By Koreena Malone , Chair, MNA Engagement and Inclusion Committee
From the April 2021 Front Porch Flyer print edition
Creating a loving and just neighborhood means that, as neighbors and leaders, we need to understand the differences between anti-racism, diversity, inclusion, and implicit-bias training and use language consistent with anti-racism work.
Anti-racism is a personal and societal standpoint that opposes racism in its many forms. This movement fights for the dismantling of systemically racist social and economic policies. In a “post-racial” society, Americans are often convinced that race is no longer a determining factor in individual and community outcomes. Anti-racist organizers have fundamentally rejected this narrative and actively fight against it. Plainly spoken, we view racism as a power structure and not as how we treat each other by the color of our skin.
Diversity and inclusion training refers to training employees to better work with others of differing abilities, backgrounds, nationalities, genders, etc. It emphasizes being inclusive of all types of employees and explains the benefits of doing so (bit.ly/inclusion-train).
Implicit bias training, or unconscious bias training, programs (bit.ly/implicit-bias-train) are designed to expose people to their implicit biases, provide tools to adjust automatic patterns of thinking, and ultimately eliminate discriminatory behaviors.
Diversity, inclusion, and implicit-bias training are helpful, but they lack the history and follow through needed to make real systemic change. Part and parcel, these trainings typically lack the wherewithal that is needed to guide participants to look at the systems that created the issue embedded in the workplace or the community.
Typically, these trainings do not penetrate the heart of how racism was formed in the United States of America and ultimately who benefits from these systems.
On November 7th, 2020, I woke up with the same propensity and ritual every day that week, tuning into the news to learn about what has unfolded due to the tumultuous presidential election. However, on that morning, I was expected to be on a Zoom call with 16 other neighbors to partake in our very first anti-racism training.
I remember it was a beautiful morning and I felt a bit of relief and trepidation. After months of organizing and building relationships, 16 of my beloved neighbors opened their hearts and minds and committed to attending training on two different Saturdays.
I had no doubt this training would stretch what most people understood about systemic or institutional racism and beliefs that we have developed over time.
Those in attendance ranged from currently or previously elected Steering Committee members, Block Captains, and neighbors. We ranged in age and gender, but most in attendance were white and homeowners.
MNA hired Dr. Joyce James, and we attended the workshop “Groundwater Analysis of Racial Inequities, Turning the Mirror Inward.”
This workshop taught us:
- Racial inequities look the same across systems,
- Systems contribute significantly to racial inequities,
- Racial inequities cannot be attributed to “one bad apple,”
- Racial inequities are concentrated in poor communities and communities of color, and
- Systemic interventions and training can work to reduce disproportions and disparities and improve overall outcomes for all populations.
This workshop aimed to enhance participants’ racial equity awareness by building a common language and an understanding of the underlying factors that contribute to racial inequities. This increased knowledge can be a catalyst for developing strategies to build more effective programs and for strengthening and transforming the culture of systems towards increased accountability in response to the needs of all populations.
Here is a summary of the teachings from the workshop:
- Equality is not equity, and racial inequity is present in all systems. We need to change the policies we practice in our neighborhood that contribute to these inequities.
- We will not create events, programs, or spaces void of a racial lens or racial analysis.
- We have all benefited from the exclusion, exploitation, oppression, and underserved poor communities and communities of color.
- We need to stop focusing on the person when making systemic change and focus on the proponents in the system that created the disparities to begin with.
- Training was beneficial and it was believed that the leaders and neighbors would benefit from ongoing training and continued training.
- Black people were systematically and intentionally deprived of resources that white people continue to benefit from.
- The history most of us were taught didn’t include teachings about systemic and institutional racism and those who benefited from all these systems and policies.
- Politics and political camps do not equate to doing the work to be anti-racist.
Now that leaders received the knowledge and training, how were we going to apply this to our Neighborhood?
This is the third article of our “Building a Community that is Practicing Anti-Racism” series. Please stay tuned to learn what we are doing to organize and change our neighborhood. If you want to be a part of this movement, please contact, Koreena Malone, [email protected] or [email protected]