February is Black History Month and while I am no means an expert on how to lead conversations about diversity, equity, or inclusion I feel compelled to share some of the ways I have started the journey to show up for these tough conversations-- and to listen.
Diversity is more than a buzzword. Inclusion matters more than idealist lip service. Creating these dynamics in our lives, our organizations, and communities takes intentionality. Working to build these values into our lives serves a purpose that benefits us all.
I'll be honest, I've rewritten this post several times trying to find the write things to say. Instead, I realized it's not about my thoughts, but about listening to and amplifying BIPOC voices in our own lives. It's about creating new systems to evaluate our old constructs.
Rather than using this post to merely center my own thoughts and opinions, I'm sharing more resources to empower you to dig a little deeper in your journey toward allyship.
Whether you've already begun the work, or have been unsure of where/how to begin, I hope you choose to make Black History month (and hopefully the rest of your life) about deepening your understanding of how embedded racial (in)justice and social (in)equality are in this country. Recognizing that you benefit from systems designed to oppress and exploit people of color is the beginning of all of us moving forward to redefine a social fabric that values and respects the rights of all people.
This is a resource for my white friends and those interested in holding deeper awareness in these important spaces through education of self and our children. This post is not about calling you out. It's an invitation for conversation and deep listening. It's a public acknowledgement of my own biases, privilege, and my attempt to do better.
Starting this work is not easy. It forces us to confront painful truths about the world and blindspots in ourselves. But, it's not about your pain. It's about recognizing a pain we will never know because the systems of discrimination designed to oppress specific groups of people and elevate others based on something as arbitrary and uncontrollable as the color of their skin.
This is a resource list, motivated by the need to learn and teach truth for the sake of our kids. Because they are inheriting a total shit show. It's up to us to change that. So here are 3 steps to move forward in this work and some resources to help you along the way.
Expose yourself to new people and ideas. Read about and listen to their experiences. Take it slow. Make it sustainable. I suggest chipping away at the smaller digital resources, spending an hour or two per week. An article here and there. You can use your research to guide a longer term plan for education.
Explore: Learning for Justice
These last few are dense and will take some time, but can lead to more resources. There are so many more, but it's important not to overwhelm ourselves, or we will never begin. Having content delivered to you by subscribing to a newsletter or a podcast is a strategy I have found helpful. We're aiming for sustainable change here, not burn till the wheels fall off. When you are ready, take a workshop or read a book. Some good starting points are:
2. Know that learning to align with antiracist thinking involves unlearning.
Many of our beliefs form unconsciously through conditioning and association. Our human tendency to want to belong contributes to unintentional conformity. Sometimes we blindly accept someone else's opinion as our truth. This is a chance to (re)evaluate what you believe. Be willing to take a stand and form your own beliefs based on your own research. It's okay to disagree respectfully with friends and family.
Growing up as a white millennial in the south, I was taught not to see or speak of race.
What I had overlooked when I set out to learn more about allyship, was how much unlearning would need to take place. The work of learning requires staying open to new perspectives, which might conflict with paradigms we were raised with. Be patient and respect your efforts. Expect mistakes and trust that it's are all part of (un)learning.
3. It's okay to stay in student mode.
If you're an over-achiever, like me, or if these issues tug at your heart like they do mine, you might be tempted to rush head long into reading and learning and posting and sharing and asking and crying and worrying and trying waaay to hard to solve an issue that no one person can solve. Maybe you already have.
When the media coverage went viral sharing the horrific killings of so many Black people last summer, many white people (myself included) felt a sudden urgency to learn and help. I wrote a blog post (as an open letter and resource roundup). There is value in the resources, but I was also feeling highly reactive and triggered. I share this because, while my intention was to be of service, my actions could have easily veered into the territory of centering and saviorism, or beyond. I don't know that it was perceived this way, but it's important to be aware that even our attempts at helping can also cause harm without meaning to. Stay open. Stay humble.
I thought I had to hurry to become an expert at navigating social justice issues. I was worried my students or a parent was going to ask me a question and I wouldn't know how to answer. This kind of pressure only fuels volatile emotions. There's no more room for more volatility on these issues. It's compassion, understanding, and action based in shared values that we need now.
The journey from actor to ally to accomplice may take a lifetime. The changes we wish to see may not even happen in our lifetimes, but like the brave visionaries and activists that came before us, we can each choose to lay the groundwork for change in our own lives, right here each day.
The world is waking up. Will you choose to be stirred? Will you choose to be become an accomplice to peace and justice?