Diversity and Inclusivity
I’m seeking guidance these days, as we all are, for how to resiliently and effectively learn and practice diversity and inclusivity in the face of the divisions and hostilities so evident right now in our common human enterprise. We wake up, pay attention, do good work with our best intentions, and then get busy, or overwhelmed, and fall asleep again.
This post is a direct pass-through of one of the best resources I’ve found to date to “stay woke” and stay engaged: mindful communication teacher Oren Jay Sofer’s May 31, 2020 post: 10 Things White People Can Do to Work for Racial Justice, one of the resources I listed in yesterday’s post Othering Is Everywhere.
The suggestions offered in this excerpt are wise, humble, and effective to help you “stay resourced; bear witness; open your heart and make space to feel what’s there.”
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Dear white friends, let us not perpetuate the violence by standing idly by or wringing our hands in despair. Let us not freeze with fear, overwhelm, or shock.
As human beings we have the power to uproot hatred and fear from our hearts, to dispel the ignorance in our minds, and to come to each other’s aid in times of need.
White supremacy and racism are older than any of us. We didn’t create the illness, but it’s our responsibility to be part of the cure. There is no simple answer, no “one thing” for all of us to do. But there is something for each of us to do. Each of us has a role to play in the healing of our world. Loving well means caring for one another and standing up for justice.
Stay resourced. Bear witness. Open your heart and make space to feel what’s there.
There is a balance between making space to be with pain and discomfort, and action. It’s essential to give ourselves time to grieve, to mourn, to grapple with the complex feelings surrounding the brutality and violence of racism. Particularly if we are white, there’s a way we can allow our advocacy to protect us from processing the awful implications of our own implicit role in a societal system of racial violence and oppression.
There are no simple, easy answers. Part of the healing must include the kind of radical transformation that only comes from deep, soul-searching reflection and inner struggle.
At the same time, if all we do is reflect and tend to our emotions, we fail to act. It’s equally important to show up right here and now, where and when it counts.
So if you’re feeling stuck and helpless, here are ten things you can do to stand for justice, show solidarity, and take action to stop white- and state-sanctioned violence.
- Educate yourself (or continue to do so) about whiteness, white supremacy, racism, and what it means to be anti-racist. Below is a list of resources (articles, books, films, podcasts) to help you get started or continue your journey of learning, healing and transformation.
- Discuss Anti-racism. As you come to understand more, talk to friends, family, colleagues and neighbors about what this means and what steps you’re taking to act in solidarity with communities of color. Vote in alignment with the value of being anti-racist.
- Talk to your kids about racism. The earlier we educate children about racism the less likely they are to perpetuate racist and white-supremacist ideology.
- Talk to your faith leader. If you are part of a faith community, talk to your faith leader(s) about the spiritual resources for peace and justice in your tradition. Get together with others and make a direct request that your church, synagogue, temple, or place of worship organize an explicitly anti-racist action plan.
- Get involved. Find a local or national organization that is fighting for racial justice and reflects your values and policy views. Donate, volunteer or find other ways get involved, like working to get the vote out. If you have extra financial resources give to organizations working for change on the front lines. This movement needs support both in terms of our numbers and our dollars.
- Contact your elected officials. Get in touch with local, county, state and federal officials to urge for systemic change. Many of the organizations targeting specific issues will have recommendations for whom to contact, when, and how.
- Grieve with other white people. Don’t ask your Black friends for emotional support. Pouring our outrage and sadness onto Black friends places the burden of our feelings on top of theirs. Instead, grieve with other white folks so that you are available to offer support emotionally, physically, and in other ways.
- Speak out about racism any and every time you hear a remark or witness an act with racist overtones. Silence is complicity and perpetuates violence. As Vanessa Daniel of Groundswell Fund put it: “Practice zero tolerance for anti-Blackness at any level. Say something not just sometimes but every time.”
- Take cues from Black people. Listen to Black people and be willing to take your cues from people of color in leadership. Part of white supremacy culture (and patriarchy) is believing that we know best, that we can fix it. Instead, we can recognize that oppressed groups often have a unique and more accurate view of our society than those who benefit from the unjust, unequal structures of our society. (For more on this, see Sandra Harding’s feminist Standpoint Theory.)
- Take care of your heart and stay resourced. Black people have been enslaved, murdered, and brutalized for over 400 years in this country. If you are white, or have white-skin privilege, it’s our work to deal with the feelings of guilt and shame that arise in relation to this painful history. The more we take care of ourselves, the more available we are to be in this fight for justice, equity and healing for the long haul.
More resources on diversity and inclusivity:
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh
Facing My White Privilege by Tara Brach
The Untold: What White People Can Do with Privilege by Ruth King
From Oren Jay Sofer’s Anti-Racism Resources