52 Weeks of Anti-Racist Action (#52weeksofantiracistaction)

One year. It has been such a positive experience for me to focus on becoming more anti-racist this year. In many ways it was the perfect year. Teaching online gave me time to reflect on how to be culturally responsive every day with all my students; being quarantined at home gave me more time for reading and listening and paying attention to the racist and anti-racist events happening around the world; being alone much of the time gave me a chance to reflect on my own thoughts and experiences and failures in the areas of racism and anti-racism. Thanks to those who have come along with me on this journey, and especially to those who have joined me on it, given me an idea, shared a podcast or article, drank coffee with me at a BIPOC-owned business, etc. The idea of sharing this journey on Facebook came from Dana Spindler Cavin. Thanks Dana! I hope it has landed as intended, as a way to hold myself accountable and share resources for becoming more anti-racist. It was not meant to be performative and I hope it didn’t appear that way. If it did, my apologies. I will still be posting things I think are important to share, but it probably won’t be every week. I will be out here however, trying to learn, grow, lead and love in as anti-racist a way as I can. I hope you will too.

Week 52: Our racial justice group’s assembly presentation is being shown during Community Time at school this week. I was hoping to be able to share it here, but as it includes student names, I can’t. It was pretty cool to see how it all came together and I feel hopeful that this generation will do better than mine did at making progress towards racial justice.

Week 51: In honor of Asian American Heritage Month, taught a lesson centered around the poem “Peaches” by Adrienne Su. One of the activities was to identify how the poem is a WINDOW into another person’s experience or a MIRROR for your own experience. It was cool to see how students answered this question and made connections. If you read the poem I’d love to know how it is a window or a mirror (or both) for you.

Week 50: Worked with students in our racial justice group to plan an assembly in June to educate our school about racial justice. This is going to include singing on Zoom - singing! - something I haven’t done publicly (is Zoom considered “public?”) since high school.

 Week 49: Donated to the Equal Justice Initiative in honor of the birthday of my friend Christy who has taught me a lot about how to be anti-racist and more inclusive through the example she sets in how she lives and in her posts here on the Facebook.

Week 48: Started to plan a lesson for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. For the first time I am trying to include students in the planning. I have always meant to do this for Black History Month, Native American Heritage Month, Pride Month, etc., but never “had the time,” so I am finally trying to walk the walk. So far, “crickets” from the students, but I will persist.

Week 47: Modified some curriculum this week to make it more culturally responsive and less biased. It’s very satisfying to “un-whitewash” something.

Week 46: Signed a petition sponsored by Black Lives Matter to ask President Biden to end 1033, a federal program that sells military-grade weapons to law enforcement, including school and campus police. To read more on this issue and sign, see below: https://blacklivesmatter.com/demilitarize-our-neighborhoods/?fbclid=IwAR2TZ8p5dhhy98x9AwVldUrhZWCZ-fVPCDvshb3mhobYJkGebjcn1_UNnPY

Week 45: Welcomed back one of my favorite podcasts, “Still Processing,” on which two NY Times culture writers (Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris) offer their perspective on many aspects of American culture. Always interesting and intelligent, they often share a perspective I might not hear elsewhere and that challenges me to expand my thinking. 


Week 44: Binged “Insecure” starring the amazing Issa Rae. Instantly went to the top of my COVID-19 Top 5 binges (Ted Lasso, CB Strike, Schitt’s Creek, and Grey’s Anatomy are the other four). Funny, heart-breaking, well-written, well-acted show that was also educational for this white woman. Spoiler alert: My heart is still aching for Issa and Lawrence. Can’t wait for season 5! 


Week 43: Donated to the political campaign of Marcus Flowers. He is running against Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Week 42: Attended my racial justice group meeting this week and listened while teachers and students of color shared their experiences of living through the past two weeks and all the weeks and years before that. 


Week 41: Made a donation to #hateisavirus. Found this organization on a list of resources to help stop the violence against Asians. (With thanks to Yoga With Adriene for sharing this list).

Week 40: Two excellent podcast episodes (#3 and #4) from Scene on Radio’s series on Men with co-hosts Celeste Headlee and John Biewen. They do such a great job of exploring race and feminism at the same time. I learned something new about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and they speak eloquently about why we must listen to Black women as we try and change our world. Highly recommend. 


Week 39: “We can’t simply believe in equality...we have to create it.” —From the UNCF website
This week I made my monthly donation to UNCF. I started this before #52weeksofantiracistaction, around the time of the 2016 election aftermath, but I’m keeping it going as a part of my anti-racist efforts.
It’s not just about money, but a large part of the systemic inequalities that exist in the US were specifically designed to keep rich white people rich and everyone else less rich. To address the inequalities is going to mean sharing the wealth as well as other resources.
If you want to donate the the UNCF, follow this link: https://uncf.org/?fbclid=IwAR0wDIJqaLgeSmnreBjhoOOYUTi9sgoB3SzqEZT5wyv5e8Vdti-QHOW-u9Q

Week 38: Listened to an episode of the podcast “This is Love,” about Shirley and Bernard Kinsey who met and fell in love while protesting to integrate movie theaters in Tallahassee. After their son was born they wanted him to know about his history, so they began collecting art, historical documents and artifacts about the Black experience in America, amassing a collection which eventually travelled to museums all over the country. They have also written a book (with their son), documenting the collection, “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey,” which is available on their website (http://www.thekinseycollection.com/shop-2/), and which I am excited to receive in the mail soon!

Week 37: Listened to three episodes of the podcast Reply All on issues of race. Sharing this felt a bit problematic when this Friday two of the producers of the show (one a regular host and one a host of the series on race) stepped down because they actively blocked unionization efforts at Gimlet, efforts which were being led by people of color. A good example of, “If you spot it, you got it” (Oprah Winfrey), I guess and also a good reminder to me that I, as a white person, must always be willing to interrogate my actions and motivations.

Week 36: Started reading “We Were Eight Years in Power” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a series of essays about the Obama years.


Week 35: In honor of Black History Month, my running group is supporting local Black-owned businesses on our runs. Last weekend we ended our run at Black Coffee Northwest. The coffee and pastries were delicious and due to “dine-in” restrictions, they have turned the eating area into a venue for artists of color to display their work. I met two fabulous young artists you might want to check out: @gfaulks and @easleytribe, both on Instagram. This weekend Poindexter Coffee - with thanks to Mouse for the idea!

Week 34: Joined my school’s newly-forming racial justice group for staff and students. Excited to start working with others to make our school community a more just and equitable place for all.

 Week 33: Recorded a (possibly? potentially?) inspirational video to be shared with students at the MLK Jr Day assembly this past week. I talked about this project and asked them to take some action against systemic racism.

Week 32: Finished the “Seeing White” series of the podcast Scene on Radio. It ended with the host sharing two basic premises that he believes need to be embraced if we are to make headway against systemic racism: 1) Race was constructed by white people 2) It was constructed for the express purpose of justifying exploitation of those who were deemed “non-white.”

Week 31: Listened to the podcast Scene on Radio this week. In season two (called “Seeing White”) the host, John Biewen, with the help of his friend Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika and many other thought leaders on the issue of race, investigates whiteness. He explores how whiteness was created, the exploitation that created it (Ibrahim Kendi argues that exploitation came first and the codification of exploitation came later), and all that this creation has wrought. The idea behind the podcast is that when white people spend time thinking about race, they generally don’t think about whiteness and in order to understand systemic racism white people must understand their role in it. I am finding it to be a difficult, and very valuable, listen. 
Week 30: Chose something from the Black Lives Matter collection on Netflix for my binge this week. Thanks Robyn Riley for the recommendation. 

Week 29: Watched the Red Table Talk episode where Jada Pinkett Smith, her mom Adrienne Banfield Norris and daughter Willow Smith interview Olivia Jade. It was interesting to note that my head was with Banfield Norris, but my heart and my gut were in knots as I watched Olivia Jade go full “dear-in-the-headlights” in response to Banfield Norris’ pushback. Having been a twenty-something privileged white girl, my body sided with her automatically, or so it seemed. I felt her shame and I wanted to go into defensive mode. But I didn’t. I just stayed with the uncomfortable feelings and let them subside.
Week 28: Was schooled by a student about the death of Angel Haynes, a trans woman of color who was murdered in October. He asked me to sign this petition -
https://www.change.org/p/alex-azar-transgender-rights - which I did. I am posting here in case you would like to sign as well.
The text explaining the petition includes this quote, which I love:
“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
--Mark Twain
Week 27: Finally listened to the final episode/interview for the “In the Dark” podcast. Heartbreaking. Hopeful. Inspiring. If you think systematic racism doesn’t exist, listen to this podcast.
Week 26: This week I listened to a fabulous TED Talk on deconstructing racism, one headline at a time. It’s funny and serious and contains, I think, some important insights for white people.
With gratitude to Cat Saunders for sharing. This post comes with an invitation to share in the comments of any of my #52weeksofantiracistaction posts anything you think I might enjoy/benefit from/learn from, etc. in this area. I can’t guarantee that I will read/watch/do it, but I will consider it. Thanks in advance. 

Week 25: This week, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I read some Thanksgiving perspective pieces written by Native Americans. This is one of my favorites for its combination of truth-telling and hope.


Week 24: This week I supported a young activist who is petitioning our future VP to pave the way for people of color to tell their stories about the racism they have experienced in this country. Also listened to a podcast about racism in the classroom and reflected on my own. 


Week 23: This week I supported a black-owned business, purchasing this t-shirt from a company whose mission is “to inspire others, uplift women and celebrate black culture.”

Week 22: Made donations to the ACLU and the SPLC. Enough said.
Week 21: This week my action is to ask all of you to take action. If you are so inclined, please spend an hour sometime this week praying, meditating, holding space, setting an intention, taking political action or whatever your preferred expression is, to change our country for the better. We need all the positive vibes we can get for a decisive and fair election and for a peaceful transition to the next phase in the life of our country. For the protection of those who are most vulnerable based on the outcome of the election, and that our flawed democracy may continue on the path towards greater freedom, greater safety for all, greater peace and greater inclusivity.
If you do something, post it in the comments to inspire the rest of us. And, if you feel so inclined, ask others in your network to do the same. Sending love and peace to you all during these tumultuous times.

Week 20: VOTED 💙❤️💙

Week 19: I continue to make my way - slowly, because spare time for reading is in short supply these days - through the book “A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America.” This week I read about the theft of the California territory from the Mexicans. We are not, nor have we ever been, who we say we are or want to be. 
The men who configured this nation and wrote our constitution had seemingly high ideals, but only for RICH WHITE STRAIGHT ABLE-BODIED CIS CHRISTIAN MEN. Those men were allowed to pursue their life, liberty and happiness at any cost to everyone else. Lying, cheating, and outright theft were tactics they used frequently to pursue their “high ideals.” That left a whole lot of people SOL. And it still does.
Saying this out loud on Facebook is my action for the week. I believe we must be willing to face the truth about our past before we can move toward a different future.

Week 18: This week I spoke up twice in ways that felt scary about racism and white privilege in front of “audiences” I wasn’t sure would welcome the message.

Week 17: Like many, I was disheartened at the outcome in the case of the police who killed Breonna Taylor, so I took action as requested by groups I follow (Black Lives Matter, Color of Change). What gives me hope is the hope of the leaders of these groups. They have just begun to fight. I stand with them.

Week 16: Spent time on the site posted below, examining the phases of racism and my own place on it. I found it really enlightening and am sharing it as my action this week. I believe in the power of heightened self-awareness to lead to action and change. 


Week 15: Post a bit late, but action completed. Attended another session of PD which included Race & Equity training. Planned a lesson for my 7th graders based around this TED Talk for our storytelling unit: https://www.ted.com/talk/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?fbclid=IwAR259441D5PqiJ6gTEaa2LQSO7nV5Tva4mjZ3T7CtDTNUUqdYRptyucrzw4


Week 14: This week I signed up to make a micro donation every time DT tweets. Money goes to BIPOC organizers in swing states. If you have the resources/inclination, please join us. Defeat by tweet!

Week 13: It’s been a busy week. I attended a teacher training on race and equity, listened to multiple podcasts featuring/about Kamala Harris, and made a donation to fight voter suppression by our government. Here’s a link to a great episode of NPRs Code Switch about varying opinions of Kamala Harris among Black Democrats and the political power of Black women in the Party. 


Week 12: This week I attended a seminar for teachers on how to make our grading practices more equitable. My anti-racist action step this week is to make changes to my grading policy to make it more equitable.

Week 11: This week my anti-racist action was to continue to binge Grey’s Anatomy, which has been my go-to show since the pandemic began. This may, at first, seem lame and self-serving, but Grey’s Anatomy is a great example of representation in action. The show consistently features actors of all races, creeds, social and economic backgrounds, gender identities, sexual orientations, size, ability, etc. It routinely features actors who do not meet traditional “Hollywood” beauty and attractiveness standards (to be fair, it also features many actors who do). It gives these actors central roles and meaty plot lines rather than just bit parts. It deals often and directly with important and timely issues like police brutality towards and murder of black and brown people, implicit bias and sexual harassment in the workplace and the harmful outcomes that result, dismissive attitudes towards women and people of color in the medical community, etc. It is a show I am proud to support with my time and entertainment dollars. We wield more power than we realize with these two commodities, our time and our money. Using them to support businesses that advance our stated ideals can be a powerful step toward a different world. 

 Week 10: Listened to the first three episodes of the (controversial) podcast Nice White Parents this week. I have to admit I saw myself as an elementary school parent in the well-meaning - but unthinking - parents in episode one. Oof. I have been feeling lately that there isn’t quite enough action in my weekly action. Educating oneself is important, but change requires ACTION. This week I am committing to fill out parent surveys from my sons’ schools not just with what’s best for them in mind, but to educate myself before filling them out about what is best for students who may not have the advantages and privilege my sons have and to use my “vote” to advocate for those decisions. 

Week 9: This week I started a book I have been meaning to read for a long time, “A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America.” Although I know the history I learned in school was whitewashed, reading the truth about the “founding” of our country is still hard. We have always - and continue to - fall FAR short of our stated ideals. I hope that we can one day live up to who we say we want to be.
Week 8: I have listened to this episode of The Moth featuring Boots Riley before, but this week I listened to it again with my family. It is a powerful first-hand account of an encounter with law enforcement. Keep listening after the main story for a second one that is also powerful.
Week 7: This week I read Trevor Noah's book, "Born a Crime," an informative - and often hilarious - exploration of how racism is constructed and carried out. https://bookshop.org/books/born-a-crime-stories-from-a-south-african-childhood/9780399588198

Week 6: This week I continued my anti-racist education via Ijeoma Oluo, reading an article she wrote for The Guardian - https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/28/confronting-racism-is-not-about-the-needs-and-feelings-of-white-people - about talking with white people about racism. It made me think about something my counselor taught me about conflict.

In any conflict between two people, both people are usually hurting, but in order for there to be movement and resolution, the feelings of the person who is hurting at the deepest level must be recognized, honored and healed first. She recommends using the chakra system (the energy centers in the human body) to identify who is hurting at the deepest level. The deepest level of hurt is at the level of the root chakra, which is about survival, matters of life and death. Emotions that may come up based on a hurt at this level are terror or fear. This chakra is located at the base of the spinal cord, around the area of the perineum. Further up the body is the third chakra, around the area of the stomach. This chakra is about confidence and self-worth. Emotions that may come up based on a hurt at this level are shame or self-doubt. Therefore, if two people are in conflict and one person is experiencing survival-level hurts while the other person is experiencing hurts at the level of their confidence in themselves as a person, the person who is experiencing the survival level hurt needs to have their hurt addressed first because it is a hurt at a deeper level.

I believe this may help explain why white people and people of color experience such a disconnect when discussing matters of race. The vast history of murder of Black people at the hands of white people for simply living their lives makes it clear that for people of color racism is - and always has been - a matter of life and death. It is a first chakra hurt. As such, it must be recognized, honored and healed before the hurt that racism has done to white people, which I would argue for most of us is a hurt at the third chakra or above, can be addressed. I believe the failure of white people to recognize this "hierarchy of hurts" may explain why, when racism is discussed in mixed-race groups, the process is often messy, hurtful and often ends with things seeming worse than they were before.

If progress is going to be made, I believe that white people need to recognize the deep level of hurt that is experienced by people of color because of racism and must be willing to put their own feelings of hurt on the back burner until the survival-level hurts of Black people and other people of color have been healed. This is likely going to take a long time. It will probably not happen in my lifetime. It may not happen in my children's lifetime. It took more than 400 years to get to where we are today and it is going to take time for these hurts to heal, especially when that healing must, of course, include lack of further harm.

I believe that white people must make a conscious choice to put aside their own feelings of hurt and empathize with the deep level of hurt that people of color experience. It doesn't mean we aren't hurting and that we can't give each other comfort at those times, but we cannot - and should not - expect people of color to confront our hurt until their deeper level hurts have been healed.

[Much of what I know about the chakra system I learned from Anodea Judith's book, "Wheels of Life, https://bookshop.org/books/wheels-of-life-a-user-s-guide-to-the-chakra-system-rev-and-expanded/9780875423203. If you are looking for a kick-ass counselor, I highly recommend Dr. Cat, https://www.drcat.org/]

Week 5: After being called out on Facebook last week, I went back and read the "Checking Your Privilege" chapter in "So you want to talk about race," by Ijeoma Oluo. She recommends making a list of all the areas of life in which you have privilege, so I did this and spent a lot of time this week thinking about how that has played out in my life and how it may have adversely affected others. [This post is a little bit late due to an online seminar I was attending this week. Week 6 post coming soon.]

Week 4: This week I read the book I bought in week 2. A much-needed book that gives people of all races tools for participating in conversations around race. If anyone wants to read it, ping me in the comments and I will share it with you. https://bookshop.org/books/so-you-want-to-talk-about-race/9781580058827

Week 3: Made a political contribution to a Black candidate for Congress. Systemic racism is baked into our Democracy. In order to change it we need voices of color in positions of leadership. Here are some candidates you can support this year: https://www.ebony.com/news/meet-the-18-black-women-running-for-a-seat-in-congress/

Week 2: This week I put my money where my mouth is and bought a book for everyone in the house by a Black author in support of black publishing power. It’s not too late to support the movement! It also might be a great time to purchase a copy of “Black Widow” by my friend Leslie Streeter! https://www.littlebrown.com/titles/leslie-gray-streeter/black-widow/9780316490726/

Week 1: A friend posted this on her Facebook page recently: "The past few weeks have led to a lot of conversations about racism – How did we get here? What is my responsibility? What can I do? Should I be protesting? etc. I know that many of you have been having these same conversations. Maybe you have been protesting, listening more to Black people, reading, calling your representatives, posting on social media, donating, etc. Suddenly, it seems like there are so many things that we must do…and we need to do them now. How can we make this sustainable? How do we make anti-racism a way of living? During my teaching program, I started the uncomfortable work to understand and address systemic racism AND to evaluate my own privilege. I learned that this must be ongoing work. I cannot read one book and be anti-racist. I cannot simply celebrate diversity in my classroom and be an anti-racist teacher. I am going to commit to 52 weeks of action. Each week, I am going to do one thing that I will post it to FB so that you can hold me accountable." I have decided to join her. 52 weeks. 52 action steps toward a less racist, more sustainable world for all. Will you join us? #52weeksofantiracistaction


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