What does it mean when people or organizations say they are “doing the work” connected to anti-racism? While it’s all connected to action surrounding equity, inclusion, belonging and dismantling racism, no two people seem to mean the same thing. I can’t say the phrase without at least one set of air quotes. Usually it’s two! One set for “Doing” and one set for “The Work”.
Shared meaning at the outset allows for shared ownership of the change you want to see. Shared ownership fuels lasting transformation.
Doing. The Work.
What does it mean to “do” in the world of anti-racism?
Doing better still highlights “doing”. So, what counts?
Being on a journey?
Giving up power?
Creating accessible content or more encompassing gender pronouns?
Talking to friends about race?
Reading books about white fragility?
Adding melanin to your board/staff/volunteer group?
Changing some policies to hire BIPOC?
My answer is “yes”. Yes, each of these things is “doing”. Yes, each of these things matter. Yes, each deepens one’s understanding of the 400 years of oppression of Black folks in our country. Yes, if you are counting, they all count. AND, individually, they are not enough for the big change needed. The sector needs to do more in order to do better. Herein lies “The Work”.
Brilliant minds within the organizations mentioned below have researched the critical and long-term work needed to make change and shift an organization toward anti-racism. All agree it requires three main things:
Leadership engagement and support
Time and money commitments
Whole-heartedness and a willingness to be vulnerable are also big bonuses but not everyone has these capabilities.
To set all of those pieces into action and organizational movement, we regularly reference the Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Benchmarks and Method and Equity in the Center’s “Awake to Woke to Work” approaches. We ground all of this in the Emergent Strategy framework of adrienne maree brown. Additionally, our colleagues at Moving Beyond continue to model that having data and deeply diving into the work with groups is crucial for real change.
Bringing this all together, at Ampersand, we utilize those frameworks and methodologies to inform our &Forward approach.
Don’t let the linear look of this fool you – it’s moving forward but overlapping. Imagine all the messy step backs and leaps ahead.
Picture a sloppy French braid. All pieces connected to one another and to a solid foundation. For some it’s a heart thing and others it’s solidly in the noggin space. All the strands are striving to learn and then implement change. Messy, intertwined, imperfect and yet still connected.
Many, including me, relate well to clear arrows and directions forward. My white majority-cultural upbringing, education and the way I am wired is all arrows and progress.
That said, my own anti-racist evolution and shifts are much more like a French braid. AND, the beauty, connection and lasting movement is in the braid.
So we are back to Doing. The Work.
My air-quotes won’t be going anywhere any time soon. Our individual “doing” efforts matter AND need to build on one another while facing in the same direction, a firm commitment to learn and change because we don’t have a choice. Our liberations are all tied together.
And, unsurprisingly, “the work” will look a little different for each individual and each organization. It must also face forward toward a common willingness to do better in multi-faceted ways, together.