Dear White Led Organizations by Calvin Eaton

In the wake of recent #BlackLivesMatter civil unrest, protests, and uprisings 540WMain (like so many other Black led organizations) received a deluge of training, workshop, and consultation requests. The following letter is an edited version of a correspondence I recently shared with one of the white led organizations that reached out to 540WMain. As an equity, justice and antiracism educator it crucial for me to work within a framework of integrity and ethics and not treat this work as merely transactional. This work is complex, and emotionally intense. Talking about racism is not political but a public health crisis. Dismantling structural racism is a matter of life or death. Perhaps now more than ever how I enter and engage in this work and these conversations is just as important as having the conversation. It is my hope in sharing this letter that all white led organizations carefully reflect on the messages contained within and lead themselves to do better as they embark (in many cases for the first time ever) on equity and justice work at the institutional level.

Dear White Led Organizations,

As a community educator focused on equity, justice and antiracism I am inspired that so many local organizations have been moved to begin engaging in dialogue about race, equity and justice.  The global COVID-19 pandemic and recent civil rights protests have only highlighted the longstanding injustices and institutional racism that for decades have marginalized members of the Black community and other underrepresented groups.
It is encouraging to see so many organizations like yours acknowledge the need for improved diversity, equity and justice initiatives within your organization. However it is also important for predominately white led organizations to be mindful of performative allyship, performative diversity, and espousing characteristics of white supremacy culture (read more here) as they reach out to Black led organizations, Black community educators and non-white educators of color.
I am asking all white led organizations to carefully consider with their leadership and staff: 
  • Why are we deciding to engage in equity and justice conversations?
  • What makes this conversation important now?
  • Why haven’t we always engaged in this work?
  • What is our long term commitment to anti-racism, equity and justice?
  • What steps are we taking right now to unlearn racism, and learn more about race, racism and how to be antiracist?

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“Racism is a public health crisis and therefore cannot be a list to check off as done or a one off discussion”

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These questions and considerations need to be ongoing and happening before reaching out to Black and/or non-Black community educators and equity consultants. It is important to understand that a baseline understanding and knowledge of structural racism, antiracism, white privilege and white fragility is required before white led organizations can genuinely engage in equity and justice work at an institutional level. Racism is a public health crisis and therefore cannot be a list to check off as done or a one off discussion. Dismantling structural racism takes time, energy, resources and long-term sustained commitment. It requires humility, a ceding of power and ability to recover after making mistakes.
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The 540WMain team recommends reading any or all of the following books listed below (or here) as an executive team as a starting point for your organization:
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  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • How to Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

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It is essential to engage in this meaningful and essential pre-work before reaching out to 540WMain or any other Black led group or person. In your haste to jump into these conversations you can recreate systems of oppression, harm, and toxicity that have long been tenets of white supremacy and detrimental to Black professionals and non-white people of color. It is also important to recognize that Black staff, groups and others have the right to choose whether or not they want to engage in this work with you and have every right to decline.

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This is a call for you to do the work and do better as you do the work.

In Solidarity,
Calvin

P.S: We are working very hard behind the scenes as an organization to develop a training protocol for antiracism facilitators at 540WMain. As our work grows it has become increasingly imperative that facilitation of 540WMain programming cannot fall on the shoulders of one person but needs to be a collective effort. This fact is one that I have long been aware and I am holding myself accountable to change this. Stay tuned for some soon to come announcements. 

(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism education, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain a non-profit online and community-based organization for accessible education and events that promote justice for all.

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While the past four years have been filled with wonderful moments of community engagement and enrichment, we assert that much more must be done and we need you on board to support. We want to make Rochester a more equitable community, but we cannot do it alone.

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Are you unsure of how to help or where to start when it comes to anti-racism and social justice?

THESE are important first steps.

1) Help us reach 100+ sustaining monthly members for as little as $3 a month (we are only 15 away!) HERE: www.patreon.com/540wmain
2) Donate to our fundraiser HERE: facebook.com/donate
3) Follow along on Facebook and Instagram for highlights of the past 4 years, anti-racism resources, blog posts, and giveaways from local vendors.

Published by Calvin Eaton

(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a disabled community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism, equity, justice, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain, Inc. a non-profit online and community-based organization for accessible education and events that promote justice for all.

4 thoughts on “Dear White Led Organizations by Calvin Eaton

  1. Is it OK if I paste this to my FB page? I realize that, as a subscriber to 540WMain, I see content that others cannot access. Thanks!

    Like

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