This week has been a heavy one. It has been filled with horror and hope and just about every emotion in between.
In the past several days, I’ve witnessed a lot of actions in support of social justice efforts to end white supremacy. I’ve seen a lot of people supporting each other in this work, a lot of resources being shared, and a lot of openness to unlearning and relearning.
I’ve also seen the push back and resistance to anti-racist work, and a continued blatant disrespect for the histories and current day-to-day experiences of Black women, men, and children.
What I’ve seen has caused me to reflect on and reckon with my own complacency when it comes to anti-racist work. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the difference between anti-racist work as a project and anti-racist work as a life practice.
Here’s more about what I mean.
- have a distinct beginning and end
- can feel high-stakes or pressure-filled
- include short-term investments of time and other resources
- can leave you with a sense of accomplishment or guilt depending on whether they are “finished” in the way you originally intended
There are lots of things that I would put into this “project” category including writing a book, going on the job market, home repair or renovation, and a range of other things I’ve devoted my time to in past years.
Calling these things projects does not necessarily lesson their importance, but it does signal that my commitment to them is somewhat temporary. I’m choosing to devote time to them for a period of my life before moving on to prioritizing something else.
I’m sorry to say — I’m ashamed to say — that, for the past decade or so, I’ve put anti-racist action into the project category of “grad school” and left it there. Some of you may know my MA and PhD are in women’s and gender studies, so I spent about six years studying systems of power and oppression, theories of intersectionality and identity, and strategies to further social justice (among many other meaningful topics).
Although I’ve certainly embedded what I learned during that time into some of my own choices politically and personally, it is rarely something that I talk about in public spaces and, as my career has evolved, those topics are no longer what I actively teach or research.
I’m embarrassed to say that I considered that project to be done. That it was completed. That I had moved on from that work.
In short, I significantly leveraged my white privilege in that choice to turn my attention elsewhere.
In the past week, I’ve come to regret that decision to put anti-racist work into the “project” category in a very deep way. I’ve realized how much I’ve failed my colleagues, my clients, my friends, my family, and myself through that limited understanding of my role in anti-racist work.
I’ve now realized that this work wasn’t a project, but must instead be a life practice.
- are an ongoing space for learning
- require consistent, sometimes daily, commitment
- include long-term investments of time and resources
- include low-stakes and high-stakes activities
- are tied to how we view our identities
- are connected to or infused with our values
We can certainly become complacent with life practices as well, especially if they become routinized over time, but for me a life practice signals a commitment. I would put my dietary choices in this category (I’ve practiced veganism for the last 18 years), as well as my commitment to writing, my devotion to creativity, my yoga practice, and how I live out the values of radical self-trust.
Now, I’m adding anti-racist work more explicitly, alongside a commitment to re-engage in a broad spectrum of social justice efforts.
Again, let it not got unnoticed that it is my white privilege that allows this to be a choice for me. Turning away will always be a kind of default option, so I need to make an active choice not to do that.
I’ll be thinking in the coming weeks and months about strategies to engage in anti-racist work that allow me to make meaningful contributions to these efforts. I certainly don’t have it all figured out — but I know it will probably involve the following:
- donating more consistently to organizations that do powerful social justice work
- reading a lot more broadly (and returning to books I read a long time ago) to further my own education and training on anti-racist and social justice-related topics
- sharing what I’m learning along the way in the communities I have cultivated (such as my social media networks)
- holding space for coaching clients from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences who need to talk through their own roles in anti-racist work
- learning more about how to further embed social justice values and methodologies into my business practices
- being more vocal about what it means to practice coaching and leadership from an anti-racist perspective
If you continue to watch this space, you’ll see clearer evidence of me devoting time and resources to continually educate myself on anti-racist and social justice topics.
As with everything else I write and podcast about, you’ll also see me share my journey to be a better ally against white supremacy and systemic racism.
I hope you stick around.