Racial Equity Habit Building 2.0

May 10, 2016 Leave a comment

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This year for the second time, IISC partnered with Food Solutions New England in designing and facilitating the 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge as an extension of both organizations’ commitment to realizing racial justice.

Last year, this networked remix of an exercise created by Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. and Debby Irving, was offered as a way of spreading commitment to learning about, talking about and taking action to solve racial injustices in the food and other related systems. This year, additional tools and virtual platforms were added to create a more robust environment for learning. This included:

  • an even richer resource page with readings, videos and organizational links,
  • a blogroll of daily prompts with links to resources and room for participants to offer written reflections,
  • a series of original blog posts on the FSNE website committed to relevant topics and themes
  • a Twitter hashtag (check out #FSNEEquityChallenge)
  • a group Facebook page

Participation in the virtual platforms was overall greater than last year, though only a fraction of the more than 1,000 people who signed up for the Challenge. That said, any thought of making that the main indicator of success was challenged by the many stories of the Challenge being taken up within organizations and communities around the country, taking advantage of in-person opportunities to deepen the conversation and commitment, and of those initiating their own virtual versions. This is evidence of network effects, and the fact that it is impossible to fully appreciate all the self-organized activity happening on the periphery of our generally centralized vision. 

And this year the richness of the conversation and learning that was shared virtually was considerable, as exemplified by the following comments:

“Once you see, you cannot un-see… Today’s readings–and the Challenge overall–are making me see things I couldn’t (or didn’t want) to see before and now cannot help but see. It can all feel overwhelming. Still, there are solutions.”

“I took a look at the National Equity Atlas for the Boston metro area. It is always stomach-churning to me to see the racial disparity in hourly wages in actual dollar amounts. In the Boston metro area, the median hourly wage for people of color is only 70% of the median age for white people. It’s just insane when one thinks about all of the ripple effects this has on communities (from the scale of the individual all the way up to the society).”

“Today’s reading really hit home, as the story that is often told of those on food assistance is that if they only worked a little harder, they would be able to put food on the table as well. The power of story can hide, but also transform.”

“The words we use and have become accustomed to using to describe ourselves and others are proof of internalized racism (internalized oppression or internalized superiority) at work! Often, these words/descriptors are part of legal and ‘official’ government language used to describe the inferiority/ superiority complex – elevating one race while decreasing the status of another. Once they’re accepted as ‘official’ or legal terms, their use is typically perpetuated by the media and eventually, they become so commonplace that the average person internalizes the racist meaning, thus creating an unconscious bias.”

“Pair [The Storytelling Curriculum] with The Ultimate White Privilege Statistics and Data Post and you’ve got a solid formula for telling stories that share real facts. Cool!”

“I was really struck by the sections in the article that described how discriminatory policies in the past on housing financing and school food programs negatively affected both Black and low-income, rural White communities. In the context of so much of the incredibly divisive “blame the other” hate speech being promoted in the presidential campaign – where are areas of commonality that might resonate and bring urban and rural people together today?”

While the plan is to offer the Challenge again next year, the hope is that this exercise supports ongoing and nascent racial justice efforts that rift on and remix this in their own ways, inspiring a more vast network of people to take up a 365 day per year commitment to solve racism.

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