|A year ago, George Floyd’s murder shook our nation and awakened our need to practice justice – both individual and within our organizations, within institutions and throughout our communities. At CTC we have joined this collective movement and committed to the work. Our staff and members of our executive team are part of ayear-long social equity cohort training. Equity and inclusion are named as our core values. We strive to have a racially diverse board and are mindful to translate the majority of our materials into Spanish – the primary language of 23% of our residents.
Some may say this is call for celebration but I would offer we are only at the very beginning of our DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) journey and it is a humbling one. There are two recent events which have called to the fore our courage and commitment to the practice of being an anti-racist organization.
First, we realized as we were 85% of the way through the creation of a PSA campaign we were being called upon to go deeper into embodying a commitment to DEI. We had images that reflect some of the diversity within our community and all of our materials were translated to Spanish. Yet, we recognized in the 11th hour we had not called in our trusted Latinx community leaders to review – and worse still, they were not there when the campaign was being created. My first reaction was defensive, “but we already translated…. we have a deadline (mine by the way)…, we’ve done a lot and it’s good enough…. we’ll do better next time”.
Then, we put our training into practice and we put our values into action.
We paused, we went back to the drawing board and we called in our trusted Latinx leaders and opened space in our process to receive their wisdom, perspective and expertise. I am grateful to them for offering their time and I can say, unequivocally, this PSA campaign is one we can be proud of, rather than having to defend (“but we….!”).
Secondly, we received feedback on the name of our beloved youth program, “Tribe Outside” with a criticism that the use of the word “tribe” is culturally insensitive to indigenous communities. I admit, my defenses went up. I bristled at the way in which the feedback was delivered with a “calling you out“, “gotcha“ attitude and tone. I bristled at the delivery by a white person of privilege whose perspective on indigenous communities is questionable and I wanted to honor the spirit of the words as we had chosen it – to mean a chosen family, affiliation, a sense of belonging. I didn’t want to go through a rebrand after all the time and energy that had gone into it. I didn’t want to feed social media clamor and gotcha tactics. I was defensive again. I’m convinced humility, authenticity and empathy are superpowers and I called upon them as we slowed down, we listened and considered, not just our intent, but its impact on indigenous communities. In doing that, what we learned is that the term “tribe” was used as a tool of colonialism to dehumanize indigenous people as primitive and unworthy of respect, thereby justifying the theft of land, children, culture and ultimately, genocide.
We are, with humility and excitement, changing the name of our youth program.
What I have learned is:
· To listen – even more than I think I am or need to.
· Be willing to slow down, stop, reconsider and evolve.
· Be humble in what I don’t know; I didn’t know it before, but I do know it now. Stop defending my ignorance and do what I can to make it right.
· I am committed to getting it right, not being right.
Evolving our PSA campaign was not a detour from the path, it is the path. Changing the name of our youth program did not mean that all our previous work was awaste of time; rather, it laid the ground work for us to be more empathetic, awake and aware. Defensiveness may be my first reaction, but it will not be my last. I am willing to be wrong.
Stopping, slowing down, learning, opening spaces for wide perspectives are not outside our work; they are at the very heart of it.
Sincerest thanks to my friends, colleagues and to those who make me better through your honesty and willingness to do this DEI work with us.