Events and people confront my thinking. I feel a prickle of recognition, and the moment of discomfort grows when I realize that how I think or act needs to change. That’s a moment I always need to lean into, even if I’d rather ignore it, because that’s where learning is.
These moments often arrive when I least expect them. I might be feeling complacent about my privileged life and then a check comes to my thinking. It can be small – a friend challenges me on what I wrote in a blog post; or it can be monstrous – a racist murder spurs a long overdue cataclysm.
Hard questions persist when I think about my response:
- What are my biases, conscious or unconscious?
- How do I perpetuate systemic racism or toxic authority?
- Do my words and actions hurt or help?
- What’s the point of being a leader?
I recently listened to Simon Sinek talk about leaders who make a difference. They are the first to take responsibility, the first to ask for forgiveness, the first to admit what they don’t know and what they did wrong. By doing so, they lead the way for others to admit vulnerability and wrongdoing and to move towards change. It reminded me of the thinking on servant leadership where a leader’s first goal is to serve staff.
This is what I can do right now. I live with tremendous privilege every day – white, middle class, pandemic privilege. I don’t know what it’s like to be racialized. I don’t experience racism and have no idea what it means to never be good enough for authorities or governments in America or Canada. I do know that this shouldn’t be normal. And I know it starts with me.
Besides continuing my personal anti-racism unlearning and relearning through reading, listening, and sharing, I work in a system where change needs to happen. As Senator Murray Sinclair said, “Education got us into this mess, and education will get us out.” Although he was speaking about Canada’s cultural genocide of indigenous peoples, it applies for all types of racism and inequity. Besides influencing policy development and our system direction, I can also influence those I work with directly, especially principals and vice principals. It seems to me that I can ask this question: “What are you doing to learn more about systemic racism, equity and inclusion?” It’s direct, yet open enough to jumpstart a conversation that we can all learn from.
If you have more suggestions, please let me know. I have lots to learn and unlearn.