Over the last few months I have been teaching a class to teacher candidates at a predominantly white institution, working with mixed groups of education leaders to develop their leadership as truly grounded in racial justice, and working with BIPOC leaders around their own journeys to liberation.
Across all of these contexts, a question about what my work looks like moving forward has been on my mind. A lot.
Can true racial justice work can happen in mixed “company”?
Even with the best planning and attempts to differentiate and make the adult learning space a place where everyone can enter from who and where they are, I find that white folx‘ needs still tend to get placed at the center of progress—and BIPOC folx are continually frustrated.
I hear this theme over and over from white folx that they want to take action and not just read or discuss and engage in deep personal self-reflection. But do you (white folx) realize how much you trivialize the acts of reading and discussing as a means of rewiring your brain and heart to be fundamentally and foundationally (my word) different after decades of socialization that place you and your way of being at the center? Reading and discussing are HUGE acts in the process of undoing. They are a necessary and ongoing action that will inform all of the other actions you take, big and small. Of course the work doesn't stop there, but don't underestimate the power of education in the process of liberation. The continual need to ”act” is like pulling at weeds. It’s only effective for a moment and we are trying to shift centuries of though and existence.
If you’ think it is time to take action, please give yourself this little test:
1-Can you name five ways white people jumping to action have harmed communities of color (for whatever context or purpose you are wanting to take action in) that you can learn from?
2-Can you connect the action you wish to take to informed thought, scholarship, and/or activism to clearly explain why you should be doing this?
3-Can you name several examples of why your action will positively impact the lived experiences of people of color moving forward?
4-Can you provide specific contemporary and historic examples of why BIPOCs‘ need your “intervention”?
5-Can you identify and call out with confidence when racism and/or white supremacy culture show up around you and within you? (Use this situation as an example and try and name five ways racism shows up).
If you can’t answer most of these, you are likely adding harm, even though that’s likely not your intention.
This is me in my auntie voice, giving instruction with love: Yes, it will take white people to end racism and other forms of oppression. But we can’t be moving on your feelings and timeline. Just because you’re tired of discovering your privilege doesn’t mean you get to displace those frustrations on the already moving journeys of people of color. Keep reading til you understand what it is you need to be doing. Stand up and read, walk and talk if you feel like you need to see movement or to know progress is being made. But please don’t place your expectations of progress on the movement. We need change to last for more than a moment.
This is also why, I will be shifting away from team coaching with new clients. Oppression is deeply rooted and for those who want to live and lead from a liberated foundation, group settings are proving to not be the most effective. I mentioned in my last post that things would be changing a bit at Justice For All, Everyday. In my next post I will share specific details, discounts, and how you can jump on board early.
Stay tuned and be well!