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Blog Q & A: Bridging the Gap between the Real Self and the Ideal Self, written by Tina Rodriguez
Blog Series: Confronting Inequities in Our Field - August 26, 2020


Describe the ways you have been working to make your organization/the field more equitable. What drives your work?

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 am driven by my love for people. I see humanity as a role that evolves based on real time experiences. Right now, my humanity role is tuning in as a listener for Black families and a mother for detained immigrant children. My decisions, actions, and involvement are coming from this place.

Were there any overt and/or subtle ways that your voice has been undermined?

The very first time an effort was made to silence me was when I stood with the Me Too movement. I was informed that my social media accounts were monitored. I’ve been told to remove things. Not asked, told with a heightened level of demand. This was done in a manner to make me feel like I needed to walk on eggshells. Rather I’m advocating against sexual harassment, racial injustice, or labor exploitation, I operate with a safety plan just as one in an abusive relationship would because I’ve been threatened with legal action.

What difficult decisions were you faced with as a result?

The most difficult decisions I’ve had to make are asking people not to thank me publicly to avoid backlash and choosing honesty against a tremendous amount of threat.

Accountability for the harm looks like acknowledging the wrong. Allowing me to share how it made me feel. Admitting to the abuse of power and agreeing to change the power imbalances. The healing would look like empowering my voice instead of silencing me and economic justice.

What is the role of power sharing in making our field more equitable?

Power sharing in the field has to start with evaluating how the field has contributed to oppression. Then those findings have to be corrected. We have to collectively define inclusion because we evolved from definitions that were systems based. Those systems were rooted in sexism, racism, discrimination, and function on the power and control of hierarchy

The most alarming observation that I witnessed was the unveiling of those that I thought were genuinely survivor centered. I learned really quick that there is a difference in one’s “ideal self” and “real self.” Anyone can say that they stand with families united, Black Lives Matter, incarcerated survivors, and DACA students. Ask them to sign a petition or speak at a board meeting, and you’ll see that difference. It’s a difference that shows no accountability for change and part of why we have a culture of oppression. I choose to call that out therefore my circle is small.

We have accomplished many achievements to end gender violence and promote equity but we need to see where we missed the mark that allowed Black and Indigenous women to experience increased rates of death and incarceration. We have to own not demanding equity in parenting. We are in 2020 with parents separated from their children in detention centers. We should’ve stopped everything until these parents were reunited with their children. We have to acknowledge privilege at all levels including our own. Parenting is a privilege that we normalized to a degree that we got comfortable in the face of our very own people that were powerless. That is why we need to be independent in defining justice. We need to pass the mic to people in our community more than we do people in positions of power.

How has your work changed over the last month?

This past month my work has aligned with the needs of the community. I listened to them and heard what I interpreted as pain. As the protests throughout the nation occurred, I felt angry hearing the media refer to these protests as rage riots. The protests were an outcry of pain due to racial injustice. I created my own series of sessions to process racial justice as an independent clinician. I showed up when support was needed, I spoke at meetings with legislators and stakeholders, and I contributed financially to efforts to raise awareness of equity. My work looks intense but it’s grounded in healing and most importantly it’s driven by the people.

How can organizations take meaningful steps toward racial justice?

Organizations can start by listening to the people and to their own inner voices to bridge the gap between their real self and ideal self. When the power is shifted the process of a culture shift can begin and this is where equity starts to elevate.