?

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

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

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

Bigger Bites

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

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

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

Do the Work

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

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

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


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

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

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

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“United Against Oppression” Artwork from Amplifier by Courtenay Lewis

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

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

What is Privilege

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

White Superiority

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

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

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

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

Supremacy vs Superiority

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

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

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

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

Superiority isn’t Real

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


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

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

Can You Handle My Truth?

By CiKeithia Pugh

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

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

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

Relationships

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

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

Data

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

Ask Yourself Do you REALLY Want to Know My Truth

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

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


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

 

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

 

Reading for Pride & Justice – A birthday project

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Picture of books, early hashtag that didn’t stick

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

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

Why Books and Why Pride and Justice

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

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

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

What I Learned

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

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

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

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

The Booklist

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

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

*Books Erin recommends


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

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This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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

By Jondou Chase Chen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Equity equations don’t work

http___3.bp.blogspot.com_-XqiRKSmrMic_Td3hLks6hqI_AAAAAAAAFBQ_MzTqkK8znB0_s1600_abacus_by_maximillianveers-d3h8obb

Picture: Alicorn doing math with an abacus and feather pen

I spend a lot of time in policy meetings. In these meetings we often will do a round of introductions, then we get to the good stuff – the stuff that makes grown people cringe – binders are opened, pens are flipped, a PowerPoint presentation will glow on a screen, and the talking starts, eyes start to squint, and my poker face fails me. After a few minutes, someone will throw out the word ‘equity’ and people will nod. It happens at every meeting. At some point, someone will say “what about data…” which leads to a  newer thing I’ve noticed – using a mathematical formula to defend decision making in the name of equity. It annoys me.

We can’t and won’t get to equitable solutions through closed-door conversations and mathematical formulas. I’ve never heard a community member say: “I know the answer to the problem, let me pull out my laptop and find that spreadsheet!” I’ve heard the opposite, one friend said “I gave up on the spreadsheets. They are all bogus, the numbers change and are all made up.” The truth lies somewhere between – hard data has its place in helping us understand, define, and focus and narratives and lived experiences are also necessary to contextualizing and bringing in real-life problem-solving.

I know someone is wondering “Wait, there is a magical mathematical formula to get to equity?” Yup, someone made one, and I’m not sharing it because I think it is bogus. I will say it looks at ‘risk factors’ such as races or ethnicities, socio-economic status, housing, language, and a few others and crunches those into a formula that recognizes the need in resource allocation discussions. I’m all for giving more to people who need more, but it is bogus to call it ‘equity.’

We’ve written before about weaponizing data. My colleague Jondou Chen, PhD, talks about how we need to make sure we’re not turning a person’s data into an object and stripping away their autonomy on shaping how the data is used and the stories behind the data. ‘Formulizing equity’ into a mathematical equation does this.

Why Narratives Matter

When we only create policies and practices that look at numbers we fail to understand and grow our racial literacy. We also fail to create an equation that is accountable and felt by people of color. In other words, we recreate the systems the formula is trying to undo. We are failing to do the harder work of building relationships and being in conversation and accountable to communities and people of color. We are failing to have the moral courage to acknowledge the harm and transgressions of the past and owning our parts in upholding racist and patriarchal systems.

Instead of turning racial equity into a mathematical formula, we must learn to listen with our heads, then move through our hearts, and have the courage to change. When we only look at formulas we fail to understand the racism embedded in our systems and we also remove a layer of accountability to people most affected by racism.

Having relationships in place are essential. Relationships force people to be accountable to each other and propel change. We must be willing to say we can and must act differently. We must be bold and brave and defend our decisions that might not be popular to some but right for those who are the farthest from justice. This is easy to say, but harder to do when people accustomed to having their needs met fight to protect the entrenched ways of doing things.

Who’s in Control

Formulas have their place, they can help to ensure the systems we put in place drive towards equity in the long term. Equity isn’t just about shifting resources, it is about centering the communities most impacted and allowing them to have self-determination and to define problems and solutions. Simply using a formula or a matrix allows those in control to remain in control of how we define and see problems. For a shortcut in understanding this principle, read Heidi’s previous post explaining the racial equity mapping tool.

Our challenge is to take data, stories, and relationships and marry those into policies and practices that recognize histories, strengths, racism, trauma, cultural understanding, and are accountable to BIPOCs (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). If you need an example of why this is important watch this TED talk about a youth project collecting stories and how to use those stories in understanding race (h/t to CiKeithia and Heidi for sharing this). Using just a formula or matrix doesn’t get us a complete understanding of a problem.

When we see people and not just numbers, we’ll begin to unravel the racialized gaps and create new policies where luck isn’t a key to achieving and where we live with true racial justice. Your work is to build a relationship with someone whom you don’t know and who’s story is different than yours. Acknowledge your privileges and use those privileges to benefit someone else. This is how we can create a ripple effect of change.


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

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

Lunar New Year

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Photo from Pixaby by cegoh

Editor’s Note: Today, 1 Feb, also marks the start of Black History Month. In solidarity with our African American and Black relations.

I love lunar new year. It is festive, there is red and gold everywhere, drumming, lion dances, and if I’m lucky red envelopes filled with money will come my way. Growing up in Hawaii, Chinese New Years was a big thing and I got to partake in the festivities that happened all around. At school friends would bring nian gao their grandmas made to share, one year our teacher brought a string of loud and smoky firecrackers to light off from the second floor into the courtyard then littering the ground with red paper that stayed for months. As an adult, I am drawn to the day even more because it is one of the only days where the Asian community is visible. We take one day a year to be full-on-Asian and proud of it.

Every year I struggle to find good articles about lunar new year to share on Fakequity’s social media sites. This year I decided to write my own. Ironically after I decided to write my own I stumbled on pages that do a decent job of talking about different aspects of lunar new year. I still decided to write one from my perspective, but please make sure to read some of the hyperlinks since they have different information and perspectives.

Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year is a BIG deal to many in Asia. In China, Vietnam, Korea, and many other Asian countries it is a very important holiday. Businesses shut down, people travel home in a massive wave of migration, akin but different to Thanksgiving travel in America. Unlike Thanksgiving, there isn’t a set date. The lunar calendar follows the waxing and waning of the moon and was important for agrarian societies. Lunar new year marked the end of the last frost and in China the day is known as Spring Festival. In Vietnam, Tết Nguyên Đán or shorten to Tết, is the most important celebrations. Friends have told me that it is a day off from school and work and a time to visit the temple and pay respect to elders.

This year I decided to look up how Japanese celebrate lunar new year. I learned they don’t. In 1873 Japan adopted the Gregorian (Western) calendar and moved to celebrating New Year on January 1. All of this to say not every Asian country celebrates lunar new year.

How to Celebrate

I asked several friends why lunar new years is so important to them. A Chinese American friend said growing up she knew her grandma would be in a good mood on Chinese New Year. Her grandma would take her to the alter and kneel her in front of it and present her to the ancestors, reintroducing her and saying she was a good child and to watch over her. It was her day to be seen and affirmed and she left feeling like “yeah, I’m good with the ancestors for another year.”

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Photo from Pixaby by Quangpraha 

Another friend shared how Tết is her favorite holiday. She recalled going to the chợ hoa, flower market, that popped up because everyone would be buying flowers for their homes. She also talked about the cultural tradition of making sure you are clean before midnight, taking a bath, giao thừa. She would get a full bucket of hot water which during the winter was a treat. For some, it is important to get haircuts before lunar new year since it is bad luck to have it done during the celebration time. In Chinese culture knives and scissors are taboo during new year, don’t want to cut away your luck.

Then there is the food, who doesn’t love dumplings, glutinous rice in many different forms, and candy. In some cultures, it is dumplings all day every day during lunar new year season, YUM! In the Korean celebration of Seollal tteokguk (떡국, pronounced TUH-kook) is served, sometimes with a side of family joshing and teasing – ah the joys of being in an Asian family. Often, the food prep was equally as important as the food since it is how traditions are passed down. My friend Bao shared how she helped prep banana leaves for the Vietnamese bánh chưng/bánh tét, a glutinous rice with a variety of fillings wrapped in banana leaves. She also confessed with not being very helpful with the actual work. Growing up I loved when people would bring Chinese nian gao (brown sugar and rice steam cooked dessert) to parties or gave me some to take home, although in Hawaii I just knew it as gao. This year, I found an Instant Pot recipe version, maybe I’ll try to make it.

Red Envelopes

If someone hands you a red envelope on lunar new year, accept it and don’t lose it. It most likely contains lucky money. In some families, it is customary to kowtow (bow, forehead to the ground) three times before receiving a red envelope from an elder, and now in the digital age online red envelopes are also sent via mobile and the internet.

Many of my friends and family talk about the tradition of the red envelope and how it was a way to show respect and appreciation for each other. A friend talked about how her father’s friend presented her with an envelope because the friend respected her father and he wanted her, as the child, to know how important her father was in his life.

Lunar New Year and Western Society

One of the reasons I love lunar new year is it the only Asian holiday even remotely recognized in the US and Western society. It is one of the few times where Asian children get to see their community come together and celebrate. Because I cling to this notion of having one Asian-y day, my poor officemates every year hear me rant about how organizations forget to check the calendar and end up scheduling events on this day or leave it off their list of important dates. The rant sounds like this: “One day! Can we get one day to celebrate? Why did they schedule on this day?!?” If you’ve accidentally scheduled on this day, I’m not calling you out in particular, many orgs schedule on this day and some are more graceful than others when they find out about the date conflict. It is hard to remember the date of lunar new year since it moves every year, but like other important holidays make a point of learning the dates. Earlier this year Fakequity published a list of culturally important dates to help make it a little easier. If you did schedule on this day and need me at a meeting hand me a red envelope and some gao and I’ll be good.


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“Good White People”

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Artwork by Josh MacPhee – There is Nothing More Urgent Then Freedom, Amplifier Art

Good white people are all around us. They are white and want to be seen as doing good in understanding race. They are well-intentioned, sometimes on their way to wokeness, sometimes a little clumsy, and sometimes a little too sweet. Good white people are all over the place. They are in schools, at the grocery store, your gentrifying neighbor who moved to your neighborhood because they love diversity.

Good white people are just that – good white people. Where it becomes a thing to note and manage is when good white people stop there and figure because they are good they are exempt from having to dig deeper to learn about race and actively work to disrupt racism.

If you want to identify a good white person here are some things to look for:

  1. They are white.
  2. They think they understand the plights of BIPOCs (Black, Indigenous, people of color)
  3. They denounce wholesale racism (i.e. Make America Great Again hats are evil)
  4. They are good and they are white

The problem is when good white people stop there. Because they are good and they have white privilege but they don’t take the time or energy to realize their roles in undoing racism. Recently I was text chatting with a friend about her day, she sent a text back saying she was spending the day with people who are doing “the good work” and therefore exempt from having biases. That is a textbook definition of a good white person – wants to be seen as good, but won’t do the deeper reflective work of realizing their role in upholding racist systems.

Good white people are the ones who denounce Trump, but think the MAGA boys who smirked and stood in front of Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder, were justified and are the victims because Phillips walked into the crowd of boys, code for “he [Phillips] asked for it.” The boys are good white innocent Catholic boys who are not to be doubted.

Good white people are the ones who cry when someone points out their white privilege, or says white supremacy in their presence. They feel attacked for being white which they can’t control versus understanding their unearned privilege and the role of whiteness in society.

Good white people speak for people of color because they feel they can. Good white people show up at rallies but in the quiet of their homes over Thanksgiving dinner don’t do anything to call out racist language from friends and family at the table.

Good white people champion diversity as long as they and their kids are served first. (In education settings this shows up as who has access to college access programs, advanced placement, etc.).

Good white people say, “can’t we all just get along, let’s not make this about race.”

In other words, good white people want to be seen as being good. They want to be separate of other white people who they condemn as bad. Being a good white person is easy, they don’t have to do much more than the minimum – put up a social media post with a hashtag and boom they’re done.

Being an Ally, Accomplice, and Agitator

Moving beyond the minimum of being a good white person isn’t hard, but it takes intentional self-reflective work. One of the first things to learn is how white privilege works and how unearned white privilege is. White privilege isn’t a personal attack against an individual white person. Accept it and pause to realize how you’ve benefited from the unearned privileges you’ve had in life – the privilege to walk into a store and not be followed or asked multiple times “Can I help you find something?” (code for I’m racially profiling you but disguising it as being nice), the privilege of showing up at school and assuming it is for you, the privilege of feeling a sense of belonging when you walk into mainstream spaces. Once you realize this you can begin to go deeper.

Being an ally and an accomplice requires you to give up some of your privilege and use it to support BIPOCs. There isn’t one answer to how to do this. Sometimes it means stepping back and listening to BIPOCs. Other times it means stepping up and saying things need to happen differently to support people of color. Sometimes being an ally means stepping in and saying the unpopular thing and calling out other white people who are unable or refuse to see and say. Other times it is taking on the role of agitating to help other white people understand race and how it shapes our lives.

Moving beyond being a good white person also requires continued learning and reflection. You don’t get to just watch Black Panther, read Ta-Nehisi Coates, and listen to NPR’s Code Switch podcast and say I’m a good white person now and done — no wokeness points earned. Race is an evolving construct and racism is forever adjusting and changing. Not long ago segregation was visible and defined, a good white person may recognize this, but fail to see we still have segregation but now it is disguised in other ways such as who has access to elite schools, which kids get to go to sports and other expensive camps and STEM programs, etc. Being a good white person means working to recognize and undo the systems of oppression that are harmful to both whites and people of color.

Good white people you have what it takes to do more, go deeper, and to shift discourse in yourself and with other white people. Be brave and take the next steps.


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

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