DAY 21 – Final Reflections & Take Action

Apparently almost 8000 people took part in the challenge! There weren’t any readings today, but I took the exit survey, which asked, amongst other things, how comfortable we were having conversations about racial equity both before and after the challenge. I’m a little more comfortable, but I’m still – and maybe even more – aware that I’m white and it’s not necessarily my place to speak when there’s the option of magnifying a Black voice instead.

I think it has made me, though, more willing to step up when I’m with other white people who are saying questionable things. Actually asking the questions they invite is a pretty good option: sometimes people genuinely suck at communication and don’t realize what they’ve implied. Sometimes they know they’re saying racist shit and now don’t have plausible deniability. Questions let you disambiguate and know more about the people you’re talking to! They’re good. They also seem to work best when you approach it as neutrally as possible, remembering that sometimes people don’t think before they speak. Principle of charity + also not letting things go uninterrogated.

I got to use this approach in a different context earlier, with someone talking about art showing Ronald McDonald kissing the Burger King having ‘ruined’ him. I’m living my best life, or something.

But I’m definitely going to be going forward trying to live a more anti-racist life.

DAY 20 – Black Lives Matter

One of today’s challenges was to listen to the Black Lives Matter playlist on Spotify, which I’ve embedded here because it’s excellent.

Another of the challenges was reading the history of #BlackLivesMatter. I hadn’t known it was woman-founded, nor that it was so deliberate about centering marginalized voices within the Black community, which is pretty cool. It was also the first time I’d seen the store, and I am actually kind of relieved that they don’t have masks with the hashtag. I’d have felt awkward if my Black Lives Matter mask could have supported the organization directly but didn’t.

I also signed up for the website, and am adding them to my donate list for the end of this month.

DAY 19 – How to be an antiracist

Today’s learning items were mostly videos, which I have a hard time engaging with, so I read the one reading, a short article defining anti-racism. Anti-racism is definitely what we need, though I have some inchoate thoughts about it as an opposite of diversity, and how they’re not necessarily speaking to the same point. But everything is context, and there are so many different contexts in North America that a lot of things fall apart.

But anti-racism is a good place to start. I want to be anti-racist. I have some hesitation, though, about claiming the term, because I see it as involving being more active than I am in working against racism. I can review language in internal documents to try to make sure it’s free of bias, but that’s not the same as ever attending one of the BLM protests that have gone on during the pandemic. But I didn’t attend them because two of the people in my house are asthmatic, and any kind of large gathering of people with no idea of how well social distancing will be maintained has been completely out. So I guess I’ll say I hold anti-racist ideas, ideals, and political positions, but I am not active enough in putting that into action to be an anti-racist. I guess after my bills are paid this month I’ll be donating money to . . . well, my go-tos are the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, but since I’m trying to have more local impact I hit up Charity Navigator. Since POC in Delaware are disproportionately economically disadvantaged and they have a 4 star rating, I guess I’ll be donating to the Food Bank of Delaware.

Today’s action item was to sign up for sessions on how to be antiracist, to be held in October. Which I didn’t, because apparently by the time I got to the link, they were all full. Which is actually pretty cool.

DAY 18 – Being an ally to POC

The conversations I have about allyship are usually about the LGBT community – the one in which allies definitely belong, because the A stands for lots of things. Allies are important in the LGBT community because it gives space – for friends, for family, for people who aren’t ready to embrace any other label until after their situation has changed, for people with no plan for any other label but a value for equity. For people who vote.

But it’s different for race. Frequently, an LGBT identity is something you can choose to disclose; skin color isn’t. LGBT identity (particularly embracing it) isn’t definitively tied to anything heritable: our intergenerational ties and understandings and paths to self-knowledge are different. So I was really interested in how effective allyship works in a race context, both because of curiosity at the comparisons and because it’s something I want to do.

The reading for today centered on the idea that being an ally means taking up the struggle.

Oh, and the guide is hosted on Github. That’s perfect. The reason it’s perfect: it tracks and attributes contributions, while keeping a record of what’s gone before, how it’s changed, and why. Gits are a good way to make things better, while also keeping track of what didn’t work and why we changed it. Best metaphor/version tracking.

Another of the readings talked about how allyship is about showing up when it’s not trending, about reaching out as people magnifying marginalized voices. It’s also about voting. It’s always about voting.

I sent in my ballot for the primary already, but today’s action item wasn’t about that – it’s to seek out, listen, and build trust with someone you want to be an ally to. Which I need to do. My awkwardness about trying to increase conversations doesn’t trump trying to make very sure they’re included in the community I’ve been working on building for the last few months.

DAY 17 – Building a Race Equity Culture

Today (yesterday but I was trying to finish a thing and accidentally worked 13 hours so time is fake) one of our reading items is AWAKE to WOKE to WORK: Building a Race Equity Culture. One of the first sentences includes the definition of race equity as “one’s racial
identity has no influence on how one fares in society.” Which. Yeah. That’s the goal. But even within that definition I think it’s worth unpacking more definitions.

Because wanting race to have no influence can invite just ignoring it as a factor, which is, I think, the opposite of what we want. Raceblind hiring is great, and something more companies should do and design for, but then – is there a support network for the people of color? Is it a hostile environment or a supportive one? End goals need midline goals, or you end up simplifying to “I don’t see color,” which ends up being a failure mode particularly for white liberals.

I think one of the midline things is just – genuinely valuing diverse perspectives? Which seems like a very progressive, liberal thing to say. But now I get to put online the point I’ve made many times in diversity discussions at the Disaster Research Center.

The William Averette Anderson Fund, named after disaster scientist Bill Anderson, promotes minority, particularly Black, participation in disaster science. I never met Bill Anderson, who was active as a sociologist and disaster scientist somewhat before I started, but he contributed immeasurably to the field. In terms of cold, hard data that is callous to diversity and the humanity of the people both gathering and providing data and uncaring of a legacy of mentorship, this is still true. Because Bill Anderson was Black, he was able to get interviews in the 1960s about the civil unrest and riots related to race that no one else would have.

Diversity enriches a field. This isn’t a sentiment, or not just a sentiment. This is a documentable fact. Valuing that diversity means that you get a better field. The reading talks about how diversity has been reduced in many cases to numbers and percentages, and therefore significantly weakened conceptually. But I’m not sure I agree that shifting the focus to the desired end state is necessarily the best solution everywhere? Though one of the ongoing issues is going to be that everything is highly variable based on location and context, which makes moving forward harder. But I think recognizing and valuing diversity is part of moving towards equity. It’s part of what the reading talks about, moving away from a white-dominant culture to one that promotes equity: everyone’s story and identity needs to be valued.

DAY 15 – Adverse Childhood Experiences and DAY 16 – The Intersection of being Black and LGBTQ

No excuses for why these two are being posted together on either side of a weekend. It is what it is.

Childhood

Racism is an Adverse Childhood Experience. They stack up to a variety of long-term consequences, to health and long-term addiction rates. Which sucks. But I think it’s also important that statistics aren’t destiny for an individual, and we can also do better as a society.

One of the reading options included a Resilience Score. Resilience is a complicated word, with a disaster background in part because structural factors – including racism – play such a part.

LGBTQ

The complications and nuances of Black identity interacting with LGBTQ identity are something I’ve read more about than most of the topics we’ve covered, because I read more social commentary on LGBTQ issues in my downtime. The Stonewall movie did everyone a disservice by having a white man as the face of it: it was trans* sex workers of color who started it. Specifically Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. And this is one of the places where an intersection can complicate things in unexpected ways: one of the stories that makes the rounds on tumblr in the lead-up to National Coming Out Day is the essay by a gay Indian man that talked about coming out not being the same for everyone and the fact that he lost his home culture when he came out in a rejection that cut deeply and broadly.

One of the readings for today talked about how LGBT workers of color end up facing multiple marginalizations.

DAY 14 – The school to prison pipeline it’s real.

Today’s reading was this study about how black girls are disproportionately targeted for discipline in schools. In light of the semi-recent case of the Black girl who went to juvie for not doing her homework online, this was timely, but also just . . . tiring. Shit just keeps happening? And for people who live it, rather than just reading about it, it seems like it has to be perpetually exhausting. Which is part of the reason for this challenge, I guess.

In better news: the girl was released.

DAY 12 – The Racial Wealth Gap & DAY 13 – Racialized Outcomes in Education

Late and combined because I started writing stuff but then it felt overwhelming so I did other stuff. So I did some of the journaling and thinking yesterday but never finished.

Today’s action items actually include journaling, so I think this will be longer. The first item is to seek out Black owned businesses and patronize them. Well, Lowe’s is a corporation, but the CEO is Black, and they’re doing cool stuff during lockdown. SoleRebels is an Ethiopian company, and the world’s first fair trade shoe company. When I got my contract for this fall I ordered shoes for everyone in my house because suddenly I could afford it, and they make comfortable, sustainable, ethical (to various people’s concerns, too: they have a vegan footwear line) shoes. I also did a quick Google for makeup brands by women of color and then went to my makeup subscription bag to make sure I had any of those brands that were listed checked off as ones I definitely wanted to try.

Journal or think about on your and your families experiences the work and money. What career do you have? What did your parents have? Do you or they work in a historically segregated industry? If so, how was that segregation maintained? How does that affect your family’s earning power?

Actually doing this late worked, because of my freshman year of university.

My grandfather set up a trust fund for me. There was enough in it that in high school I could comfortably plan for going to the cheapest state school in Wisconsin for four years without taking out loans. Part of the reason this was possible is that my grandfather – who met my grandmother when they were both in university, because this was an option for both of them – was an engineer before he retired.

My parents have been journalists, and there are Black people they know from J-school, so it wasn’t a completely segregated industry. They have also worked in higher education, though. So once I move from talking about my grandparents, the question of work and the question of education are tightly coupled.

Down the hall from me in fall 2007 there was a dorm room where there were two Black girls: the only two Black girls on the hall. My meal plan and dorm and tuition were covered by my trust fund; they were both on loans, and I think one of them had a work-study. Both of them had to drop out in the spring because they couldn’t afford it. I flunked out a semester after that because of depression, but I didn’t have loans to deal with, so I was able to go back, eventually, and now I’m a PhD student. I have no idea if they were able to go back, but I think this is an important example of how intergenerational wealth can work. My family could afford to send me to university unburdened by concerns about money, partly because they were university educated and had economic circumstances that allowed it.

And, like. I’m proud of the work my grandpa has done, and of my family members’ individual accomplishments. But the paths that lead to those accomplishments would have been closed or at least steeper if they weren’t white.

DAY 11 – What is Environmental Racism?

I missed day 10 because WordPress wasn’t cooperating, but it was “How Your Race Affects Your Health” and *gestures vaguely at the current everything* so I’m not going to revisit it.

One of today’s readings was a profile on Marissa McClenton, an ambitious environmental justice scholar I had Environmental Justice in Disasters (a cross-listed graduate and undergraduate course) with an eternity ago this spring. We had a lot of really good discussions in class about some of the more egregious examples of environmental racism in the US.

The Atlantic article also linked for today’s reading is also good.

Today’s action items included joining Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice’s FB page or Delaware’s Sierra Club for local information.

DAY 8 – The intersection of race and law enforcement

For a challenge partially sparked by the murder of George Floyd, we’ve built up to the question of police murder of black people. My reading today involved looking at what reforms might work to curb it. Body cams, de-escalation training, and police departments not hiring former cops who were fired for misconduct are all mentioned.

In a sort of terrible coincidence, today I got the social media guidelines for my current job – where I’m contracted to FEMA and therefore under DHS rules. Which means I’m allowed opinions but not on the clock and not ones that imply institutional support, basically. An article I read recently discussed the results one town had when they police department hired a social worker to respond to some calls, which relates interestingly to a hashtag discussion about police funding that’s been ongoing.

Apparently Delaware now has a Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force, though, so that’s good news!