By Eileen Hogan Heineman, YWCA Equity Institute Manager, Community Outreach
In the midst of all the busyness of a new year of programming, we are also stepping back to reflect about where our work is going, and how we can keep nudging people to action. Often, our workshops or discussions end with us asking participants, “What will you do differently because of today’s session?” Going around the room or circle, we hear actions that individuals will take, such as, “I’m going to look up that event/person/ordinance we talked about to learn more about how it impacts people of color”, or “Definitely going to take that workshop on Implicit Bias, because I have to figure out what my biases are and how to manage them”, or similar comments. Are these the kinds of responses we’re hoping for? Yes, and…
Do we want people to keep learning, and to check their own bias, privilege, use of microaggressions? Yes… AND we want them to think about impacting a system or structure, so that changes that take place impact more than just themselves. Perhaps attending a meeting of City Council or a Commission, School Board, or Library Board, and listening for the ways those bodies might be displaying their implicit bias – AND speaking up about it – at the meeting.
Do our communities engage residents in conversations/discussions around racialized issues frequently? Yes…AND it would be powerful if those discussions then led to addressing specific ways to respond to some of the impacts of historic racism. What if your office or school staff or book club or exercise buddies all went to the exhibit about redlining that is currently on display at Evanston’s Civic Center, and then went to a meeting about affordability of housing, or possible reparations, or land usage in your town?
Are there myriad programs, such as SEED, Beyond Diversity, Next Steps, YWCA workshops, filled with good-hearted folks who want us all to do better? Yes… AND we need those folks to then be addressing policies, such as environmental racism, inequitable funding of education in Illinois, or the opportunity gaps that predict skewed academic results based on the color of one’s skin.
Yes, we’re working on it , AND we need to keep asking the questions that will move systems to change.