Willingness to Make People Uncomfortable

Hi Friends!
I’m taking this opportunity to share some thoughts with you. There are a few resources at the end.
I had a really interesting conversation with some friends about what kinds of things keep white folks from engaging in anti-racist work. There are many reasons, but one of the ones we focused on, as women in particular, is our socialization to make things comfortable for everyone around us, to be nice and follow the social rules so no one feels uncomfortable. Within this structure, the priority is keeping white men comfortable. In this context, there is a direct conflict between these socialized norms and anti-racist work.
We have to unlearn so many things we have passively absorbed from our upbringings and surroundings. White supremacy and systemic racism permeate everything. The only way to engage in anti-racist work is to do the work to see it, especially in ourselves, and to unlearn it. Step by step, bias by bias, assumption by assumption. Share your self-work challenges with your family, your friends, your children, and show them how to systematically deny the perpetuation of hate.
It’s not easy. Do we hold ourselves or our peers accountable when we can clearly see the costs to ourselves (our job, our social circle, our comfort, our relationships with our colleagues/supervisors)? How do we take that leap? And how can we do it in a way that encourages those around us to understand and embrace our concerns rather than alienate them and put them on the defense?
We are all flawed in this work. The key for me is that we keep trying. We keep listening and apologizing when we have harmed, and we do better the next time. We cannot give up because it is hard or because we are tired. We cannot give up because our mentors are flawed, or because we make mistakes. We have to keep finding ways to do better and to bring others along with us. We have to leave behind the privilege of not having to do the work — we choose to do the work, every day, until it is done. And it is never done. This is the kind of work that you do not, cannot walk away from. It is lifelong for us and for future generations to come.
Rather than letting this be depressing, take solace in knowing that each step matters. Focus on the present moments that make up the journey rather than searching for some end point far away. And know that you are not alone.
From an advice column about how to handle grief in a social situation, but so relevant for any self care when we are doing demanding, draining work (care giving, grief, justice work, etc.): “‘How dare I go out and have a good time when I’m supposed to be sad all the time?’ You are allowed. You are allowed, you are allowed, you are allowed. Living your life, enjoying your friends, participating in a much-loved tradition, and getting out of your own head for a few hours is a necessity for your own survival. You may do this without feeling guilty about it.” We cannot sustain this heavy work without taking care of ourselves. We must trust that when we set down the burden for a few hours, others are picking it up. We are not alone in this work and we must rely on each others’ steadfastness and dedication to self-care so none of us burns out. We give each other permission and encouragement to engage in this work and we do the same for self-care. The sacrifices are real. Take care of yourself. And then come back and continue the work.
Rachel Siegel writes about a recent study about “What shapes a kid’s opportunities? Researchers say look to the neighborhood.” And no, this is not the study that tells you where you should live so your kids can succeed. This tells us about where the system is failing so many kids and how we can address it so every kid has the same opportunities for success.
- There’s a wonderful free storytelling event at the Arlington Public Library (Central) this Friday called “Black Women Suffragists: a One-Act Play.
- SURJ NoVa is hosting a discussion of the book and film Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson on February 23.
- W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Equity Resource Guide
Center for the Study of White American Culture, particularly their Resources page
Sunstorm with Alicia Garza and Ai-jen Poo podcasts: “Sunstorm is an audio salon hosted by two of America’s leading activists, Alicia Garza and Ai-jen Poo, where they talk to their friends and sheroes about how women stay powerful and joyful amidst the chaos of life in America today.”
- Brentin Mock and Sarah Holder write about “A Group of Mothers, a Vacant Home, and a Win for Fair Housing
- Brentin Mock explains “The Racism Behind Trump’s New ‘Public Charge’ Immigration Policy, Explained
- A reminder of the SURJ NoVa resource “Alternatives to Calling the Police
- Laura Meckler writes about “NYC Community Schools, focused on child poverty, succeed in key metrics, study finds” — likely lessons for Arlington in how we can improve the well-being and education of our students.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Focusing on Systems, Taking Individual Responsibility

Hi Friends!
There are five officially announced candidates for the two open APS School Board seats so far. You can find out more about each one of them from ArlNow’s January 14 update and you can see the videos of their candidate announcements from Blue Virginia. Did I miss any? It’s great that so many people are getting involved!
Maura McMahon wrote a recent post in ArlNow as part of the Ed Talk series about “Equity Through Desegregation.” I really appreciate her distinction between the APS and Arlington County definitions of equity — that APS is focused on the individual and the County is focused on the systems. I strongly advocate for the systemwide approach. Arlington’s schools have operated as islands because of high levels of principal autonomy, which has resulted in significant disparities from one school to another. As Maura points out, this has led to panic level responses by families to school moves, boundary changes, and school choice. If each of our schools is perceived as (and actually is) part of a consistent, quality, equitable system of schools, then family response to where their child will attend will calm down. A systemic approach is the only way to ensure equity in our schools and in everything we do related to the education and well-being of our children.
I want to highlight an article that Ijeoma Oluo wrote about how “Confronting racism is not about the needs and feelings of white people,” particularly, “Just once I want to speak to a room of white people who know they are there because they are the problem. Who know they are there to begin the work of seeing where they have been complicit and harmful so that they can start doing better. Because white supremacy is their construct, a construct they have benefited from, and deconstructing white supremacy is their duty.”
Resources:- If you’re interested in equity through literacy, the Oakland NAACP Literacy Campaign is a great example, including these additional resources.
- Columbia Law School considers “The Legacy of 1619: Columbia Law Explores the Impact of Slavery on the American Legal System
- The New York Times has some short documentary films called “A Conversation on Race” from multiple perspectives, which are really well done and important to watch.
- If you’re interested in learning more about microaggressions, you can watch “Conversations w/Great Minds P1 — Derald Wing Sue — The Ultimate White Privilege” from 2015.
- Watch the “NAACP Plan to Address Racial Disparities,” which aired on Twin Cities PBS in December 2019.
- The SPLC called attention to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “The Other America” speech, which he made at Grosse Pointe High School on March 14, 1968. They also connected to The King Center and its work to continue Dr. King’s legacy.
- Black Lives Matter at School released a 2020 Curriculum Resource Guide.
- EmbraceRace was interviewed by Gita Gulati-Partee on WBUR, who also featured the organization in a recent blog post.
I have quite a few resources on segregated cities, diverse cities, and redlining:
- Linda Poon writes about how “Neighborhoods With a History of Redlining Are Hotter on Average” (temperature, not desirability).
- The Atlantic shared a video about “‘Man-Killing Jobs’ and Environmental Racism” from August 2018.
- The University of Richmond created American Panorama, an historical atlas of the United States, including some amazing maps about redlining, migration, and family displacement.
- Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight wrote about how “The Most Diverse Cities Are Often The Most Segregated
- The Washington Post also has some amazing maps and data showing that “America is more diverse than ever — but still segregated
- WalletHub has data about how the United States is likely to change demographically by 2050.
Actions:- I want to raise Equality Virginia to your attention and in light of some awful legislation happening across the country related to transgender people, an opportunity to contact your local lawmakers to “Pass the Virginia Values Act (SB 868 & HB 1663) and Protect LGBTQ Virginians from Discrimination.” Please speak up and show your affirmation of transgender people.
- Real Justice launched a fellowship program starting February 6, open to any location and skill level — you just need a working internet connection to participate.
- OAR called attention to Social Action Linking Together (SALT) regarding another piece of legislation, this one related to incarcerated people and those returning from incarceration.
Events:- SURJ DC shared a Prison Pipelines and Detention Centers Panel Discussion on January 31.
- A reminder of the OAR Racial Equity and Inclusion Action Network meeting tonight, January 23.
Keep on learning.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Engagement Matters

Hi Friends,
So many things happening at APS:Superintendent Search — please engage with this process. The more voices APS hears about wanting a Superintendent who will encourage culture change and a true, intentional dedication to addressing equity and inclusion issues, the more likely we’ll get it (hopefully). Please speak up! You can attend one of the in-person sessions or you can submit online. Please ask your school communities to get involved as well.
Your Voice Matters Survey — please engage with this opportunity. APS needs to hear from our community about school and community climate, student health and well-being, voice and engagement. Responses are kept anonymous by the third party vendor and the survey is open to all families and all staff, as well as students in grades 4–12 (they will take the surveys at school). The survey link was sent out by email on Monday by Panorama (check your junk folder if you didn’t see it!) and paper copies were already sent to families without an email address. Each family gets one survey. The survey has been translated into the main five languages spoken by APS families. The data will be used across the County and APS to address student and family needs, so this is a wonderful opportunity to share your experiences and your concerns as well as your support.
Elementary School Planning Moves, to be followed by a boundary process — I know this has been very stressful and contentious. Try to stay informed, keep engaging your communities and advocating for the education and well-being of all of Arlington’s students. Tough changes are coming across the county, and the more we can focus on how these changes affect our disadvantaged populations and advocate for eliminating barriers (or at least preventing the creation of new barriers), the better we all will be.
One of our group members is connected with St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (near Marymount University) and their Ministry on Race, Reconciliation & Equity (MORE). Many religious communities are taking the lead in addressing these issues with their members, so if you are part of a religious organization, see if your community is interested in taking on similar work (if they don’t already).
Resources:- NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates did a segment on Code Switch on The Whiteness Project: Facing Race in a Changing America back in 2014. The website for The Whiteness Project includes interviews with white collar people in Buffalo, NY and millennials in Dallas, Texas (click on Series in the upper left corner to choose). You can see clips of each interview. From the website, “By engendering debate about the role of whiteness in American society and encouraging white Americans to become fully vested participants in the ongoing debate about the role of race in American society, Whiteness Project aims to inspire reflection and foster discussions that ultimately lead to improved communication around issues of race and identity.”
- Melissa Gira Grant writes in The New Republic about how “Cash Bail Was Never About Safety,” supporting recent efforts to reform the criminal justice system.
- A quick note about CityLab, from which I have often pulled relevant stories — it was previously run by The Atlantic, but is now controlled by Bloomberg, so I’ll be keeping an eye on whether/how the content shifts. Hopefully it will continue to be a useful resource for our work.
- Integrated Schools posted a lovely tribute to Courtney Everts Mykytyn on their blog, including what is next for the organization.
- Bellamy Shoffner has rebranded Hold the Line to Revolutionary Humans, which looks like it will be a wonderful resource for social change.
Events/Actions:- A group member shared a webinar by the Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education (CORE) on January 29 called “Casualties of War: Reading Science Denial and Racism’s Impact on African American Children” — you can register and if you’re not able to attend live, you can receive the recording by email.
- Arlington will be celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 19 with music, dance, and spoken word. There is also a program at the National Cathedral in collaboration with Advancement Project DC, also on January 19.
- A reminder about the 2020 Black Lives Matter at School events coming up in February.
- EmbraceRace’s upcoming webinar on January 28 is on “‘Mommying While Muslim’: Raising Healthy Muslim Children in a Post-9/11 World
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Do Not Let The Systems Win

Let's Get Back to Work