Centering the voices of Black, Native & Indigenous, and people of color is our path toward truly challenging the norms of racial inequities and violence that we want to end—and moving toward collective liberation. With deep gratitude to the authors, we are sharing blog posts that expose real issues of white supremacy plaguing our movement. We pause to listen to colleagues who have been silenced and pushed out of the field. We learn about the experiences of an advocates who have worked to achieve meaningful equity in their organization, even in the face of opposition. We explore accounts from an aspiring white allies who are grappling with sharing power, challenging their own leadership style, and wanting to do more.
Healing and collective liberation start with naming the root causes and impacts across lifespans and generations. Historically, storytelling has been an act of liberation and resilience, and these blogs create an intentional space for centering voices that have always existed, yet haven’t always been heard. It is the movement’s responsibility to listen. These pieces were written with vulnerability and courage, by many colleagues throughout the state, including those who have collaborated in the Culturally Specific Collaborative and the Culturally Responsive Organizational Self-Assessment. We ask you to consider how their experiences are reflected throughout the movement as a result of overt and covert racism. After reading them, we’d be grateful to hear your thoughts.
I didn’t understand how gender-based violence plagued my family
until after I joined the movement.
I have seen with my own eyes 5 generations impacted. I know it
goes further back. Again, that’s just what I’ve seen in my 32
years of life, from my great-grandmother to my nieces. Women
whose bodies are riddled with disease, whose minds have been
poisoned by self-limiting beliefs, and whose hearts carry so much
trauma they seldom know how to fully connect to themselves, each
other, or anyone else. It became the norm. It became our culture.
It became “the type of family we are.”
As I strive to be an anti-racist, I keep reminding myself of
something Brené Brown said:
“I’m here to get it right, not be right.” I know I’ve
absolutely got it wrong in a million different ways and will
continue to do so. But I’m reminded by other folks also doing
this work that making mistakes is part of the process. Indeed,
making mistakes is how we know we’re doing the work.
I’m Christine Smith. I’m an enrolled member of the Rincon Band of
Luiseno Indians, and descended from the Kashia Band of Pomo
Indians. I’m the daughter of Kim and Weldon, stepdaughter of
Jeff. I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley
with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Native American
Studies, and I have a Master’s in Public Administration from the
University of San Francisco. For the last four years, I’ve worked
as the Public Policy Coordinator at the California Partnership to
End Domestic Violence. I’m a survivor of domestic violence. I’m a
proud puppy and kitten mama. A queer woman. A soccer player. A
quilter and crafter. Professional coach-in-training. Portland
I love what I do. Leading the Partnership’s policy team, I get to
work closely with our entire membership, our national partners,
the state Capitol community, and our Congressional delegation. It
is never, never boring. It’s filled with opportunity to have
large scale positive impact, and fraught with potential for large
I worked at a state sexual violence coalition in the northeastern
part of the United States for two years. I was beyond excited at
the opportunity- my mother was a first-generation college student
and my grandmother was not even able to complete her elementary
education. In three generations, we went from migrant worker, to
administrative assistant, to nationally recognized expert
employed by a state coalition. This was an opportunity to
advocate for the generations of my people harmed by colonization,
racism, and xenophobia. To do the work our people and communities
need- to push our issues to the top of a state agenda on issues
of sexual violence. I believed in this organization, one whose
work I had followed when I worked the frontlines providing direct
services to survivors. One that spoke boldly of
intersectionality, speaking truth to power, and dismantling
systems of oppression so that we can all thrive. I believed this
would be a place where I could finally do the work women like me,
like my mother, like my grandmother needed.
Domestic violence has been defined as a pattern of coercive,
aggressive, and violent behavior and California laws make it a
“crime” to harm an intimate partner. Though men are survivors of
abuse, it is women and girls who have been disproportionately
impacted for centuries by this epidemic of global violence,
rooted in a hierarchical, oppressive society that continues to
create societal attitudes and beliefs about how intimate partners
should be treated. Racial injustice contributed to this hierarchy
and negatively impacts the fight against domestic violence and
intimate partner abuse so this is a good moment to examine
policies, procedures and historical practices and the way in
which they impact black families.
I grew up being told that we were the good, non-racist white
people, unlike those bad, racist white people (often from the
South) who supported the KKK and lynching, and opposed busing for
integrated schools and integrating neighborhoods.
In the 1950’s my father, a minister, hosted a prominent African
American gospel singer, who planned to stay in our home in rural
Illinois after her concert. I now realize this arrangement was in
part because there was no hotel that would rent a room to her. My
father told me that the police chief came to meet with him and
tell him the singer had to leave town before nightfall, under the
Sundown Laws/practices. My father, raised in Chicago, was shocked
and refused to agree to tell the singer to leave. Fortunately,
there were no negative consequences for the singer or for our
“———it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of
hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my
surroundings, themselves, or fragments of their
imagination-indeed, everything and anything except me”.
Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man
I came to the United States after living a privileged life in
Bangladesh, country born in 1971 in South Asia. My ancestors
lived through colonial rules, bloodied partition, genocide, rape
camps like many others in the region and we continue to battle
the forces inflicting religious strife, political oppression. I
say this to remind myself that it’s not easy to break my spirit.
Describe the ways you have been working to make your
organization/the field more equitable. What drives your
How I work to maximize equity is through teaching accountability.
I understand that oppression is in our history, in systems, and
in this field. I abandoned the checklist approach to
embrace what I call a culture shift. Improving equity is not
going to happen with a once a year conference or webinar.
Becoming more equitable is a lifetime commitment to daily
measurable practices. I have helped organizations in the Central
Valley understand that the commitment required is ongoing. I
recently had a colleague share an accomplishment that she
achieved of getting a position funded to do advocacy for
farmworkers. I reminded her that the next goal was to elevate
that position to a management level. We can’t just create
positions rooted in diversity; we have to elevate them. That’s
the difference between a checklist approach and a culture shift.
I’ll start by saying I know writing this piece in no way makes me
‘better’ than any other white person. I don’t set any standard,
clearly. I was asked to write this blog and am taking it
seriously. I’m going to be completely honest about myself, and
what I hope to see in our field. It will be filled with
imperfection. Mistakes. Misgivings. I hope to read it again in a
year, and cringe because I’ve continued to unlearn my racism, and
evolve my behaviors. That being said, here’s what I have to say
on July 16, 2020.
There have been a few pivotal moments in my life when leaving was
me taking back my power. The first time, I was 21 and finally
left a violent relationship that started the summer before my
junior year in high school. Most recently, I quietly departed
from the DV movement. I hadn’t reflected on the significance of
my soundless exit until May 26th when I read a CNN article about
Amy Cooper, who exercised her white privilege to call the police
with a fabricated story of being attacked by a Black man because
he had the audacity to ask that she adhere to the Central Park
rules and place her dog on a leash.
Intent is different than
impact. And both are
Working to become a white ally is not a task to be taken lightly.
You will be challenged to the very core of your being as you
begin to recognize your privilege – the unearned
advantages you have in life that our Black, Indigenous
and People of Color (BIPOC) friends and colleagues do not have –
simply because of the color of your skin. You will have to
examine and “unlearn” many closely held beliefs. In the process,
your heart will be deeply bruised – healing slowly with forward
movement and growth that may take a lifetime.
As the brutality and racism of the murder of George Floyd and
countless other Black people over the course of the last year
reverberates around the world, I feel an overwhelming sense of
remembrance. I feel triggered and greatly saddened because these
issues are not new. They feel familiar…the trauma, the
anger, the fear, frustration and desperation….all of it. I
had put it away in the box that I call “the 70’s” and moved on
with my life. Things were crazy back then.
Tokenism. It is a sneaky perpetuation
of inequity facilitated by those enjoying the benefits of
privilege. I label it as “sneaky” because it so easily
shape-shifts from person-to-person and
organization-to-organization. The nods and uhm-hmms are just
smoke and mirrors to keep a person, specifically a BIPOC, lost as
to what is going on behind closed doors.
*The author of this piece chose the pseudonym Alan to
protect against retaliation.
I remember standing in an auditorium in Dallas, Texas a few years
ago with over 1,000 attendees at an international conference on
intimate partner violence. I remember looking around at the
predominantly white men and women in suits who proudly placed
their hands upon their hearts as they recited the Pledge of
Allegiance. “I’m not in California anymore!” I joked to myself as
I suppressed every urge I had to run past the walls of suits, the
badges, and the elaborate displays of morning pastries and coffee
stations – all while an American Idol contestant sang the “Star
Spangled Banner” on stage.
I work very hard at being someone I can respect. I treat others
the way I want to be treated. I give others the chances I
want to be given. I make space for others that I want to be made
for me. And when I mess up, and I do a lot, I learn from it and
move forward instead of giving up. That’s a person I can
respect. That’s who I work to be.