By Kathy Coffey, LSC Executive Director
As we gathered on April 28th in Lynnwood for our first-ever event in the Step Up series: Understanding and Implementing Racial Equity, we examined our own leadership through the lens of equity. As we were listening, conversing, reacting, and interacting, the keynotes and breakout sessions led many of us to new insights, new perspective, and new resolve.
From our survey:
I had an aha moment when listening to Dr. Hollins. She [said that] "talking about racism isn't going to divide us. We're already divided."
Not thinking or acting in discriminatory ways is not enough. I need to be proactive, engaged, and a change agent.
So many aha's. My favorite: Be willing to sit in the tension and get curious!
As I've said before – the expectations for leaders are many and complex. As we collaborate and engage, sometimes we can feel like we've been pigeonholed – oh, she's good at that; he will be able to handle this; she knows those people. Sometimes it's a matter of familiarity; we've been in this company before. Sometimes it's a matter of expediency; we need to move quickly. Sometimes it's a matter of perceived authority; this person will get attention.
We ALL judge. It is our nature. The key is to know that we are judging and to do something about it.
I learned a lot. My favorite quote from the day was "Equity feels like discrimination to those that have had privilege."
Honest dialogue and getting a little uncomfortable with one another is necessary to move this work forward.
If you weren't able to join us, you can still view video of our two keynotes, plus one breakout session, using our virtual toolkit. Resources are available here from our speakers and from our friends at Sno-Isle Libraries. Special thanks to them and to all of our partners and sponsors, especially Premera Blue Cross and Everett Community College, whose support really made this first, free community event possible.
LSC’s goal for the day was to provide a non-partisan venue to increase awareness and begin or continue the dialogue about racial equity in our community. The two-hour breakout sessions were a deliberate choice to allow attendees to walk away with tools to make a difference in their spheres of influence. Here are a few of the ways attendees plan to carry this work forward:
I walked away today feeling hopeful…many people in our community are committed to racial justice and workshops like today are extremely recharging.
I am inspired to start a Racial Equity Committee in my workplace. We could have informational book clubs, workshops, email newsletters, and employee surveys.
I will speak up when I hear microaggressions.
Work to be present and aware of how my background and perspective affects my ability to listen, perceive, and/or judge.
I commit to continuing to learn and be open.
I will respond now to "color blind" comments.
Speak up, unapologetically, more often. Lean in to discomfort when it comes to talking about diversity, inclusion, and equity.
As we consider what we learned at Step Up, we're also preparing for graduation on May 25th. This group of community leaders is ready. We need these leaders to navigate and charge forward – as individuals and as a community – connected to the greater good. We need each one of you.
In our closing sessions, we reflect back on the program year. Sometimes, this process is frustrating. Expectations don't always translate into takeaways. The experience can be surprising. We learn things we didn't think we needed to learn and discover things we didn't realize we were missing. We have exciting moments of synergy and smaller, meaningful personal victories. And at the end of this process, if we are open to introspection, we realize it's really a new beginning.
What do you need to learn? How can you discover what you’re missing?
Then, what will you do?