It’s been a few months since I was intentionally making time to journal with Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy book. A few things have happened recently that reminded me I need to check in with myself.
I listened to Rosalind Brewer (COO of Starbucks) reflect on how Relationships are such a vital part of moving beyond performative diversity in this TED Business podcast. She described the work she does to build relationships with their front-line staff and reflected on how their anti-racism resources and trainings have begun including many more family members of their “partners” to help her see the work she does at Starbucks as interconnected with the broader community ethos that Starbucks contributes to. I appreciated her perspective because it helped me see how powerful our actions can be when we think of them as integrative (anti-racism trainings + community outreach + employee engagement) and are genuinely seeking to be in relationship with those that are different from us (and with substantially different power levels in large hierarchical organizations).
Last week, I received a super interesting email from one of CPA Co-op’s largest institutional members in DC. I thought I’d share their email (below) because I was so impressed with it. I also thought I’d share my response. What I found hopeful was the risk that this (white) organizational leader was taking. It demonstrated an institutional commitment, but also it seemed to convey a sincerity from the leader. It gave me hope that they seemed to be doing their own personal DEI work. It made me hopeful that more organizational leaders can go on their own journey and be transformed by the work that they do. It also highlighted a real vulnerability. He made himself and the organization vulnerable and in a way began to show some solidarity with communities of color. To me, it indicated a real desire for ally-ship. It indicated a level of empathy with BIPOC communities that he was willing to take some meaningful risk and implicitly commit himself and his institution to doing a meaningful amount of their work around Diversity Equity and Inclusion in a public way. That they wanted to share back what they heard their partners and vendors and stakeholders doing. They wanted to help us all see paths forward that we can take. It felt like a big risk that could lead to a really meaningful set of contributions.
Part of how I understand my own desire and motivation to dive deeper into racial equity work is that in this work, I’m beginning to discover a new Felipe. I’m finding myself feeling more liberated. I’m beginning to see how our racialized systems of oppression and extraction are hurting me too. As I allow myself to slow down, begin to ask the harder questions about what I’m really meant to do with my time and work and what contributions I can best make in this world, I see how caught up I so easily get in patterns of thinking that are within a dominant extractive mindset. When I slow down enough to really be in touch with my body, with nature, with the relationships around me, I begin to see a new way I can be in the world. Over the past couple years, I’ve allowed tensions and conflict in my organization to be a moment to build deeper relationship. I’ve made time to sit in the hard feelings. I’ve chosen to embrace the emotional labor of doing my own work, and inviting colleagues to do the work with me. The fruits of this difficult work of seeking relationships of people that have been systemically oppressed by our institutions, systems and dominant culture — and actually building relationships with people I’m genuinely interested in — I’m beginning to see how my own feelings of liberation are bound up in the liberation of others. I genuinely feel a deeper sense of wholeness and integration that is giving me a glimpse of how I might continue to do the hard work that pushes my face to confront the awful evil that I’ve been participating in for so long and systematically benefiting from in so many ways because of my skin privilege.
A Self Check-in
I still wish I had clarity on what the work is I should be doing, but I’m grateful for the nuggets I’ve started to gather along the way. I want to recommit myself to the relationships that have pushed and stretched me the most in the ways that I feel like I need to grow. I want to remind myself that part of how we do this work is that we need to take risks to be vulnerable and genuinely in solidarity to be good allies. We need to do the work to put ourselves out there. We need to do the emotional labor to help evolve the culture. Finally, the reason for all this is that I will experience even more liberation when my Black and Brown brothers and sisters are afforded the same privileges, access, and opportunity that I am. There is so much deeper meaning in life through relationship and liberation. That’s why I’m seeking this work.
Letter from a CPA Member Institution I received
Here’s the letter I mentioned earlier in the section on “risk”:
On January 6, we witnessed a confluence of events that we believed were unthinkable: some elected officials, including the President of the United States, looked to undermine our democratic process and norms through vast misinformation, intimidation, and violence. These events unfolded in our backyard, placing our city on lockdown and compromising the safety and wellbeing of our students, alumni, families, and staff. Furthermore, the way the situation was initially handled and reported highlighted the stark racial injustices and false equivalency that Black and Brown members of our community face every day. We shared this perspective and our beliefs in these public statements on Wednesday, January 6 – and we want to make sure you are aware of our beliefs and values as it relates to these events:
We are deeply disturbed about this threat to our country and to the outcome of a free and fair election. This is domestic terrorism and truly incomprehensible. Today’s events are an all too large reminder of America’s racist history and present reality.
We’ve made the decision to cancel virtual instruction tomorrow, Thursday, January 7.We know the events at the U.S. Capitol today and what may occur tonight are deeply troubling and want to ensure our community has time to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
We are disgusted when we think about the contrast between how our country is responding to this act of domestic terrorism vs the peaceful protests of this past summer. The pain and anxiety being felt in our community is real. Hate, racism, and insurrection have no place in DC.
As a team and organization we constantly assess how and where we deploy resources (people, time, assets, etc.) and whether this is in line with our beliefs about racial equity and social justice in particular. And, I’d like to understand what you all are doing to share your values, beliefs, and commitments during this time. With that in mind we are checking in with partners on three things:
- Ensure that you know our beliefs and values as it relates to the most recent events
- Confirm that your beliefs and values are in line with ours – please respond back that you have read this e-mail and affirm your support
- Understand how our partners have or are planning to respond to be in line with your (and our) values and beliefs – in the spirit of learning and collaborating, please share any responses / actions that can be made public
Many corporations and organizations have already responded over the last few weeks – this is a critical moment in our nation’s history and we applaud those who have come out strongly against these appalling efforts and any others that may occur. We expect all of our partners to respond with strength and conviction so that we reiterate and live our core values and beliefs.