One of the most common challenges voiced when I am partnering with client teams looking to make progress on racial equity work is, “We are already doing so much! How are we ever going to make time for this? We are so busy…”
Here’s the deal: that is deflection. It assumes that the work of advancing equity (racial, gender, etc.) is somehow separate from the current decisions we make: the words we use, the methods by which we evaluate success, the organizational practices we enforce, etc. It also assumes that the work is somewhere outside of yourself – somewhere far away that requires a huge amount of new resources.
Here’s the secret: the powers that be perpetuate inequity as the status quo. It’s already there. And “the system” wants you to think equity work is separate from what you do day in and day out. It isn’t.
It is critical to understand that inequity is already in our biases, systems and institutions. It is already at work now, at this very moment. It shows up in both quiet and loud ways. It shows up despite good intentions and in spite of new policies. The work of inequity is a key marker of this country’s legacy and history.
The work is never separate. It is in the programs designed, the dollars invested, the leadership involved and how we treat colleagues and at every layer of the institutions.
The opportunities to do this work exist now. They are not outside of you. In fact, the first step to making progress on racial equity is to start with yourself. You can take the necessary steps to make changes right now. We must all take responsibility to move this work forward. One of the key perversions of inequitable systems is that they are inequitable on a power continuum. Power protects itself and dehumanizes us; making us feel small in the face of complexity and making us think that it just has to be that way. It doesn’t.
Changing systems, structures, policies and the status quo requires that someone takes action.
Take the first step.
Think about your own biases. Take a bias test. Then actively change your thinking.
Reflect on your paradigm of this work. Do you accept that this is about white people too? About power? Is it zero-sum? Is diversity enough?
Find places to be challenged. Become comfortable being uncomfortable with new ideas and perspectives.
Where is your “stand up spot?” When will you speak up and take action? Is it when a colleague uses hurtful language? When your boss behaves poorly? When you see a new program being designed that is blatantly not exercising an equity lens? When will you speak truth to power?
Inventory the choices you make every day. Where do you continue to perpetuate the status quo of inequity?
Commit to a practice of caring for your resiliency. What do you need to take care of yourself so you can show up again for this work?
So commit. Period.