Even the people who email me an at-home workout three times a week are talking about it: Black Lives Matter, defunding the police, and white supremacy.
|Photo by Clay Banks|
We are in a moment of accountability.
Or rather, we are in a moment of speaking up that will hopefully turn into real accountability.
The thing I keep wondering is, how do we make sure it lasts and isn't a fad?
Here is what I have come up with as a privileged white lady who also loves plans and lists: we all need to come up with an anti-racist strat plan. For ourselves.
For the unfamiliar, strat (strategic) plans are generally multi-year plans that organizations make to determine what directions they want to go (strategy) and then how they will get there.
Strat plans prompt companies to ask themselves what their business needs to thrive and achieve its mission and then make a plan to get there.
You can google it and find a hundred different ways to make a strat plan. Some are really complicated, some are basically fancy to do lists. Here is a version I am going to suggest to you:
PLANNING AND PREP
One does not just sit down and make a strat plan. You have to do the groundwork first.
In a company setting, much of this would play out as a group session with whiteboards and stickie notes to facilitate brainstorming and idea-sharing. Solo, you can do whatever makes it easiest to track and organize your thoughts.
If you haven't yet, read up on the basic ideas of anti-racism work so you aren't stumbling in blind. (Note: ongoing research and education can and should be a part of your strat plan but you'll want at least a 101 understanding to get started.)
- Google "how to be anti-racist" or "how to be an ally" or "how to fight for racial justice" and read more than one of the articles and listicles that comes up.
- Google and read about the history of racism, and police brutality in your country and city to get a local context.
- Google and read up on the history and objectives of Black Lives Matter, Indigenous movements, and other racial justice movements, as well as defunding the police.
Grounding - Mission:
In a company, this would be when we remind ourselves of our corporate mission and mandate, as well as our values and any other relevant context (hint: the above research is a big relevant context).
You probably have never written a personal mission or mandate or values statement, and those are useful in a broader, life-defining way. Right now, let's stay focused on racial justice.
The main question to ask yourself for your mission statement is, "what would the world look like if I was ultimately successful in my anti-racism work?" It's okay if the mission isn't really achievable - it should be something that can drive you no matter how much you accomplish.
Corporations tend to wordsmith these until they are perfect-yet-lifeless statements. I would encourage you to not get caught up spending all your time making it just-so and simply find something that makes your heart go, "YES!"
Grounding - Values:
Now, your values. If you have never done the work to define your core values, I do recommend taking the time to do this. It's good for life, but it will also inform your personal approach to this work.
Here are some questions to help define your values:
- What is important to me? (Broad strokes)
- After people have interacted with me, how do I want them to feel?
- How do I want to feel about myself?
- What types of situations evoke deep emotional responses in me? (Anger, sadness, joy.)
- When have I felt best about myself?
- When do I feel the most fulfilled?
Now use those reflections to write down some values. You can go from your own brain, but I really like looking at a list of core values (or this one).
First, write down all the values you think of, or the ones that resonate from a list. Then start refining. Go through and cross off ones that seem less important. Chunk together similar items into groups and see if there is a summarizing value. Eliminate redundancies. Force yourself to choose what is most important to you. Keep going until you have 5. (This is hard.)
Grounding - Shortcomings:
Take some time now to reflect on where you have fallen short in the past when it comes to racial justice. Not to beat yourself up, but to see where you are really starting from and where you might want need to do some work.
For example, I have often fallen short when it comes to speaking up when racially insensitive things are said around me. I easily prioritize my own (or other white people's) feelings or comfort over the real damage being done to BIPOC folks.
Now you've done the planning and prep, it's time to come up with your objectives. These should come directly out of your mission and will be informed by your values and the research you did earlier.
Objectives are specific and measurable. I often think of them as smaller projects that help achieve the mission. In business-land they might be something like increasing sales by 10%, developing 3 new products, or breaking into a particular market.
In racial justice-land, look at your mission and ask yourself:
- What are Black activists (or other people of colour) calling for in this area?
- When I did my research earlier, what was on everyone's list?
- What wasn't on everyone's list but really stuck out at me?
- Where do I see real need or room for growth?
- Who is already doing this work and can I help them?
- How do my core values interact with this mission and how would they inform my approach?
- What will motivate me to keep going when things get tough?
- What about the ways I have fallen short? Where do I need to improve?
Ultimately, you'll want 3-5 specific, measurable objectives. To get there, follow a similar process to the values: write everything down, group things together that are similar, and start refining down.
Your objectives will NOT cover all the work that needs to be done. That's okay. One person can't do it all. You can still support other people who are pursuing other objectives while you focus in on your own work.
I recommend that one of your objectives be about ongoing education and self-reflection.
YES! We are GETTING THERE! You have your mission. You know your values. You have objectives. Now you just need some concrete actions!!!!
For each objective, start writing down actions that will get you there. Write everything that comes to mind, even if it's really hard or you don't know how to do it or you're too scared to think about doing it. This isn't a blood-oath, it's a list.
To help find actions:
Remember those listicles you read back at the beginning? Mine those for the gold they contain.
Think about your personal values and what kind of actions naturally flow out of them. (Values like discipline may inspire different actions than risk or generosity - all are useful.)
Google your specific objective.
Now REFINE THOSE LISTS!
Be realistic about your values, abilities, resources, and time.
If you work two jobs and are caring for an elderly relative and there is a pandemic on, make sure your actions can fit into those constraints.
If you know nothing about coding, don't commit to building new online tools for aggregating data on police violence.
If you get claustrophobic in crowds, don't commit to being right in the centre of every protest.
If you don't have extra money, don't commit to providing financial support.
There is incredible value in pushing yourself, and there will be uncomfortable and unglamorous work, but you need to work WITH yourself, not against yourself.
Ongoing, consistent work will do WAY MORE for your mission than short bursts of flashy action done poorly.
Remember that you are not the only person doing this work and are not solely responsible for dismantling racism. You are doing your part. What's your part?
You have a strat plan!
Now you just have to do the things, which means you have to be accountable.
To do this, you can do any or all of the following:
- Give yourself deadlines for each action and objective.
- Share your plan publicly and commit to regular updates.
- Share your plan with a small group of friends and ask them to check in with you monthly on your progress (choose people who will actually follow through).
- Schedule yourself a weekly personal review where you look at your plan and where you're at.
Look at your life and schedule with a realistic eye while you set those deadlines and update commitments. Consistency is better than big moves that can't sustain.
This is another good place to think about what motivates you. If you're into achievement, then by all means, give yourself gold stars. (Just mayyyyyybe keep that part to yourself or your smaller accountability group. Twitter doesn't need to see you congratulating yourself for reading a book about race.)
Also, Check Yourself:As you do this work, things will go wrong. It will get hard. It will stop being trendy. You will do something wrong. Someone will get angry with you. Remind yourself of the following points now and repeatedly so that hopefully they will support you when this happens:
- Just like any group of people, everyone who is doing anti-racist work will not agree on everything and inconsistencies do not undermine the movement
- If someone points out your missteps, they are doing you a service and helping you be better, even if they are mean about it
- You are doing this work to help accomplish your mission, not to look like a good person or get brownie points or to make sure no one ever gets mad at you on the internet.
- Defensive responses to being called out are natural but are for you to process on your own before you engage publicly with someone.
- There is a difference between shaming someone and pointing out a hard truth.
- As the movement progresses, things change, and that's okay. Hopefully, they change because we are getting better, but also (often) because an unintended consequence of a phrase or action emerges and we must shift.
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