Resources and Updates including Birmingham Letter Text

Hi Friends!
I hope you all had a good spring break! I have a bunch of resources for you this week. I also want to extend a welcome to our newest members who have joined recently after a “How To Talk to Your Kids About Race” discussion I facilitated earlier this week. If you’re interested in attending a similar conversation, please let me know and I’ll keep you posted if we set up another one.
Also, a reminder that our resource list is located here. I’m working on updating it, but it includes a huge number of resources (organizations, racism in general, school-specific, books, and some handouts). I’ll be working on adding more resources from my weekly updates as I make time.
The School Board is accepting applications for many of its advisory committees and this is your opportunity to be a voice for equity, inclusion, and ALL of our students. Please consider applying!
recent Washington Post article about school choices in DC is a good snapshot of what white families struggle with. My biggest takeaway was this part:
“Experts say families’ education decisions have consequences for the entire community. Halley Potter, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a liberal think tank, said it’s not that white or affluent children inherently make a school better. But these families bring more resources with them. More experienced teachers often follow. Data show racially and economically diverse schools can help close the achievement gap between students from low-income families and their wealthier peers. Children from upper-income families experience no academic decline, and the experience of being in diverse classrooms can challenge their own prejudices. “There are individual benefits and societal benefits,” Potter said. “That’s something we want for all children.””
There’s a recent update to the desegregation efforts in NYC in the middle schools and how those efforts are impacting the communities. This part jumped out at me: “Students will now be admitted into middle schools according to a lottery, and each school has to set aside about half of its seats for students who are low-income, homeless or learning English.” and “Previously, many of the highest-performing students were concentrated in the most popular middle schools, which were also attended largely by middle class and white children.” The changes have impacted admissions, not impacts, so we’ll keep watching how this plays out.
The anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s writing of the open letter from Birmingham jail passed earlier this month and I found the text for your reference. This letter includes King’s references to the “white moderate” and his concerns about their role in upholding white supremacy:
“I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” (page 3)
A group member was doing some research on housing segregation and how it connects to school segregation and shared these resources: “First, a paper that came out of a conference by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies in 2017 about the reciprocal relationship between housing policies and school segregation. It details how the relationship works but also provides actions communities can take to address and correct. Which is what led me to the Housing Virginia site. They worked with the school board and local government is Richmond to start a conversation and action plan to correct housing policies that affect schools. They put out a toolkit to help communities do the same and I think will also provide assistance in starting the process.”
Challenging Racism is taking applications for Facilitator Training, which will be held from July 8–12 from 8:00 am-5:30 pm. Application deadline is June 14.
Black Maternal Health Week was earlier this month and so I wanted to highlight some resources and organizations that are working on addressing the health crisis facing black mothers and babies in our country. If you want to learn more, check out Black Mamas Matter AllianceLaTonya Yvette’s recent book Woman of Color, and The Root’s The Glow Up section on reproductive justice, which suggests ways to help address these disparities. Also, Sunday, May 12 is Mother’s Day, and National Bailout usually runs a campaign to help bail out mothers sitting in jail who cannot pay their bail so they can be home with their families. The website is currently not loading for me, but check back closer to the date!
(1) The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study is hosting Vision and Justice on April 25 and 26, considering “the role of the arts in understanding the nexus of art, race, and justice.” It will be live-streamed, so you don’t need to try to attend in person, and “if you miss any part of the proceedings, video will be posted on the Radcliffe website and on the Harvard YouTube channel approximately 4 weeks after the event.”
(2) Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is hosting a national call on April 29 “to help launch a national network of white men organizing other white men to be more effective accomplices to People of Color, women, femmes, trans and gender non-conforming folks in the struggle for collective liberation. The call will dive into why white men are largely absent from feminist and anti-racist organizing and how we might change that.”
Keep engaging in the work!
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Cultural Appropriation Part 2

Hi Friends!
Thank you for engaging with the cultural appropriation update I wrote last week. I received some questions, so I wanted to follow up with some clarification.
One question was about whether white people (kids in particular) can dress up as an historical figure as part of a school project (as a performance piece of a research project) and as a way of honoring that person. Since I am white and have not experienced racial marginalization, I turned to resources written by POC for answers:
(1) The Root has a great article by Michael Harriot about this related to Halloween, but which can be applied to other costume-related situations, including Moana. This phrase in particular was helpful to me: “The only way to mimic a culture without appropriating it is by experiencing the bad things they went through.”
(2) That led me to more about Moana — Emmaline Matagi (indigenous Fijian) wrote about how white children can be able to dress up as her character (not her people as a whole) and the nuances to that. Her article includes a clear description of cultural appropriation: “This is called cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is, in basic terms, taking something from a culture which you don’t belong to and using it for a purpose which it is not made for, without knowing or understanding its cultural significance. It is turning it into an accessory for your own fun or entertainment and therefore changing the true meaning of the item.”
(3) Which led me to Jarune Uwujaren (Nigerian-American) and great examples of the differences between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation. One takeaway — “Cultural appropriation is itself a real issue because it demonstrates the imbalance of power that still remains between cultures that have been colonized and the ex-colonizers.”
(4) Related to honoring someone from another culture, American Indians/Native Americans came to mind. I found Tate Walker’s “4 Ways to Honor Native Americans Without Appropriating Our Culture,” which leads to a wonderful blog called “Native Appropriations.”
My overall sense after learning so much about this topic in the last few weeks is that it ends up being about humanizing the person who is being represented. If someone is really going to learn about a historical figure and understand their struggles, the challenges they faced, etc., couldn’t that lead them to understand that the humanity of that person requires NOT dressing up like them? But showing photos of them instead? Or talking about what they wore and looked like without embodying that person? And maybe how those struggles continue for their ancestors today? Understanding oppression means understanding that a person isn’t a costume, that being able to put on a marginalized person’s identity and take it off again is a function of white privilege.
I also have a huge collection of resources for you this week:
Related to relationships:
(1) Kim McLarin wrote in The Lily — “Can black women and white women be friends? Not until this changes.”
(2) A friend shared this amazing article by Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz (basketball for those, like me, who are not big sports fans). It says so many valuable things — please read it.
(3) A group member shared this article by Todd Finley from Edutopia.
Related to housing:
(1) The National Low Income Housing Coalition published a report called “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Rental Homes.”
(2) Arlington Presbyterian Church has been wrestling with affordable housing as many churches consider their role in their communities.
(3) Richard Rothstein’s book The Color of Law came out recently and a group member let me know that there is now a short film based on it called “Segregated by Design.”
Related to environmental justice:
(1) The NAACP released a report about how fossil fuel companies misrepresent themselves and their industry at the expense of communities of color.
(1) SURJ is having its next chapter meeting on April 28 focusing on Survived + Punished related to the criminalization of sexual assault survivors.
(2) Jessica Kaplan of the Arlington Historical Society is presenting her research on “The Bottom: An African-American Enclave Rediscovered” on May 9.
(3) The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington is hosting an Evening with Joan Trumpauer Mulholland on April 30.
Keep challenging your biases.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Cultural Appropriation Part 1

Hi Friends!
I hope you all had a beautiful spring weekend!
This week I’m spending time on cultural appropriation, particularly because this is one of the ways in which good people can get tripped up by white supremacy and racism. This is one of those areas that isn’t classified as overt racism most of the time and that can be hard for people to feel justified in calling out as a problem. Full disclosure, I had to do quite a bit of reading and educating myself before I felt comfortable writing this up for all of you, so it’s a process for me, too.
There are many kinds of cultural appropriation, so I’m going to pick a pretty straightforward one: dressing up like someone from another culture or race. One of the most extreme examples is blackface, which in recent news has been clearly shown to be offensive and wrong. But this also extends to Halloween costumes and costume parties. For example, it’s not appropriate for a white person to dress up as a black person (even without blackface) or a Native American person or an Asian person or anyone else who is marginalized in some way. If you’re going to invite white people to a costume party, please don’t make it a 90's hip hop theme because almost all famous 90's hip hop artists were black and white people dressing up as black people is wrong. Period.
Cultural appropriation is part of a racist, white supremacist culture because it picks and chooses elements from a culture rather than appreciating the whole culture, and comes from a consumerist and entitled approach. In terms of costumes, it’s also something you can take off when the party is over, which is a great example of white privilege because marginalized people cannot just take off their skin color or cultural identity or change their lived experiences by changing their clothes. A costume reduces a person or culture to something disposable, to be used, removed, and discarded.
Related to this, please take a breath before feeling defensive if someone shares that you did or said something that offended them. From Courtney Ariel, “Be sensitive. If someone tells you that something is offensive, try not to search for ways (or lines from the Constitution) to prove to them why their feelings are wrong. Please see them as your neighbor. Take them at their word. Keep in mind that this country was built up with the intention that black people would never be free — they would always be property. Please imagine that these intentions, this lineage, and this history all play a huge part in our present day realities.”
And pulling from the Allyship Workshop training again (it really is amazing!), good people can do offensive things. Racism isn’t a character flaw, it’s a pervasiveness in everything. Instead of assuming that you can’t possibly be racist because you’re a good person, focus on ways in which you can be anti-racist. Loving hop hop doesn’t make you anti-racist. Living in a diverse neighborhood or choosing an integrating school doesn’t make you anti-racist. Showing up, identifying your biases, educating yourself, listening and validating, accepting that you will make mistakes and then apologizing when you do, being accountable to those who are marginalized by the system — those things are anti-racist.
It is extremely hard work and it is absolutely necessary for white people to engage with this work if anything is going to change. Failing to try means being complicit with white supremacy and racism. So try, learn, try again.
For a little inspiration, here’s Michael Gerson’s opinion piece in the Washington Post.
Also, great news from VOICE with their success in lobbying Virginia to change the driver’s license suspension laws.
Keep trying, learning, working.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Speaking Up and Educating Yourself

Hi Friends!
I hope you’re all enjoying spring!
I spoke at the March 14 School Board meeting during the Diversity Report agenda item. The diversity report presentation starts at 1:21:20, my comments start at 1:42:38, and the question/comment period by the School Board and Superintendent continues after I speak. The meeting was picked up by the Sun Gazette and posted on Inside Nova. It’s worth listening to the School Board comments and questions. I will be following up on the Chair’s request of the Superintendent to create a proposal with a timeline, budget, and action items following the report. We have to hold everyone accountable so this doesn’t just get shelved or ignored. If you’re on one of the many advisory committees/groups for the School Board or Superintendent, this is your chance to push for action, to raise equity as a focus, to ask pointed questions. We all have to push to get our leaders to take action.
I’m also working on talking points around the Superintendent’s proposed budget, so if you have input on anything that is related to equity (and really, all of the cuts will likely affect disadvantaged students more), please share with me so I can include them. It’s a big document and I may not get through the whole thing. I plan to speak at the March 28 meeting and possibly also at the County meeting. If anyone wants to join me, please let me know! Our priorities are to (1) raise awareness about how cuts affect disadvantaged students and how they undermine our goal of equity; and, (2) push the School District and the County to put their money where their mouths are for Equity. The more they hear from the public, the more likely their perspectives will start to shift. I honestly don’t know how likely it is that we can impact this year’s budget, but it’s still worth speaking up.
I spoke at the March 28 School Board Budget Hearing (my comments begin at 2:15:46). More importantly, before me, there was a large number of students speaking up in the name of equity, some related to the Equity and Excellence positions and some related to the Crew teams at the high schools. It was really impressive and their voices deserve to be amplified. I’ll likely be there when the School Board presents its own proposed budget on April 11. Let me know if you want to join me!
I wanted to say a little more about the Allyship Workshop I attended last month. One of the facilitator’s main points was to encourage allies to approach confronting racism in an inviting way rather than shame or shutdown (except when someone is in danger). The reason is that if we think of everyone on a continuum of allyship and racism, we want to move them along the path to allyship rather than pushing them further into racism. And the best news is that they’re having another one on May 7 and 14!
I’m also going to be facilitating a conversation about How to Talk to Kids About Race on April 22 from 7–9 pm at UUCA. It’s coordinated with our kids’ preschool, so if you’re interested, please let me know and I can make sure we have enough space. Please come! If there’s a huge turnout or we can’t accommodate everyone, we’ll have another one, so please help us gauge interest. This was inspired partially by the Challenging Racism presentation hosted by MONA, which many of our community members weren’t eligible to attend.
(1) Washington Post article by Theresa Vargas regarding the higher education admissions scandal.
(2) A Medium post by Lecia Michelle, which links to another by Rev. Elizabeth Rawlings regarding white supremacy especially for white women. Please read both.
(3) The Southern Poverty Law Center sent out a great article about why racism is such a big problem in the US.
(4) The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness shared a list of Resources to Help Develop Knowledge and Solutions for Tackling Racial Inequity.
(5) A group member shared that the Antiracist Research and Policy Center is hosting the 1st Annual National Antiracist Book Festival at American University in Washington, DC on Saturday, April 27. More information is here. This is a ticketed event and most sessions are $15 each.
(6) “How Poor Americans Get Exploited by Their Landlords” by Richard Florida in CityLab
(7) “Why Can’t We Close the Racial Wealth Gap?” by Brentin Mock in CityLab
(8) “Managing unconscious bias and talking to kids about race” by Rachel Nania and the book in the article, Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think and Do by Jennifer Eberhardt
(9) “Teaching First-Graders About Microaggressions: The Small Moments Add Up” by Bret Turner at Teaching Tolerance
(10) IntegratedSchools shared a recent podcast with Dr. David Kirkland and transcribed the interview
(11) “When Feminism is White Supremacy in Heels” by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
(12) “What Do You Do When Someone Makes a Racist Remark?” by Rachel L. Swarns
(13) “Calling the police on black people isn’t a Starbucks problem. It’s an America problem.” by Karen Attiah
(14) “As Suburbs Diversify, the Legacy of School Segregation Persists” by Anna Rhodes and Siri Warkentien at How Housing Matters
(15) “Succeeding While Black” by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
(1) SURJ-DC is hosting an Orientation/Welcome session on April 14 from 2–4 pm
(2) Challenging Racism is hosting another book club, this time on Multiplication is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit
(3) Destination 2027 (health equity) and the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families will be presenting their respective Community Reports on April 10 from 4–5 pm at the Central Library Auditorium.
(4) Arlington Neighborhood College (civic leadership development program) is accepting applications for the 2019 program until April 5.
Keep working!
Listen. Amplify. Follow.