If you have followed my columns in recent months, you’ll notice that I’m building an intellectual and artistic architecture to approach racial justice.
In “This Time is Different” I share why the usual call-and-response outrage to Black deaths at the hands of white people is ineffectual and how I have been fundamentally changed by the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. “What is Freedom Now” sets my moral compass in the direction I would like to go as I work to do my part to shape the arc of racial justice upward.
Emotion and endless self-analysis keep us stuck in the past. Protests may draw media attention. But that attention means nothing if it is not connected to analysis and praxis.
Below are three examples of collectives, programs, and ideas that address racial and social justice from intelligent, unique, and holistic lenses. They call out the behavior while calling in the person. These approaches balance accountability with love. They are possible blueprints to the future.
Inclusive Life is a “compass towards transforming our diverse societies to be more inclusive, equitable and just by how we stand up in our homes and in our vocations and live inclusive lives through authenticity, awareness, and action.”
Founded by Nicole Lee, a leadership coach and international human rights attorney, Inclusive Life features an online community on Facebook, classes, and individual coaching. Beginning in the fall, the program will feature a podcast that spotlights thought leaders at the forefront of building equity, inclusion, and justice across sectors.
I attended the Inclusive Life Accelerator weekend retreat in June and am a member of the online community group. It is a place where participants learn and grow together. Community members come from all walks of life seeking a better understanding of each other and how we can use our collective power to dismantle oppressive systems and institutions.
The Inclusive Life community helps me to deal with my blind-spots when it comes to LGBTQ+ and ableism. I have accepted so-called cultural norms of language and behavior without questioning my assumptions. The community helps me to draw connections between my calling out white people for real and perceived slights and when I enact the same behaviors on other communities.
We sometimes disagree. However, everyone has an opportunity to speak and be heard.
Whiteness at Work
For many Black people, the workplace is as dangerous as a policeman’s knee.
Despite workplace fads that emphasize team-building and mission-driven cultures, racism and patriarchy are baked into most companies despite Black Lives Matter pledges.
That’s why I am thankful for the work of Desiree Adaway and her colleagues Ericka Hines and Jessica Fish. As the Adaway Group, the Black-woman owned consulting firm “brings together multiracial teams to work on projects related to equity, inclusion, and social justice.
They recently held their Whiteness at Work summer series, which is designed to “root out racial inequity, create collective power, and imagine new ways of working.” The series speaks to organizations who “have a responsibility to learn from the lessons of the pandemic, the constant struggle for Black lives, and the use of state-sanctioned violence.”
Among other things, the series analyzes how white-dominant culture manifests in organizations and has been amplified in recent months due to the global pandemic, anti-blackness, and state violence in response to protests. It explores the complexities of identity, how employees are socialized, names harmful organizational practices, and offers ways to mitigate them.
This powerful combination of analysis and praxis eliminates shaming and name-calling white people often fear when approaching anti-racism work while providing the practical tools to apply the lessons to their own lives.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my own work in the “what’s next?” discussion.
I recently co-produced and launched a five-part docuseries, Detroit Rising: How the Motor City Becomes a Restorative City. The docuseries follows me as I witness a growing, Black-led movement in Detroit’s classrooms, courts, and executive boardrooms to restore relationships and repair harm at a time of racial reckoning in the United States.
Through restorative practices, the series’ protagonists are dismantling entrenched policies that foster distance and avoidance while simultaneously building an ecosystem of connection and community. Restorative practices is a “social science that studies how to improve and repair relationships between people and communities.”
Nearly 500 people signed up for our Virtual World Premiere in July, which featured a screening of two episodes followed by a dynamic community conversation with the series’ protagonists, who represented Detroit’s education, clergy, police, courts, and nonprofit sectors.
The entire series is available for rent through Vimeo. Plans are underway to host future screenings.
The world as we know it is gone. As much as we grieve that, we must also die to who we have been so that we can become more of who we are. The answer to the question, “where do we go from here,” varies according to each person who asks it. But it’s only direction must be forward.