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. Today, with deep gratitude to the authors, we are sharing three blog posts that expose real issues of white supremacy plaguing our movement. We pause to listen to a colleague who has been silenced and pushed out of the field. We learn about the experience of an advocate who has worked to achieve meaningful equity in their organization, even in the face of opposition. We explore an account from an aspiring white ally who is 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 colleagues 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.
“———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.
Most often, Black, Native & Indigenous, and people of color are
speaking up about inequitable policies and practices in
organizations. For white folks, sitting back is no longer an
option. The Aspiring White Allyship group is developing a project
that has come out of the DV field’s inconsistent response to
Black people being killed by law enforcement and the failure to
respond to the needs of Black, Native & Indigenous, and other
staff of color.
If you are an aspiring white ally, we’re seeking your
participation in addressing the inequities that staff of color
face, while holding yourself accountable to challenge white
supremacy within the field. To hold the White Allyship Group
accountable, we invite Black women, Native & Indigenous women,
Latinas, Asian & Pacific Islander women, and other women of color
to participate in the Advisory Committee. We’re looking forward
to your participation! Sign up below.