To Serve Racial Equity, What Are You Doing Less Of?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

To Serve Racial Equity, What Are You Doing Less Of?
By: Dr. Meredith Reitman, President, Reitman Research and Strategy.

A few weeks back, I was running a workshop on tools to address institutional racism within our organizations when one of you asked a question about how to create buy-in to fund these tools in the first place. It was an excellent, juicy question, and has stayed with me. How do you create this necessary foundation to not just bring the tools to the organization but ensure that they are actually useful and stay with the organization long-term?

During the workshop, a fellow participant shared her story of how she created buy-in and in that moment, created a space of possibility. So my first word of advice is please keep doing that! Please keep opening spaces of possibility for one another. If you’re not already doing it, share and discuss the recent Insights examining race and power by Jule Hall, Tasha Tucker, Kim Walker, and Shamira Lukomwa.

My own contribution will come from two frames that may not sound exciting at first blush but are in fact at the forefront of resistance against white supremacy: budgets and rest.

The first frame focuses on how budgets are moral documents. Exemplified by the Poor People’s Moral Budget, this frame argues that there are “abundant resources for economic revival”, and that “policymakers have always found resources for their true priorities.” We are always choosing how to spend, and that choice should reflect our values.

So here is the first opportunity: as an organization, engage in a critical reflection exercise around your spending. What percentage of your money goes to which types of activities? Do the same with time. What percentage of your time goes to accomplishing certain tasks? Do these proportions align with the proportion you want to attribute to activities that directly impact racial equity?

If not, what can you do less of? What can the organization 1) put off, 2) defund, 3) let go of entirely? If those questions make your heart race, pay attention to why that is and bravely explore the possibilities.

The second frame is around rest, inspired by Tricia Hersey of The Nap Ministry. She states, “rest is a form of resistance because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy.” Many of us are already familiar with the white supremacy culture that saturates our organizations. As the Nap Ministry says, “Why are folks always making non-urgent things urgent? Why do you navigate your life like this? Take time.” 

So here is the second opportunity: as an organization, engage in a critical reflection around rest. What would that look like in terms of deadlines, pace, agendas, metrics, performance? Could there be a recognition that rest is how we all step forward, how we heal and move toward liberation? 

If yes, what can you do less of? Where can the organization 1) slow down, 2) make space, 3) turn off entirely? Again, if this makes you nervous, pay attention, breathe, and wonder.

Alternately, if you’re cheering along, let’s do this! Let’s embrace Arundhati Roy’s portal and “walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world.”