Our response to racial inequities – becoming an ally
By Dr. Joshua Lepore, Senior Director of Campus Services
“Recent events have again brought to light systemic racism in our law enforcement institutions, but we know it exists in other systems as well. We cannot pretend that these realities that our neighbors of color experience in their daily lives are based on individual choices but rather we must confront the fact that our systems have been set up to get exactly the results we are seeing. This is the time to talk about the root causes of the health inequities among communities of color revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic that has African Americans contracting and dying from the disease at a much higher rate than whites. It is about the disparities that children of color face, being removed from their families and placed into foster care at a disproportionate rate and being sent to prison at higher rates as well. It is about the inequities in access to quality education among low-income and African American communities that leave too many children behind.”
- Susan N. Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
George Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement has brought up many feelings. It can be hard to hold the feelings of our youth when we may have our own strong emotions. Feelings of anger, sadness, grief, frustration, and helplessness may be a few of the many emotions that we are all experiencing. How can we, amidst our own feelings, also support our youth, who likely experience the same visceral feelings but often have less emotional vocabulary? As care givers we need to find ways to help them process these feelings while also finding feelings of compassion, strength, curiosity, or unity to deal with these current issues as well as explore the larger issues.
At Casa Pacifica, many of the children and young adults we serve are impacted by the disparities mentioned above. At this critical time, we have an opportunity to face this issue head on and have difficult conversations about race and inequality. Providing youth with a safe space to openly discuss these recent events and explore their feelings is imperative. In addition, everyone processes feelings differently so we need to utilize a variety of approaches.
From the Guide to Allyship:
The Do’s to being an ally
- Do be open to listening
- Do be aware of your implicit biases
- Do your research to learn more about the history of the struggle in which you are participating
- Do the inner work to figure out a way to acknowledge how you participate in oppressive systems
- Do the outer work and figure out how to change the oppressive systems
- Do amplify (online and when physically present) the voices of those without your privilege
- Do learn how to listen and accept criticism with grace, even if it’s uncomfortable
- Do not expect to be taught or shown. Take it upon yourself to use the tools around you to learn and answer your questions
- Do not participate for the gold medal in the “Oppression Olympics” (you don’t need to compare how your struggle is just as bad)
- Do not behave as though you know best
- Do not take credit for the labor of those who are marginalized and did the work before you stepped into the picture
- Do not assume that every member of an underinvested group feels oppressed
In addition to making a conscious effort, we taken the following thoughtful actions to deepen our understanding and further strengthen Casa Pacifica’s culture of inclusivity with both our staff and the youth we serve:
- Formed a social justice committee comprised of passionate staff members – they have started meeting to discuss related issues and to recommend and ensure we have an integrated campus-wide approach.
- Social justice, race, and inequality are set as the first semester theme in our nonpublic school. We will use the larger framework of character counts to guide.
- Integrated outside experts to increase education on becoming culturally competent, mitigating unconscious bias, and other social issues.
- Agency-wide social justice survey distributed to all employees to solicit feedback on ways to improve and suggestions surrounding social justice issues and our agency culture.
- In our residential cottages, multiple groups are focused on creating space to discuss violence against minorities and issues regarding racial inequality.
- Increase education and awareness by promoting staff view documentary 13th.
As providers that may or may not have had similar experiences to the youth we serve, we must take on the responsibility of educating ourselves and acknowledge our differences, without letting them distract us from our primary role which is the health and well being of our youth.