Personal Statement on Racial Equity and Justice

If you are informed about our history, it is not hard to see what is happening in our country today. Every time there has been progress towards racial justice and equality, there has been an equal if not stronger backlash and retrenchment to preserve the caste hierarchy. Systems that oppress and scapegoat some (namely Black and brown people in the U.S.) in order to preserve the power and status of others (read, white people), have morphed and reconstituted themselves—from slavery to Jim Crow, from Jim Crow to the police and prison complex.

We are in the midst of one of those periods of backlash right now. It is in part a reaction to hard-won progress towards a more inclusive society. It is in part fear of loss of power and status, fear of change, and fear of an America that will be \”majority minority\” by 2045—fear fanned by Trumpism, and exacerbated by real forces eating at the health and wealth of white Americans without a college degree (e.g. the opioid epidemic).

This latest reassertion of white power is manifesting in ways that are both depressing and exhausting. It includes a seemingly never-ending stream of police killings of unarmed Black people, increased hostility towards Asian Americans, efforts to roll back and constrain voting rights, and on and on. Behind each of these actions and efforts is the white fear and insecurity associated with a perceived threat to our status in the caste hierarchy. It is lurking behind each one of these paranoid policies and practices.

I know I\’m not the only one who agonizes over what to post or say in response to each individual injustice, to stake out my little space and make sure it is clear to others that I\’m woke enough and, trying at least, to be part of the solution. It usually feels frustrating and fruitless in the end. This might be because of the shallow and performative nature of social media. It might be because nothing feels like enough to do justice to the injustice. More likely it is because I actually am part of the problem. We are all part of the problem.

Knowing this, I\’m motivated to try to write something more personal, and maybe more permanent —something that shares the actions I’m personally trying to take to practice antiracism.

I\’m especially motivated to do this now. This is because we are on the cusp of the verdict in the case of George Floyd’s murder. Unfortunately, I have no confidence that Derrick Chauvin will be held accountable, although I hope he will. Our system is designed such that white people are innocent until proven guilty, and Black people are guilty until proven innocent. So much so that it is quite plausible that a jury could decide nine minutes kneeling on a neck until a human being is dead is not a crime. I do not want to be in the place of having to try to retrospectively put words to an injustice that seems difficult to fathom, even here, even knowing what I know.

Instead, I would rather try to proactively summarize the small things I try to do to contribute to the larger force pushing back against the powerful retrenchment towards the status quo. Here they are:

  • I collaborate with and support leaders of color. We have built our business with the explicit aim of collaborating with and helping leaders of all races committed to justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Recently we’ve been working with a group of Black women advocating for better education, facilitating discussion around Caste as part of the Read Diverse America challenge, helping evolve the DEI strategy for a large healthcare system, and providing coaching and facilitation support for the deputy chancellor of a state community college system as a few examples.

  • I personally support Black businesses and Black professionals. I seek out and patronize Black realtors, dentists, web designers and more whenever possible. We do the same professionally as we make choices about whom we engage through Outside Angle.

  • I build diverse teams. We make it a priority to hire and to collaborate with diverse talent. It benefits our clients, our culture, our impact, and it makes work more fruitful and more fun.

  • I listen and create space. Checking in is a regular practice in our organization, and the way we start every week. We seek to build strong personal trust and relationships that create space for dialogue and don\’t require a new system or a special meeting to respond to events that happen in the world.

  • I raise antiracist children. We\’re starting to teach our four-year old about race and history, and doing our best to raise children who are informed, loving, open, and self-aware

  • I create and sustain a diverse network of friends. This is a lifelong, never-ending project. As we age, the caste system tends to separate and segregate us. It takes effort to hold and deepen diverse relationships against these forces. These efforts pay off manyfold.

  • I vote for racial justice. I cast my vote for politicians that support police reform, education reform, voting rights, and other issues of racial justice. When I have the opportunity to talk to politicians I ask them about their perspective on public monuments and reparations.

  • I read and learn. Reading diverse texts and seeking to understand our history is an easy entry point, a fulfilling endeavor, and maybe even a patriotic duty. Recent reads include Smoketown, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, and Caste. Other favorites: Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, Many Thousands Gone, and Stamped from the Beginning.

  • I try to check myself. I try to always be aware of the way race is showing up in my conversations and assumptions in order to manage my own internalization of the caste and race hierarchy.

These are all works in progress. To be honest, I\’m always slipping and reconnecting with any one of them. Part of the privilege of whiteness in our country, after all, is the privilege to be able to not think about race for an hour, or a day, or a year if one chooses to. There are some who are clearly on one side of this all the time. But most of us toggle back and forth between being part of the progress, and part of the problem. I hope by sharing these it might give others some ideas, but more so I hope it helps me hold myself accountable to my own intentions.

This shirt pretty well summarizes where I’m at right now. This picture was taken last summer at the hospital after the birth of our daughter.

This list will matter little in the face of what I anticipate will be an unprecedented outpouring of pain, grief, and anger if Chauvin is acquitted. The message that decision would send about the value of Black lives in America will be as clear as crystal. I expect the reaction would be unlike anything we have experienced thus far. How could it not be?

But while my little list of actions may not matter much, I still believe it matters. The entire history of our country is characterized by a long struggle for equity and justice. Just as racist forces morph and reemerge in new forms, so too does the struggle towards equality and freedom. I know there are so, so many others who are doing all of the items on my short list, and much, much, much more. I hold out hope that in the long game, our collective action will be enough to once again bend the arc of history in the right direction.