By Lori Cohen, Bright Morning Senior Associate
I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.
– Angela Davis
What are the knowledge and skills I need to be a threat to the existence of inequity in my sphere of influence?
– Paul Gorski
My colleague LesLee Bickford recently shared an anecdote where she was in a white affinity space focused on equity, and the facilitator’s opening whiparound prompted participants to share what their daily equity practice involved. LesLee went on to say she had never been in a space where there was such a rush to NOT be the one to go first. And only one person in that space had a daily equity practice.
LesLee’s story is a clear reminder that we have more work to do in rethinking our relationship to equity and what it means to do the work, particularly for those of us who identify as white or who navigate predominantly white spaces. If we are oriented toward our collective liberation, healing, and global transformation, then equity work is non-negotiable.
Let’s imagine: What would it look like if everyone had established equity practices they were eager to share? What might it mean for our schools and our students? What might it mean for us and what’s possible in this world?
Now, let’s get to work.
Being a Threat to Inequity
In the last blog, I shared a toolkit for looking at your sh**, which involved situating yourselves, learning more deeply, and developing a disposition toward growth. Today is all about action—one thing you might do to learn or practice your skills. Or to put it another way, I challenge you to do one thing a day that allows you to be a threat to inequity.
The following are some ways to get to work:
- Find your entry point: This piece from LesLee includes a treasure trove of resources and is a great starting point for developing daily habits.
- Stay current on vocabulary: It’s important that the language we use is affirming, inclusive, and up to date. This resource from racialequitytools.org dives into how to stay current on racial equity terminology while also acknowledging the evolution of language over time. The rest of the site is amazing as well.
- Listen to a podcast series: Currently, I’m listening to Scene on Radio Season 4 (every season is provocative and engaging), which takes a look at the roots of democracy in the US. I also reflect on each new thing I learn after each episode so I can put it into practice.
- Do interactive reading and reflection daily: I’m working through Layla F. Saad’s Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. I also recently completed—and strongly recommend—Dr. Anneliese Singh’s The Racial Healing Handbook (Dr. Singh also is a keynote speaker at this year’s Art of Coaching Conference). Whatever you choose, consider resources that focus on the journey of unlearning and unearthing core beliefs to shift into stances that promote greater healing.
- Get an accountability buddy: Find a co-worker, friend, sibling, someone you interact with daily and make a habit of sharing your learning. Doing this work in community will strengthen your skills.
- Refer back to Part 2 of this series and use the “honing awareness” questions as a daily practice:
- Who is currently in this space? How do I perceive their identities? What assumptions am I making about what’s visible/invisible?
- Who is not in this space? Why? What might that mean?
- Who am I in this space? What markers of dominance do I possess? What markers of non-dominance do I possess? What privileges do I have/not have?
- Who do I perceive to hold power? Why? What stories or beliefs reinforce my perceptions?
- What values are being reinforced in this space? What/who do I notice on the walls? In people’s words or actions?
- What feelings are coming up for me?
Just 10 minutes of daily learning or practice can support more equitable habits and actions, can help us examine underlying beliefs and shift behaviors, can ensure our schools are places where students (and we) can thrive in their full humanity—and where we all can be a daily threat to inequity.
I want to imagine a world that looks much different from the one we inhabit now. I want to reimagine LesLee telling her story about her group and their equity practices, and I want to feel inspired at all the ways people are eager to share what they’re doing: what’s useful, what’s not, what’s good, what’s hard. The world can use more courage and sharing like that.
I also want this world to be one where barriers have been dismantled, where new systems have been created that honor people’s totality and wholeness—where historically marginalized communities are thriving.
I also know that to realize this kind of world, we all need to be in community doing this work together.
Co-Creating Community: Share Your Work
Perhaps a tool in this list resonated for you; perhaps you have your own list of practices; perhaps you have a litany of go-to resources. My hope and my encouragement to you is to SHARE what works so that we can collectively work towards the kind of restoration and healing that reimagines the world we want to co-create for future generations.
Bright Morning focuses on building just and resilient communities. Check out some of our previous work on equity.
- Looking at Your Sh**… And Other Ways to Sharpen Equity Tools (Part 1 and Part 2)
- A Beginner’s Guide to Creating an Equitable Classroom (and Step 1, Step 2, Step 3)
Coaching For Equity (April 22 – 23 in San Diego, CA) is taking place in April. Led by Elena, this workshop provides your school team an opportunity to think more deeply about equity and building affirming schools. In this workshop, participants will learn to pursue a more just, equitable school system using the tools of transformational coaching from Elena Aguilar’s best-selling book The Art of Coaching (2013) and from her forthcoming Coaching for Equity (2020). Register here.