Accountability Statement

Overview followed by my personal accountability actions.

Overview

What Does Accountability Look Like For Me and White People in General?

Continual Education We (note that throughout this document, when I say “we” I am referring to my fellow white people) must never consider our learning finished. It is necessary for each of us to continually educate ourselves through books, films, discussions, conferences, community groups, workbooks and activism. In the era of social media and the internet, there are more excellent educational resources than ever before. There simply is no excuse not to break with the apathy of whiteness and seek out these resources!

White people are not outside of race and our voices and perspectives on racism and antiracism are critical. All too often, we have been a missing piece of the puzzle. Only engaging with Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color’s perspectives reinforces the idea that white people are outside of race and that racism is not a white problem. But the foundation of our education must be rooted in the voices and perspectives of Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color. We will never understand racism in isolation. See the Recommended Reading tab (coming soon) on this website for my and other’s recommendations.

Building Authentic Relationships One of the most important ways I have worked to challenge my socialization has been to build relationships across race. Nothing in the trajectory of my life would have ensured that I had these relationships. In fact, while I grew up in urban poverty, upward mobility took me further and further away from integrated spaces. Building relationships across race will require most white people to get out of their comfort zones and put themselves in new and unfamiliar environments. This is different from our usual approach in which we invite Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color into committees, boards, and places of worship – groups white people already control. We often do this when we have done no work to expand our own consciousness and developed no skill or strategy in navigating race. In effect we are inviting Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color into hostile water, then we are dismayed and confused when they choose to leave.

So, what are authentic relationships across race? They are not casual acquaintances we meet at work and use to claim “diversity cover.” They cannot be built with people we employ and whose livelihoods we control. We don’t get them by latching on to any Black, Indigenous or Person of Color in the vicinity, which is a form of objectification. Authentic relationships are those based on mutual interest and earned trust. They develop over time, and are not abandoned when conflict arises.

Circles of Support A circle of Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color with whom we are in authentic relationships and can talk through issues and challenges is a basic requirement. This is also tricky, as we should not burden Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color with our internal processes or put them on the spot to absolve us. If we are in authentic relationships, we should be able to talk through these struggles if we remain thoughtful about the pitfalls. There are also people who provide this service as personal coaches and are paid for their expertise. If we do not have professional coaches who are Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color in our circle of support, we should offer to pay our friends and colleagues for their time and expertise.

As for white support, most of us could easily find 50 white people who would go into agreement with our uninformed opinions on race. These are not the white people we should seek out when we are processing new racial insights, struggling to understand or feeling defensive. We have heard these uninformed opinions throughout our segregated lives, and we do not need them reinforced. When we are newer to an antiracist framework these white people can undermine our confidence. Not having the skills to counter these narratives, we may give up, thinking that an ability to argue strongly is the same as having a strong argument. Instead, it is critical that we have a circle of supportive white people who have a strong antiracist analysis and experience doing their own internal work. Having quick access to fellow white people who are actively engaged in antiracism work is invaluable.

Affinity Groups In an affinity group, people who share the same racial identity meet on a regular basis to address the challenges specific to their group. White affinity groups are an important way for white people to keep racism on our radar and continue to challenge our racist socialization. It is crucial for white people to acknowledge and recognize our collective racial experience, which interrupts the tendency to see ourselves as unique individuals (or “just human”) and thus outside of the forces of race. Intentionally meeting specifically as white people to practice collectively interrupting our patterns of internalized white superiority is a powerful contradiction to the ideologies of individualism and white objectivity.

While racial affinity groups temporarily separate us, the ultimate goal is to build the skills and perspectives needed to bridge racial separation; to unify in antiracist purpose rather than be divided by racism. When white people who have no critical consciousness about racism and have not done any of their own personal work discuss race in mixed groups, they inevitably cause harm. To this end, many of us who lead antiracist education and organizing see affinity groups as an invaluable tool for consciousness-raising, healing from racialized socialization, and ongoing skill-building.

In conclusion

Accountability within antiracist work is the understanding that what I profess to value must be demonstrated in action, and the validity of that action is determined by Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color. Accountability requires trust, transparency, and action. As a white person seeking to be accountable, I must continually ask myself, “How do I know how I am doing?” To answer this question, I need to check in and find out. I can do this in several ways, including: by directly asking Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Color with whom I have trusting relationships and who have agreed to offer me this feedback; talking to other white people who have an antiracist framework; reading the work of Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color who have told us what they want and need (this work is easy to find and many racial justice educators have good resource lists on their websites) and; engaging in the exercises Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color provide in online classes and workbooks. Ultimately it is for Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color to decide if I am actually behaving in antiracist ways. When I find that I am out of alignment, I need to do what is necessary and try to repair the situation. And yes, the more experience and practice I have in antiracist work the more thoughtfully I will be able to use the feedback I receive.

Basics

The following are the basics of how I seek to be accountable. I offer it here in what I hope is a concise and useful way. This is in no way an exhaustive list and there are many good resources on how to be accountable in a range of contexts, including schools, neighborhoods, raising children, talking with our families, working in government, corporations, nonprofits and communities (look it up!). Examples of my personal response to each of these will follow:

  1. Donate a percentage of your income to racial justice organizations led by BIPOC people. If you earn more than enough to meet your basic economic needs, strive to give until you can “feel it”. Your checkbook is a reflection of your antiracist commitment made tangible through directly addressing the unjust distribution of economic resources based on race.
  2. Get involved in and donate your time and services to BIPOC-led racial justice efforts. Consider yourself a guest in these organizations. Listen and follow their leadership. Do not take over or decide for yourself what is needed.
  3. When organizing events make sure they are accessible and scholarships are available for BIPOC people who may need them. Donate proceeds from events to racial justice organizations led by People of Color.
  4. Promote the work and services of BIPOC people. Channel work to BIPOC people. Seek out and choose BIPOC-owned businesses and service providers. Co-lead paid work with BIPOC people when possible.
  5. Always cite and give credit to the work of BIPOC people who have informed your thinking. When you use a phrase or idea you got from a BIPOC person, credit them.
  6. Have accountability partners who are BIPOC people. An accountability partner is someone you have built a trusting relationship with and who has agreed to coach you, talk through challenges with you, think with you, and challenge you on your inevitable racism. An accountability partner may also be a friend or colleague, but an accountability partner is a specific, defined, transparent role. BIPOC accountability partners should be paid for their time. If they are also personal friends, they may not accept payment but you should begin with the assumption that this will be paid labor. If payment for their services is declined, ask if there are racial justice organizations to which you can donate. If they do not have a suggestion, do some research and choose one (see #1).
  7. Build personal relationships with white people who have a strong antiracist analysis and who can serve as white accountability partners. These are people you can go to when you need to work through your defensiveness or confusion about racism. They will hold you accountable, help you work through your feelings, and prepare you to make racial repair when needed. You do not necessarily pay white friends for this, though there are white people with strong analysis and deep experience who do offer professional paid coaching.
  8. Attend white affinity groups.
  9. Never consider your learning finished. Continually participate in every racial justice education forum you can (conferences, workshops, talks). Continually read and learn from the work of BIPOC people. Take online classes taught by BIPOC people.
  10. Break silence on racism. Make sure that antiracism gets on the table and stays on the table in your workplaces, social circles, places of worship, and other organizations.
  11. Ibram X. Kendi defines a racist policy as any policy with a racially inequitable outcome. Look at your organization’s policies. If they are producing racially inequitable outcomes, get them back on the table and keep working.
  12. Subscribe to online sources that regularly publish lists, guides, and tools for racial justice work.

In particular, we need to start seeing the intellectual and emotional labor Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color perform in order to navigate and survive in white supremacist societies as labor that must be compensated. When we ask Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color to join our committees, boards, advisory councils, organizations, and other groups in order to have “diversity,” we should actually pay them for their time and labor. If these positions are already paid positions, we should pay Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color more for them. If we are inviting them because they are offering a perspective that is missing, then they have expertise we don’t have. Further, given that sharing their expertise and perspectives is often fraught with danger, these are high-risk jobs that require a very specialized set of skills. Let’s show that we understand the value of what Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color bring by paying for what they bring. Even then we will be up against the implicit bias and internalized superiority that causes us to devalue the perspectives we claim to want. We can never be complacent. The current political climate is testimony that progress does not happen in an upward arc but is continually fought for, and when victories are won, large or small, they will continually be challenged.

My Accountability

Donations Both monthly and annually, to racial justice organizations led by BIPOC people:

Monthly 2018-current: The Equal Justice Initiative
Monthly: Rent to the Duwamish Tribe, whose ancestral territories I live on
Annually 2018- current: Gathering Roots Retreat & Wellness Center; Young Women Empowered
Annually 2020: The Bail Project; National Bail Out; BEAM

In-Kind Donations (unpaid workshops / travel / donations of books and workshops to raise funds / training materials / videos): Young Women Empowerment
The Social Justice Agency of South Africa; RISE Ubuntu Network

Fundraising: Webinar with Resmaa Menakem, May 30, June 9: Racial Embodiment & Covid19 for BIPOC peoples impacted by Covid19: Funds raised: $55,000.

In partnership with Education for Racial Equity (ERE) the following is a list of organizations who received the post-production proceeds from my public events (for ERE’s financial practices please see their statement):

Sogorea Te Land Trust
Right Relations Fund for Navajo Nation
Food for The People- Feeding the Berkeley Homeless
National Domestic Workers Alliance
The Philadelphia Community Bail Fund
Northside Achievement Zone
Network for the Development of Children of African Descent
United Farm Workers

2019: Organizations donated to from funds raised from my public workshops:
Sogorea Te Land Trust
Movement Generation
African American Museum & Library at Oakland
American Indian Youth Leadership Institute (AIYLI)
Boulder Parenting in Diversity (BPID)
Rise Colorado
Brotherhood / Sister Sol
Soul Fire Farm
American Indian Law Alliance
Simply Smiles- serving Lakota children in foster care to stay with Lakota families
Idle No More SF
Glide
Peacock Rebellion
Tipping Point
Big Pine Tribe, Big Pin CA
French Film on Microaggressions- WOC led

Use of platform to raise the work and voices of BIPOC peoples and direct people to donate to BIPOC orgs. Two examples:

Good Housekeeping, June 2020

Channel hundreds of requests for consulting, training, and speaking to Black people daily.

In Summary

How do we live antiracist lives as white people within a racist society? As Ibram X. Kendi instructs us, “The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist.’ The opposite of racist is antiracist.” Antiracist is active, “not racist” is passive and passivity in a racist society is racist. For me, living an antiracist life means applying an antiracist lens to my view of the world and the actions I take. Antiracism is not something I can add on whenever I find it interesting and convenient to do so. Racism is not an aberration, it is the norm, operating continuously. An antiracist lens should also be operating continuously, transforming who is in my life, who I connect with, what I see, what I care about, what I talk about, what I read about, what I buy, how I work, what I am willing to feel, what I can bear witness to, what discomfort I can withstand and what risks I am willing to take. And given that I can easily avoid accountability, antiracism means I must challenge myself to not rely solely on external pressure. We work towards creating a culture in which not engaging in antiracist practices within a racist society is what is actually uncomfortable.