For those familiar with PEG’s Courageous Conversations About Race Protocol, this first agreement might seem hackneyed and overdone. Personally, I have rattled it off mindlessly more times than I know. In self-evaluation, however, I would check that hypothetical box next to it extra-bold style. “That’s an easy one,” I think. My job is designed to make sure that happens.
There is some truth to that. Working as an Equity Coach, it is my job to show up every day and engage around racial equity. I could give plenty of justification and evidence of how that is true. Yet, in honest reflection, as a white woman socialized to disengage on race, I have plenty of growth still in that category.
Recently, I had to list my triggers and my fears in relation to doing racial equity work. The activity was another way of asking, what gets in the way of me staying engaged? Writing my list was painful. It contained memories of when I have failed, times I have been hurt, and emotional spaces that I sometimes try to avoid at all costs. Yet, it was also powerful because it created space for me to reflect on how do I respond to these fears? What do I do when confronted with triggers?
That is where the growth of engaging fully lies. Allow me to digress slightly. A couple years ago, I experienced a pretty traumatic event. Since then, I have done (and continue to do) intensive work on navigating my triggers and fears. I have realized, living fully is not about how I avoid triggers and fears, but rather, how do I respond? What tools do I have? How do I endure? How do I grow?
Our work in racial equity needs to mirror the same journey. The list of triggers and fears is powerful because it forced me to be honest about what throws me off my purpose of creating a school that fosters the full humanity of all our students and staff, including our students and staff of color. Some days my fear show up as burn-out a long list of “urgent” that needs to get done. Other times it’s particular phrases or mindsets entering conversations that minimize the truth and lived experiences of people of color. Sometimes, painfully, it’s my selfish perfectionism and self-protection. But I know this. Knowing my fears and triggers around disengagement has allowed me to set up personal check-ins around them. I have sought accountability friends. I work to dig into them from a space of compassion and change, rather than judgement and shame.
Over the last few months, I had the beautiful opportunity to chat with several of you about how you wish students and colleagues would see you. Your responses embodied love, humanity, connection, compassion, and fullness. They spoke to the sanctity of our commitment to our students and to our purposes. I was inspired. So, leaning into that, striving, and seeking that, what gets the in way of that for you? What stops you from fully engaging in racial equity work, our work? And how do you respond?
In solidarity, for our children,