Privilege and the Power of Speaking Up

Hi Friends!
Sorry for the delay. This is a long one. Important things, even at the end! Please make the time to engage with this.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about privilege and the power of speaking up. We each have a role to play in shifting the balance of power to those with less of a voice. As long as we have a system in place that prioritizes the loudest voices, we must ensure that WE are the loudest voices when it comes to advocating for equity and antiracist progress. We must ensure that our voices are amplifying marginalized and disadvantaged people in our communities. Arlington County government and Arlington Public Schools are both susceptible to influence from small groups of loud community members. We must work to ensure that they hear about the needs of people with the least, that they hear the voices of people who are not listened to.
There are several upcoming opportunities to advocate at the County and APS levels, particularly about their respective budgets. We should spend money on the things we value most, and our budgets should reflect our values. There will be people speaking up against efforts to support equity — we must counter and overwhelm those voices with advocacy for what is best for all of us, not just some of us. An example that is already happening is that in response to the Arlington Public Libraries proposing to eliminate library fines for late books (a fee that disproportionately affects people of color and people experiencing poverty), some community members are advocating against the proposal because late fees promote individual responsibility. Since we are guaranteed that some people will work to undermine equity efforts, we must guarantee that we will explicitly, repeatedly, loudly, and sustainably support equity efforts.
Here is the upcoming advocacy timeline for County and APS:
February 27 — Interim Superintendent’s Proposed Budget presented to the School Board at 7:00 pm
March 19 — Community Forum on County Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
March 25 — APS Public Hearing on Interim Superintendent’s Proposed Budget
March 31 — County Board Budget Public Hearing at 7:00 pm
April 2 — County Board Tax Rate Public Hearing at 7:00 pm — there is a possibility that the tax rate would be lowered, meaning that cuts would need to be made — please advocate for keeping the tax rate the same, show that we’re willing to pay for the support our schools and communities need.
April 30 — deadline for sharing feedback on the County Manager’s Proposed CIP before it is shared with the County Board.
April 30 — APS Public Hearing on School Board’s Proposed Budget
June 30 — County Board Public Hearing on the County Manager’s Proposed CIP before a vote in July.
By June — APS School Board will adopt a new CIP (timeline for next steps prior to this unclear as of 2/27/20)
How to advocate:
- Attend Open Door Mondays with Arlington County Board members and/or Open Office Hours with School Board members for a dialogue with elected officials about your concerns/thoughts.
Speak at a County Board meeting (see above timeline) — you can sign up ahead of time online or you can sign up in person at the meeting, to speak on an agenda item. It is best to have one person speak on behalf of a group (and have the group stand in solidarity while one speaks) rather than have several people speak on the same idea separately.
Speak at a School Board meeting (see above timeline) — you can sign up ahead of time online or you can sign up in person at the meeting, to speak on an agenda item or to speak during the public comment period.
- Communicate directly with County Board members using their individual email addresses (Libby GarveyChristian DorseyKatie CristolEric GutshallMatt DeFerranti), and copy County Manager Mark Schwartz and Deputy County Manager Samia Byrd, to encourage internal dialogue about community support for equity efforts.
- Communicate directly with School Board members using their individual email addresses (Tannia TalentoMonique O’GradyReid GoldsteinNancy Van DorenBarbara Kanninen) and copy Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson and relevant APS Executive Leadership
- Connect with advisory groups and committees that advise our elected officials: APS Citizen Advisory Groups and School Board Advisory Councils and Committees, and County Advisory Groups and Commissions.
- Your local school PTA can also advocate in non-political ways within its mission of the education and well-being of students.
- Get lots of people to join you! Feel free to share on this email list when you’re doing something and see if others will join you.
In a related, but separate opportunity, some of you may have heard from Symone Walker’s School Board campaign about now running as an independent. I haven’t spoken up yet in this group about my preferences for the two School Board seats that are open this year, but I will now. Symone is a friend of mine and a colleague in equity work, particularly in education. I support her fully in her run for Arlington School Board. There are two events coming up if you want to meet her:
- Sunday, March 1 from 2–4 pm at Ryoko Reed’s house, 34 North Granada Street
- Sunday, March 8 from 2–4 pm at Natalie Roisman’s house, 5307 North 2nd Street (between Granada and Greenbrier)
I encourage you to come out and ask questions and show your support.
I would like to hear from you if you would be interested in attending one (or both) of these possible events:
- monthly meetings to chat with Facing Race in Arlington group members about our work, our questions, our challenges, to support each other and build our community connections.
- an Arlington School Board candidate forum specifically on equity, partnering with other equity organizations in Arlington, before the May 7/9 caucuses. I would invite all candidates, regardless of party affiliation.
Please let me know if these opportunities interest you.
And now for some recent resources:
- I thought the Arlington Magazine interview with Arron Gregory was a great insight into what we can expect and how we can support his efforts at APS.
- Christopher Ingraham writes that the “U.N. warns that runaway inequality is destabilizing the world’s democracies” — yet another reason to make an effort to address this!
- Hannah Natanson writes about “Canceled foreign trips and ‘palpable’ anxiety: Schools prepare for the coronavirus” but particularly about how preparations and proposed solutions impact marginalized and disadvantaged populations and how racism comes into play in the way the disease is discussed, including among students.
- A group member shared the discussion at the Arlington Committee of 100, called “How Does Race Impact Student Experience in Arlington Public Schools?” from January 8, 2020.
- Theresa Vargas writes about how “The District decided to do right by homeless children — but only after pleas, worries and questions” — which connects back to the issue of which voices are heard and which are ignored.
Please check out the Facing Race in Arlington FB page for info on upcoming events — and thanks again to Leah for managing/maintaining that for us! However, I do want to highlight The National Antiracist Book Festival coming up on April 25. Let me know if you want to join me for a session!
Let’s get to work!
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Keeping up the Momentum

Hi Friends,
I’ve been thinking a lot about keeping up the momentum of this work, particularly after November 2020. Two articles I have shared recently have expressed the concern that white people who have engaged in this work will stop, will disengage. This cannot happen.
From the article I shared a couple of weeks ago by Poppy Noor, who writes about “Why liberal white women pay a lot of money to learn over dinner how they’re racist” — so much to think about, but particularly, “‘If Trump were impeached tomorrow and we got a new president, a lot of white liberal people will go back to living their lives just as before, and that’s what we have to prevent,’ she [Lisa Bond] says. ‘All that’s happened is we can see racism now, while before we could cover it up. That’s why we need these dinners. So when we get a new person in and racism is not as obvious, we won’t just crawl back to being comfortable.’” [my emphasis added]
Also highlighting more from Nekima Levy Armstrong, who writes “Nowhere Is the Hypocrisy of Progressives More Apparent Than In Education” especially:
- “people who are living comfortable lives and for whom the system was designed for their benefit will rarely, if ever, make any significant sacrifices that threaten their discomfort, sense of entitlement or political power.” [my emphasis added]
- “all too often, folks assume that having good intentions and being a good person insulates them from taking real responsibility in addressing systemic issues and working to disrupt the status quo.” [my emphasis added]
- “Simply identifying as progressive and voting a certain way is no substitute for actually doing the hard work of challenging and undoing the oppression and inequities pervasive throughout the public school system.” [my emphasis added]
Being a good person is not enough. Individually treating everyone fairly is not enough. We must also do the very uncomfortable work of dismantling the systems that benefit us because those same systems are oppressing all of us.
If a Democrat wins the presidential election, there is very real danger of white people feeling like “everything is ok now” and the work will cease to feel as important. Those new to the work in the last three years are most vulnerable to this. If you were doing the work before November 2016, then you’ll likely continue to do the work after November 2020. But if you are new to this, if you are still doing the self-work to understand bias, if you are still amazed at how ingrained white supremacy is in our culture, in everything, then you must continue to do the work. No matter the election’s outcome. These problems are not going away, even if our country is led by someone who is anti-racist through and through.
If our current president is re-elected, there is also a danger that people will throw up their hands and abandon ship. I’m speaking specifically about white people using their privilege to escape the consequences of that outcome. Even saying “I”m going to Canada if he wins” communicates that you intend to abandon the work. People of color are often hesitant to trust white allies/activists/advocates because they have firsthand experience of being abandoned in this work. Because white people don’t have to do the work, because white people get uncomfortable with the work, we often walk away.
But here’s the thing. People of color don’t get to walk away from white supremacy and systemic racism. White people shouldn’t either. If you are in this work, please don’t change your dedication to it based on the outcome of November 2020’s election. Let this period in our country’s history, if it propelled you into action, be the beginning of something that never ends, rather than an anomaly.
Our society has taught us that success and happiness is the same as comfort. That the more comfortable we are, the happier and more successful we are. So when we feel uncomfortable, especially for white people, we are personally affronted, we demand that the problem be addressed, and immediately, or we escape. Physical discomfort is met with medication rather than a process of seeking the underlying causes. Emotional discomfort is bottled up or denied or we seek instant relief from things that we just have to suffer through (ie. grief).
We have not been taught to sit with our discomfort and try to understand it. We have not been taught to validate the feelings of a person making us uncomfortable and to seek compassionate understanding with that person. Discomfort = bad much like racism = bad person, both of which are incorrect. Discomfort is a signal about something that needs to be addressed, yes, but not in the way we have been addressing it. Instead, discomfort is an opportunity for us to discover a way forward, a way towards compassion, a way towards actual progress and positive change.
This work will never be comfortable. Embrace that and keep trying.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.


Hi Friends,
I don’t normally do this, but I had such a lovely and helpful conversation with one of our group members that I wanted to share. I wrote in my last update that “We are stronger together from a place of love against those who are not making mistakes, but who are acting intentionally from hate.” This came across as very adversarial and I think we have too much of this in our country right now. So I’d like to adjust my thinking and advocacy accordingly.
Frank reached out to me about this (which I share with his permission):
“I would only ask that we try to extend compassion to others, those not on the journey and even those whose actions are hateful and perpetuation what we are trying to fight against. I am not a person of faith but am a student if religious teachings and all religions call for compassion to all, even those who would do us harm. The words of Gandhi and Dr. King, for example, are full of such universal compassion. It is not self-righteous forgiveness that they advocated but love for all humanity. Hard to do but only love and compassion can move those broken souls away from the hate they feel, hate so often caused by their own fear, insecurities, and suffering.”
I responded:
“You are absolutely right about extending love to all. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and discussing it with my kids. But I have been hesitating for some reason with this group platform because it feels… too accepting of things that are unacceptable? It’s so easy, particularly in this age of extremes, to do what I talk about in my last post, to abandon the less than perfect, to shun those who do not condemn those who stray, even a little.

“What I want to be able to say is what you said, that we need to extend love to all, in fact, perhaps especially to those who are so full of hate. I don’t come from a religious background and I am not part of a faith community, so I feel somewhat on shaky ground (although I did study King and Gandhi in college), but the idea of universal love for humanity resonates with me.

“If you don’t mind me asking, how do you navigate the balance between objecting to someone’s actions and still exuding love for the person? Without being self-righteous? Between expecting each other and ourselves to do better and also feeling like we are each enough as we are now? I struggle with this as an activist and as a parent of young children. I would love to hear more.”
Frank responded:
“I too struggle to practice universal love. I can sometimes meditate on compassion and feel it working in me but it is a life’s journey and I likely will not get there. The Tibetan Buddhists speak to me when they talk about everyone suffering and therefore everyone being worthy of compassion. I think they do not distinguish between compassion and love but for me love is something tied up with family and relationships so thinking about compassion works better for me.”
So I’m landing on compassion as the way forward. We can be compassionate towards everyone, because we are all familiar with the sufferings of humanity, no matter our experiences or the way we show up in the world. In Whitney Parnell’s White Allyship training, she focused at the end about people being on a continuum of racism and that the most important thing is that we do not move people backwards in this work. We need to engage people with compassion. We need to be willing to listen and to understand where someone is coming from, even when we disagree. This is becoming a lost art in our lives, in our country, and we must work to bring it back.
I want to take a moment to share a funny story. I had been talking to my kids about how some people in our country have been focused on hate, and that they grow in power when they spread more hate around. And that the way to fight hate is with love, so we have to respond to hate with love instead. I actually made “hate” a bad word in my house because there’s just too much of it around. My kids are very into super heroes and my middle one is at the black/white stage where everything is either good or bad. So my middle child, who has been expressing her feelings very strongly (in the hate direction), turns around to me and says, “I love Donald Trump!” Which, of course, is not at all what I wanted her to say, exactly, but it was so hilarious in her literal interpretation of what I was teaching her, and so jarring to hear, that I had to laugh.
And yes, I gave her other things she can say that will be less threatening to our friends and neighbors should she choose to express her love of everyone in public.
This work is not one of perfection. This is messy, uncomfortable, awkward, painful, difficult work. it is never-ending and is often unappreciated if not directly challenged by our friends and neighbors and families. And it must continue, with compassion (including for ourselves!).
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Do Not Let The Perfect Be The Enemy of The Good

Hi Friends!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. This has come up in a few ways for me lately. First, I’m a recovering perfectionist, so this is a phrase I often have in my head so I don’t prevent myself from moving forward, particularly when things are complicated. Second, I would never be able to share resources or encourage you to listen to people or organizations if I needed those things to be perfect. Third, in this work we will make mistakes. We must be accepting of our humanity, that none of us are perfect, none of us will ever be completely anti-racist, and that we must try in spite of this.
Please keep trying. Please be willing to take risks and make mistakes. Please apologize when you do, pick yourself up, and try again. Movements fail when we condemn those who are less than perfect. While it is important to recognize mistakes, it is just as important to welcome people into the movement, faults and all. We are stronger together from a place of love against those who are not making mistakes, but who are acting intentionally from hate.
I want to share a Facing Race in Arlington FB page (thank you, Leah, for helping me make this happen!). I’m slowly moving towards expanding the reach of this group and my blog, so stay tuned! Feel free to like and share.
- Richard Florida writes about how “‘Climate Gentrification’ Will Deepen Urban Inequality” and check out Linda Poon’s “Where America’s Climate Migrants Will Go As Sea Level Rises
- Oral History: Desegregation of Arlington Public Schools — interview with Dorothy Hamm — in the oral history collection of Arlington Public Library.
- IB World Magazine October 2019 issue “Breaking the glass ceiling to opportunity” about implicit bias and how it is holding students back.
- Matt Blitz wrote in 2017, “Charles Drew Lived Here” in Arlington
- Abby Raphael’s latest Ed Talk post is about “Accountability
- A group member shared another event at Arlington Public Libraries: “Not in My Neighborhood” on March 19.
- February 13 event — African-American Experience in Arlington, from 7:00–9:00 pm at the Central Library Auditorium
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Taking Action on Equity and the Superbowl Half-Time Show

Hi Friends!
I have some amazing resources to share with you that I’m a bit embarrassed that I just discovered because they are so essential to our work, particularly in educational equity:
Strive Together works to address exactly what so many of us are trying to address in our schools. I’m really excited to learn more about them and their work.
Education First does some incredible work nationwide and has a great resources page.
- The Center for Urban Education at USC created “Equity By Design: Five Principles,” which I’m copying here because they are so important:
“Principle 1: Clarity in language, goals, and measures is vital to effective equitable practices.
Principle 2: “Equity-mindedness” should be the guiding paradigm for language and action.
Principle 3: Equitable practice and policies are designed to accommodate differences in the contexts of students’ learning — not to treat all students the same.
Principle 4: Enacting equity requires a continual process of learning, disaggregating data, and questioning assumptions about relevance and effectiveness.
Principle 5: Equity must be enacted as a pervasive institution- and system-wide principle.”
Creative Reaction Lab has created Equity-Centered Community Design content, including a field guide and some great resources on the Case for Equity.
- Arlington’s Encore Stage & Studio is doing a Flip the Script production at the Kennedy Center on desegregation in Arlington, TONIGHT, February 5 at 6:00 pm (Millennium Stage, free to the public, just show up to attend).
— Flip the Script Promotion Trailer
— Video of production at Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute at Wakefield High School on January 19, 2020.
- Arlington Public Library is hosting “Between the Fire and Me: Discussing Baldwin & Coates” TONIGHT, February 5 from 6:30–8:00 pm at the Columbia Pike Library
- Arlington Public Schools is holding its Black History Month celebration, We Are Arlington, on February 13 from 6:30–8:30 pm at Kenmore Middle School
- Andrew Ford writes about “What integration advocates get wrong,” particularly regarding the way diversity can be treated like a commodity. That can distract from the real problem and be quite offensive to people of color. Ideally, he says, “The conversation would not devolve into protecting the positional advantage of privileged students, but focus on how the plans repair racial injustice.”
- Donna St. George writes about “African American mother says her 10-year-old was cast as an enslaved person in a school play.” Why does this keep happening?
- Theresa Vargas writes about former D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans and privilege
- Liz Bowie writes that “Kirwan recommendations could change ‘college for all’ thinking” in Maryland. This idea is something we should probably consider in Virginia as well. The Kirwan Commission Report came out in November 2018 and was commissioned by the Baltimore Community Foundation.
- The Anti-Defamation League has wonderful education resources on their website including opportunities for training and dialogue and tools for talking to kids about race and bias.
- A group member shared two podcasts about race and friendship: “Ask Code Switch: What About Your Friends?” and “Between Friends: Your Stories About Race and Friendship
- Brentin Mock writes about “How Racism Became a Public Health Crisis in Pittsburgh,” following similar decisions in Madison and Milwaukee.
- Tafeni English writes about “2020: African Americans and the Vote” including some of the origins of Black History Month and how it has been celebrated over time.
- Lawrence Lanahan writes about “The Legacy of a Landmark Case for Housing Mobility” and the question of “Who gets to live where?”
- A group member shared an article by Poppy Noor, who writes about “Why liberal white women pay a lot of money to learn over dinner how they’re racist” — so much to think about, but particularly, “‘If Trump were impeached tomorrow and we got a new president, a lot of white liberal people will go back to living their lives just as before, and that’s what we have to prevent,’ she [Lisa Bond] says. ‘All that’s happened is we can see racism now, while before we could cover it up. That’s why we need these dinners. So when we get a new person in and racism is not as obvious, we won’t just crawl back to being comfortable.’”
- Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) has created a Racial Justice Voter Pledge that, even if you don’t sign it, has a wonderful description of what it means to be a racial justice voter.
And a couple of feel good moments in entertainment and pop culture:
- Bethonie Butler writes about “Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry, nominated for an Oscar.
Sarah L. Kaufman and Chris Richards each wrote about the Superbowl half-time show, and while some artists chose not to participate because of the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick, the artists who did perform took the opportunity to comment on our current times and brought depth and meaning and incredible skill to the event. From Chris Richards’ article, “When it was over, maybe you were one of those inconvenienced viewers asking, ‘Do we have to make everything about race?’ Maybe you should stop asking that question. There’s no making. In America, everything is about race. This country promises an equality it has not yet achieved. Dreaming about that equality inside a song on Super Bowl Sunday is a good thing. How good depends on how many people wake up fighting for it on Monday morning.” (my emphasis added)
Listen. Amplify. Follow.