Critical RacIST Theory (a poem)

I guess we can’t teach why Native Americans shed tears on that trail

I guess we can’t teach why Japanese Americans were interned in those camps and jailed

I guess we can’t teach why Jews fleeing the Holocaust came to America and were forced to reverse sail

I guess we can’t teach about those who had their rights stalled at Stonewall as they cried and wailed

Too many in America caught up in ignorance and denial

They’d rather have you forget history than learn about its tribulations and trials

They’d rather NOT teach you the history so white folks don’t feel guilty

They think white kids will only see themselves as evil and filthy

But where were your laws when I was learning about me?

When my history books taught I only came from Slavery?

When my mathematic classes left out black contributions?

When my science classes left out our contributions to evolution?

When my classes talked about America’s hopes and intentions

But didn’t lift my hopes by teaching me about Black inventions?

You don’t think I felt guilty? Like 3/5 of a man?

When y’all taught that I was only civilized when you brought me to this land?


But I ain’t gonna be selfish, it ain’t just my history dismissed

Cause I can talk about Latino, Asian, Indigenous, and Jewish

Cause y’all wanna exclude the Chinese Exclusion acts from the books

You don’t wanna know about all Latinos labeled as Chicanos…and crooks

And even though there are white Muslims, that narrative won’t work

Cause y’all wanna teach that Muslims are just terrorists who murder and hurt

You don’t wanna teach Islamic contributions to science and math

You don’t wanna teach about Native American soldiers present and past

But maybe at the end of the day we’re all fools

Arguing about something that isn’t even taught in schools

But to me CRT ain’t Critical Race Theory

It’s Culturally Relevant or Culturally Responsive Teaching…hear me?

For teachers teaching and reaching for the truth, your efforts, I applaud it

For the rest of y’all if you didn’t want history taught, why did y’all record it?

But I digress, because my faith in white students is stronger than yours

I know they can handle full history and all of its flaws

They can learn the evils of some white people ’cause those evils were defeated

And when we teach them the history they’re inspired to never repeat it

I know that white kids aged 16-19 can handle 1619

Even white kids in elementary and pre-teens

Because too many students get angry when they find out the truth

About America’s complete history that wasn’t taught in their youth

America can only be as good as its promise when we teach history in full

So let’s support our teachers in teaching the truth in school!

Unity For Our Beloved Community (a poem)

You don’t know what you don’t know

You can’t lead where you don’t go

If you don’t read you won’t GROW

I know

It can feel hard to work together

It can be hard to fight to make our lives better

But it’s worth it

We have so many hidden commonalities but we can unearth it

If we choose to trust each other before suspicion

If we choose to take America’s promise and give it a new rendition

We can show the world how to multiply unity where there’s division

Where people wanna subtract our culture, you can bring addition

We can bring acceptance where there’s derision

To lead or to follow, what’s your decision?

We need to fight all forms of hate with surgical precision

But we can only do that if we really want to heal

To be upstanders and not bystanders kicking down doors of hate with our heels

When I accept you and you accept me, I love how that feels

So let’s commit to love and learn about one another for real!

InsErection (a poem on the January 6th insurrection)


America’s got a hard on for violence

America’s got its guard on for violence

He gets aroused at the site of silence

Looking for any opportunity to screw the compliant

Don’t deny it, I know you tryin’

But to say America’s always been peaceful?

Nah you lyin’ and there ain’t no denyin’

Violence penetrated this country deep to its soul

From enslaved Africans, slaughtered Cherokees and Seminoles

Antisemitism by those who can Nazi Jewish humanity without bullet holes

American internment camps of Japanese American souls

(NOT Japanese internment camps by the way)

What a difference a name makes Uncle Sam but damn I digress

Because today I’m talking about January 6th

We love violence so much we call today an anniversary

While we commemorate 911


What we celebratin’ today? Please tell me?

The 50+% who don’t believe in democracy?

The so called-leaders goin’ along with McCarthy’s hypocrisy?

The lies Tuckered into Fix News to legitimate an insurgency?

The shattered eye sockets of Capitol security?

The barricades erected to stop the cock-block of an election?

The fact that it came down to the V.P. for constitutional protection?

An ex-President who said he’d fight with the traitors and went in the other direction?

The politicians who tried to decertify showing their electoral dysfunction?

The way we tried a peaceful power transition and got our face punched in?

But damn, I guess in America this is just how it plays

Afterall, the man that said “give me liberty or give me death” owned slaves

This violence is all the rage

Inserectionists tried to take down the world’s largest democratic stage

Feces all up on the Senate floor

Urine all up on Congress’ doors

That white fluid dripping from their mouths and pores

As they salivated over an ex-president bought and paid for

A made for TV president who they think is heaven sent

So much so that to overthrow the country, they’re hell bent

Senators “on both sides” running for their lives

America can always stand tall and erect when it’s time for freedom to die

What we celebratin?

Well today I’ll celebrate the guards who gave their lives

I’ll celebrate those cops who made it home to their partners, husbands, and wives

I’ll celebrate those officers who saved congressional lives

I’ll celebrate the rest of us in America who believe out of this dust that we’ll rise

I’ll celebrate the arc of the investigations that hopefully bend towards justice

But without federal voting legislation, it could be just us

To stop the on-going inserectionist coup attempt w/out federal help, the onus is “on us”.

I’ll celebrate the Joe Madisons starving so America can taste democracy once again

I’ll celebrate the #unfiltered truth seekers who keep it Roland

I’ll celebrate journalists who Reid Out loud what we’ve all been sayin

I’ll celebrate the Ken & Karen Hunters fighting disinformation

I’ll celebrate when we pass the freedom to vote act and John Lewis legislation

I’ll celebrate when the inserectionists can no longer perform

And America’s promise can take its true form!

An Education Platform for Democrats after Youngkin’s Win

There have been many theories provided to explain the loss of former democratic Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to republican Glenn Youngkin. From the economy to Trump’s presence (or lack thereof), no one who follows politics is short of an answer on the disappointing loss for democrats. One main area that was also discussed, particularly in the final weeks of the campaign was education. From McAuliffe’s statement during the debate on parents and education to Youngkin’s ad from a mother stating that her child (a then high school senior in an advancement placement English class and now GOP lawyer) had “nightmares” over reading Pulitzer Prize-winning African American author Toni Morrison’s Beloved, education became a major issue in this campaign. As disgraceful as the advertisement was, what was more disgraceful was the lack of strong democratic response not only to this campaign ad, but a weak response on the issue of the faux critical race theory (CRT) debate.

The failure of the McAuliffe campaign to address republican CRT talking points is not only a problem in Virginia. Across the country, democratic politicians either running for office or who hold office have not seriously rebuffed the phony CRT activism that has engulfed school board meetings across America and even led to a principal’s firing for implementing CRT even though he was not. There is no better example of this than PBS Washington correspondent Yamiche Alcindor asking President Joe Biden about CRT, republican lies, and this new round of the culture wars. Rather than answer the question directly, Biden pivoted to talking about his larger vision for America. It was at that point I realized that democratic politicians cannot speak about the CRT debate because, even though many of them were lawyers, they do not know what CRT actually is. Given that republicans now have raised education to a top campaign issue, it is time for democrats to craft a solid education platform. Here are three things they can do.

  1. Actively refute fake CRT activism and speak on critical thinking.

Every democrat needs to learn what CRT is and is not. They need to understand its history as a theory taught to law school students and not K-12 students. They need to understand that CRT is not about teaching white children to shame themselves but, if they make it to law school, their CRT class will study how America’s laws have affected this country from a racial lens and what to do about it. Armed with this knowledge, they must also call out people like propagandist Tucker Carlson, who admitted that he still does not understand what CRT is, even after a year of talking about it. When they hear CRT mentioned on the campaign trail, ask people if they know what CRT is and educate them when they cannot answer. Fight miseducation with truth and stop using right-wing talking points because when democrats use their language, republicans are winning. Instead of saying these so-called activists are against CRT, say they are against critical thinking, which is more accurate.

Democrats must also point out that phony CRT activism is failing as many parents and guardians have been encouraged to buy books that have been banned like New Kid and Class Act by award-winning author Jerry Craft. Parents, including many white parents, are organizing “Banned book yard sales” and the books are flying off the lawns. Authors of banned books are actually sending their books to these parents and creating author parent partnerships that we have not witnessed since the critical thinking protests started. Parents are reading these books with their children and realizing that they have been lied to and they are upset, as evidenced by students, parents, and teachers in the York Pennsylvania school district who fought successfully to have banned books (that many of those doing the banning have not read) restored. The takeaway democrats need to highlight is that parents of all backgrounds want their children exposed to more diversity, not less. Democrats should sing this from the mountaintops.

  1. Address post-COVID parental concerns.

I watched a group of white suburban mothers on CNN who spoke about how their children have fallen behind after a year or more of learning from home. They felt that Youngkin spoke more to their concerns with his actions like sending his wife to meet with parents about their concerns. I am not sure if McAuliffe and his team engaged in actions like this, but what I do know is that there was not a groundswell of vocal and active parents who were supportive of McAuliffe’s education platform. Add to that his comments about parents not needing to be involved in their children’s curriculum and an environment was created where many parents felt there was an elitist and paternalistic approach towards their education concerns. Every public, private, and charter school I work in today has some issue related to parents feeling behind on education. Those concerns cannot be ignored.

Democrats need to hold townhalls and other forms of meetings where they can actively hear and address parental concerns around education. Commit to doing more listening than talking. The only thing that was more frustrating than Youngkin’s advertisement attacking Beloved was that there was not an equal or even more vocal response from parents in Virginia. Of course many were outraged, but Youngkin supporters were more outraged and vocal. Democrats cannot actively engage parents, however, if they do not understand issues facing parents in schools in a post at-home learning world like re-socialization, depression, transportation, and more. Democrats in several campaigns were too caught up responding to republicans and tying candidates to Trump that they didn’t respond strongly enough to parents.

  1. Boldly embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools.

It is sad to say, but even while I have seen republican candidates accept endorsements from former President Donald Trump as well as white supremacists, many republican candidates have been surprisingly successful at using language that embraces diversity, even if their actions speak to the contrary. They do this in part by embracing the words of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Time and again, I have heard from candidates and their propagandist outlets how we need to bring back the words of Dr. King and focus on the content of one’s character and not the color of their skin. These candidates utter these words while not condemning confederate flag bearing racists who attend their rallies. They use Dr. King when it is convenient with no legislative accomplishments centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion to back up their claims.

Democrats need to boldly assert that they are the party that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion and they must show it. Democrats should speak to the need for access to schools and resources for students with physical challenges. They need to speak to the importance of having a diverse curriculum where all cultures and histories are celebrated and not tolerated. They need to speak to the importance of ensuring that schools receive the same amount of funding regardless of their zip code. They need to promote the need for skilled, culturally competent teachers. They need to speak to how they will work with schools to end the preschool to prison pipeline. They need to also support educators and parents being attacked at school board meetings.

Moving forward with new demographics

          Politicians, as well as the media are crafty when it comes to messaging and codewords. We know that when the term “urban” is used, it is primarily to refer to black and brown inner city communities. When they speak about “suburban moms” they are speaking about white mothers, as demonstrated in the video by CNN. I often find myself asking why nonwhite suburban mothers (and fathers and guardians for that matter) are missing from the picture. I hear a collective sigh every time I see this group being ignored in pursuit of the white suburban female vote. The fact of the matter is that the majority of white voters have not voted for the democrats since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Democrats who have won nationally like former President Obama and democrats who have won at the state and local levels in recent years have realized that a broad coalition is needed including white suburban moms who want the same things for their children as nonwhite suburban moms and parents in urban areas as well—a quality education and access to opportunities to help their children build a better future.

At the end of the day, democrats have a stronger (not perfect) record in the last forty years of creating more programs that help people of all backgrounds and circumstances get access to services but in too many instances they have been very poor with messaging. The Education Secretary (his name is Miguel Cardona by the way) needs to be as commonly known to America as Pete Buttigieg, the Transportation Secretary. They cannot let republicans steal the narrative on the importance of a well-rounded education grounded in critical thinking and an appreciation for diversity. In the same way President Biden and democrats are travelling the country selling the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill, they need to highlight their education plan by showing what they have been about, not caving to republican and right-wing extremist talking points. And they must do more to appeal to a larger demographic of voters than the traditional white suburban mother, particularly as more states like Texas are becoming browner. This can indeed help democrats avoid more election disappointments from an educational standpoint.

On Critical Race Theory protests and removing Hitler from history books

Across America, school boards have become the latest battleground on the issue of mask mandates in schools. People have been threatened one another, even coming to the point of physical violence. In some states like Florida and New Hampshire, local anti-maskers are teaming up with white supremacist groups like The Proud Boys to intimidate school board members to allow students and staff to enter schools maskless. While the fight rages on, there was another issue that ignited controversy in schools and school board meetings before the mask protests—Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Spearheaded by FOX news hosts like Tucker Carlson, protesters have demanded that CRT not be taught in their schools because it, in part, teaches white children to hate themselves. Republican governors like Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt signed legislation banning its teaching, stating that “we need policies that bring us together, not rip us apart” and that “not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans about their race or sex.” In short, as Oklahoma City Public Schools School Board President Paula Lewis stated, the ban is an “outright racist and oppressive piece of legislation.”

As anti-CRT legislation is pushed nationwide, few realize what CRT actually is and that it is not being taught in K-12 institutions. Critical race theory is, well, a theory created in the 1970s by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others. Its main goal is to analyze the impact of America’s policies from a racial lens, such as the racial implications of housing policies that denied mortgages to black people. CRT has also been used as a lens across other fields of study, according to Education Week. Although simply a theory utilized in college, CRT has become the catch phrase for anything related to protest racial injustice. The question I find myself asking is how far do CRT protesters want to take their fight?

As a diversity, equity, and inclusion expert, I work with private, public, and charter schools across America. At one school, I met a teacher who told me how frustrated he was with a parent’s preference for teaching about Dr. King but not Malcolm X because Malcolm was, in his words, “the villain”. Have we come to a point where parents can now make a menu of their favorite historical figures that make them feel nice and wholesome like their favorite television shows growing up? Furthermore, where were these so-called CRT activists when I along with millions of nonwhite students were being taught to hate ourselves via the ways we were depicted in the school curriculum? In reality, these misrepresentations still occur today as schools across the country look for more representation of diverse perspectives and stories in their classrooms.

If we refuse to teach history in its totality, we will create the ultimate whitewash through an educational brainwash. I find myself thinking about World War II. What would removing Hitler from the history books look like? Would our books only write about the actions of then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt without talking about the evil Roosevelt helped to defeat and the millions of Jewish and other people liberated from concentration camps? Would we only talk about the heroism of the “Greatest Generation” and ignore the stories of sexual assault by American soldiers on European women? The list is endless but the main point is that we ultimately do our students a disservice when do not teach a complete and intersectional picture of history.

A recent survey by Axios survey showed that across the board, college students, including over half of college republicans, believe that legislatures should not block the teaching of history in its totality. Moreover, most college students surveyed including almost half of college republicans believe that teaching about institutional racism is necessary. In Pennsylvania, students are protesting a move by a schoolboard to ban books and videos just featuring nonwhite people like kids’ books on Rosa Parks and Malala. This generation of students do not want to have history sugarcoated. As an American University professor, I have seen first-hand the anger in the eyes of students when they learn about aspects of history that they should have learned in their K-12 experience such as how The 13th Amendment to The Constitution did not fully ban slavery or that America had a nonwhite Vice President by the name of Charles Curtis in the 1930s decades before Vice President Kamala Harris. We build a better America by raising a better informed America and that starts with teaching our full history in schools. Rather than cherry-pick history, we need to teach it all for the sake of our future.


Cleveland Guardians Name Change is Late but the Right Move

I was watching the news earlier this week and I saw a great story about how the Cleveland baseball team changed its name to The Cleveland Guardians. They are to be commended for this action. Living in Washington, DC and seeing the name of The Washington Football Team change its name to whatever it is going to be, many of us are celebrating these changes that so many have fought for decades to change. Unfortunately, everyone is not celebrating.

There are many who disagree with the name change because they feel like it is too politically correct. Some are calling it of course “cancel culture” and “woke culture”, which are two terms that I am not a fan of in the slightest. I’ve seen people in my social media feed say things like “Who cares about Cleveland changing the name of its baseball team. We have bigger issues to worry about.” Another person who professed to be “left” and “progressive” stated that the name change is an overreaction to today’s racial climate. My response to them was simple: if you have a problem with the name change, you are not that progressive. I have encountered many people who claim to represent the “left” but are ignorant, racist, and do not want black people and non-white people in general to attain and maintain power. The life of Fredrick Douglas comes to mind and his conflicts with white abolitionist “colleagues” who disparaged him and would not allow him to speak at events they had for several reasons including the idea that if people heard him speak, they would never believe he was enslaved.

Another commenter mentioned that if it took 106 years for Cleveland to change its name, it must not have been a big deal. My response again was simple. The reason the name did not change is because ignorance and hate sells. Afterall, this is a country where the United States Postal Service allowed postcards to be sold with real life pictures of black people who were lynched and burned alive at the stake in front of hundreds of people with their white children in attendance. Images of black people in the most stereotyped ways sold for years in this country as memorabilia and collector’s items. This is also the reason why mascots of stereotyped Native Americans sell. This is indeed a “big deal.”

If you do not know what it is like to have your culture introduced to the world only through stereotypes, you cannot understand why this name change is significant, demonstrated by one commenter who asked if I would be as bothered if Cleveland changed its name to “The White Caucasians.” These types of comments minimize the experiences of marginalized groups. For those who ask why now, I remind them that it was Dr. King who stated that the time is always right to do right. I believe, as Les brown said, that we should work to create communities where everybody feels celebrated and not tolerated. We need to do more to ensure that Native Americans and their culture are respectfully visible in this society beyond stereotypes and Pocahontas Halloween costumes. Our Native American family are the most marginalized cultural group in America. We cannot forget them at best or degrade them at worst. I hope other teams continue to do more from the elementary schools to college level as well as in professional sports.

Dr. Seuss and False “Cancel Culture” Claims

Recently I appeared on the Sean Hannity Show to discuss the controversy surrounding Dr. Seuss. The title for the segment was “Cancel culture comes for Dr. Seuss.” This was in response to Dr. Seuss Enterprises deciding to discontinue six books that they considered to “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” In response to this decision, sales of Dr. Seuss books spiked on Amazon and eBay had to step in to prevent the selling of these books online. Once again, credit card activism comes to save the day. The challenge with the Dr. Seuss outrage from so many people is that this rush to just yell out “cancel culture” denies us the ability to do the real critical thinking needed to actually analyze and attempt to understand this book controversy and others.

Regarding “cancel culture”, Business Insider wrote:

On one end of the spectrum [of cancel culture] are people like Bill CosbyHarvey Weinstein, and R. Kelly who were canceled by the public before their sex-crimes trials. On the other end are everyday people like David Shor, who faced criticism on Twitter after he tweeted a study from an academic journal questioning the political consequences of violent and peaceful protests. Shor, who tweeted the link during the George Floyd protests, was fired, though the company has said it wasn’t over the tweet.

The problem we have today is that “cancel culture” has become for some, particularly on the political right, a catch phrase for anyone who wants to hold on to their antiquated views and not be challenged to think critically. A critical thinking mind would see, for example, that no one “came for” Dr. Seuss. Dr. Suess Enterprises decided on their own to review and remove 6 books from publication. This is called accountability. As Dr. Maya Angelou said, when you know better, you do better. If a school decides that it is going to remove books that they have used over decades that are insensitive or if Disney decides to acknowledge or remove racist images from their television shows and movies, they are taking responsibility.

While it is true that protests have occurred that have led to the discontinuing of a brand or a removal of an insensitive advertisement, it is not fair to or even accurate to accuse what occurred with Dr. Seuss as “cancel culture.” We cannot live in a society bent on using trigger words to suppress thought. Too many of us instantly choose a side when we hear phrases like Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, critical race theory, free speech, reparations, second amendment rights, liberals, republicans, and so much more. We then search out media sources that do not provide us with more information but more affirmation of what we already believe and then rinse, repeat. I am sure these phrases triggered something in you as well but we have to go beyond the trigger to action.

I wish that more individuals and organizations would take similar steps as Dr. Suess Enterprises. They are fully aware that for some they went too far and for others they did not go far enough. Some believe Dr. Seuss books are completely fine and others are asking why The Cat in the Hat isn’t being discontinued since the character seems to be based off of minstrel characters from the Jim Crow era. At the end of the day, if we want to have schools, organizations, and other spaces where everyone feels truly celebrated and not tolerated, we should all take a look at the literature, cartoons, television shows, movies, and anything else we were raised with and ask the question if these images and symbols are appropriate beyond our nostalgia. We need to focus less on outrage and more on outcomes for the sake of our future and building a country as good as welcoming as its promise for everyone.

4 Reasons to Stop Using the Word BIPOC…Like Now!

I pride myself on being a continual student of life. I am always looking to learn more about what I do not know. I also know that if I am going to continue to do my work in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I can never become too arrogant to think I have it all figured out. Enter the word BIPOC, which is a word I am afraid to admit I just learned about in 2020. I first thought it meant “BIsexual People of Color.” In what I have learned about this term, I have come believe that this term is problematic for several reasons and organizations especially should stop using the term immediately.

According to the New York Times, the term first started appearing in social media circles in 2013. The term started to gain more prominence in 2020 in the wake of protests over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others. Since then, the term has sprung up everywhere. Organizations such as the BIPOC project are centered on a mission to “build authentic and lasting solidarity among Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), in order to undo Native invisibility, anti-Blackness, dismantle white supremacy and advance racial justice.” They also state that they use the term BIPOC to “highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.” While I respect their mission and the sentiments of others who identify with this word, this term should no longer be adopted into our lexicon for the following four reasons.

  1. The term “BIPOC” is like a double negative (or double positive if you prefer).

If Black people are “people of color” and our indigenous or Native American people are “people of color” than the term itself is repetitive.

  1. Black & Indigenous people don’t have that much in common.

While the term BIPOC exists to express solidarity, it groups together a group of people whose histories could not be more different. The experience of Native Americans is like no other and is an extremely understudied aspect of American history. Native American history is often told from the perspective of the people who arrived on boats as opposed to from the perspective of people who were on the soil whereas black people were brought to this country through the transatlantic slave trade.

Both black people and Native Americans have experienced great oppression but their stories are also complicated by the fact that some Native Americans were also owners of enslaved Africans. Then of course, we can talk about the African American soldiers known as the Buffalo Soldiers who killed Native Americans in the 1800s. So what do these two groups really have in common? Queue reason #3 to stop using BIPOC—whiteness.

  1. Uniting around whiteness is not the way to go.

Black people and Native Americans have experienced severe forms of oppression at the hands of white colonizers and enslavers. Native Americans were also enslaved by colonizers. There are indeed countless examples of Native Americans and black people working towards unity, demonstrated in the 20th century by the fight for equality and civil rights and black & brown empowerment movements. The point here is that historically, most of the times that Native American and black solidarity has been demonstrated has been in response to white oppression. Is this reason enough to combine these groups in such a generic fashion? We cannot build movements based off of opposition to another group because real solidarity does not fully exist if it can only exist with a common enemy.

  1. Why do white people just get to be white?

I have seen so many terms used to describe nonwhite people throughout American history from Negro, colored, and Hispanic, to Indian, people of color, and LatinX. Now we have BIPOC. Throughout all of this, white people just still get to be called white. Not only is this annoying because, last time I checked, white is a color too, but also because the more terms we come up with, the more white people are viewed as being the original people and everyone else is colored into that white narrative of originality. Putting white people basically at the center of creation is not historically accurate. I have written more extensively about the broader problems the term “people of color” creates and why we should not use it so I will not revisit that here. I will just say that the more time we spend coming up with new terms to describe nonwhite groups, the more we actually strengthen the narrative of white Eurocentric dominance in America.

At the end of the day, I do not have the right to challenge how any one individual chooses to identify with a culture or identity. I am speaking to the challenges that exist on a collective level when we continually create new terms for people who ultimately do not have that much in common, as we have done with the term “people of color.” I argue for us to be intellectually energetic enough to treat each group with the respect they deserve in the same way we do white people. Both white people and Native Americans owned slaves but no one has come up with the term WIPOC to express solidarity. Let us tell the story of Native Americans, black people, and all cultural or racial groups with the individual respect they deserve. This is crucial in your commitment to create communities where everyone is celebrated and not tolerated. Let’s GO!

The Rule of 7: Testing Your Commitment to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

I have truly enjoyed engaging so many companies, schools, and individuals about pressing issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I have found that most people are serious about challenging themselves on seeing where their biases lie and doing something about it. One challenge that I have seen, however, is that too often, people with whom I interact ask me what books they need to read or what terminology they need to adopt in order to not make a mistake and be called out for being racist, homophobic, etc. While the concern is understandable, this is not the way to achieve true diversity, equity, and inclusion and definitely not a way to become antiracist. It’s more of a way to check off a box saying “I did this so I’m good.” I would like to propose a simple, but more in-depth measure of seeing how serious you are on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I propose The Rule of 7.

Rather than checking the box or reading an assigned book, The Rule of 7 is personal. Only you know the answers to these 7 questions and therefore only you know what you are supposed to do about it. The real questions is do you have the will to actually do something about it or are you going to stay comfortable and not rock the boat? You can come up with your own list of 7 questions or you can do it as a group of friends or even at your job. The goal is not come up with an easy list. This should be a list that challenges you to become better on this journey. The reason why The Rule of 7 can be powerful is because it speaks to what you’ve already done versus what you’re doing. The 7 questions could include:

  1. What do your 7 closest friends look like (or the 7 closest friends of your children)?
  2. Who are the authors of the last 7 books you read (or books bought for your children)?
  3. What do your 7 closest neighbors (in terms of proximity) look like?
  4. What did your last 7 teachers look like (or the current teachers of your children)?
  5. What does the cast of the last 7 shows and movies you’ve watched (or that your children watched) look like?
  6. What did your last 7 hires look like or what do the 7 closest members of your work team look like?
  7. What do the last 7 toys you bought for your kids look like?

I could go into more detail about each question but they are all self-explanatory. If, for example, you’re white and all the answers to all or most of your 7 is “white,” you have more work to do. If you are black and your answers are mostly “black,” you have work to do. I would also say that if you are a member of one group, say Latinx, and your responses to the most questions are mostly “white,” you also have some work to do. For those of you with children or students in your life, this is also important because you may be programming them in way that reinforces a narrative or superiority or inferiority in their minds in the same way you may have been programmed.

If this article is too vague for you, that is the point. The goal of this article is to challenge you to work on your own or with colleagues and friends to actively challenge your biases and do the work to diversify your experiences and practices. I can give you books, documentaries, glossaries, and TED talks for days. At the end of the day however, you have to do the work to challenge yourself on your thoughts and experiences with diversity, equity, and inclusion when nobody is watching. Lastly, if you want to go to a deeper level, spend time exploring why your neighbors and teachers all look the same or why you do not work with anyone who does not look (or think) like you. That is an entirely different reading list for you. Are you ready? Let’s go!

3 Reasons Antiracism Efforts Are Failing At Your Organization

The year 2020 has been called the year of America’s racial reckoning by some. It’s been called a time where movements for racial and social justice exploded on the national scene. I have to be honest. I am not convinced. As a student of history, I have learned to analyze the difference between what activist Joe Madison calls a moment versus a movement. Was #metoo a moment or a movement? In my opinion, it has turned out to be a moment in history because I have not seen wholesale systemic change in how women are treated in the workplace beyond certain individuals like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and others rightfully having their careers and fame challenged and more or less ended. I feel a similar vibe happening with the work of antiracism.

I have been engaged in so many powerful trainings and talks with organizations on the issue of antiracism, defined by some as “the policy or practice of opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance.” From the human resources to the executive level, I have been truly impressed by the sincerity by which these organizations have taken issues of racial or social justice head on. Below I am sharing three reasons why the antiracist efforts of your organization may not be working.

  1. You do not fully understand what antiracism is.

Is antiracism just a word at your company? Are you and your colleagues really learning vocabulary that speaks to the challenges we face today? Can you and your colleagues explain the difference between racism and systemic racism or a microaggression and a stereotype? Words matter. Definitions matter. I have had multiple situations where I had to work with an organization on just agreeing to the same definition of a term like antiracism before we could move on in any other part of the discussion and it was completely worth it because in times when this was not done, we had to backtrack and start over with definitions.

This is an extremely important step because if I’m looking at systemic racism as a “a form of racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organization” and you are looking at racism from the lens of “I never owned slaves so I’m not responsible for racism” or “if you just work hard you can overcome anything” without even acknowledging the “systemic” part of “systemic racism”, any training we do is going to be unintentionally sabotaged from the beginning. Invest the time necessary to get on the same page before you move forward.

  1. You are too focused on the problem and not the solutions.

Too many organizations have focused their antiracism efforts on reading articles and books and talking about them. This obviously must continue but it cannot be enough. For many nonwhite people, especially black people I have spoken to at some organizations, antiracism training is just the replacement term for diversity training. Saying “Black Lives Matter” is the new version of saying “We value diversity.” Organizations that have been more successful with their antiracism efforts have shown that black salaries matter and black employees matter. In short, they understand that representation matters.

Organizations that have hired more nonwhite people at the executive level, granted more power to their directors of diversity, and have increased representation of nonwhite people across the board are experiencing greater employee satisfaction and are celebrated more by their customers, exemplified by MSNBC naming Rashida Jones as president of the network and introducing more shows hosted by black people such as Tiffany Cross and Johnathan Capehart. It is represented by President-elect Biden not just saying he believed in diversity but making his cabinet more diverse including adding Native American congressperson Deb Haaland to his cabinet as well as appointing the first openly gay cabinet member in Pete Buttigieg.

  1. Antiracism is a fad at your organization.

I remember during the summer of 2020 seeing “black lives matter” signs going up everywhere from Dell to Starbucks. Even republican senators like Mitt Romney had marched for black lives and verbalized the phrase. Microsoft’s advertising department got in trouble after an email surfaced asking that they paint a #blacklivesmatter mural while the protests were “still relevant.” This led to a powerful response by artist Shantell Martin, who partially wrote that “Education and Accountability must occur in order to see REAL change. Supporting equality only when it’s popular is in itself a form of racism.”

While the aforementioned situation does not represent all of Microsoft, it does express the sentiments that I have seen by some leaders of organizations and companies that see work on antiracism as the flavor of the month. The fact of the matter is that, especially in the age of social media, your company will indeed be exposed positively or negatively. Your organization would actually be better off doing nothing rather than putting forth a half-hearted measure that will create more problems than you are trying to solve. Make sure your efforts are sincere and you are more likely to get buy in from most parties involved.

     Going forward.

At the end of the day, it is important that your organization steps back to truly assess what your goals are when you state that you want embrace antiracist policies. I have stated before that even though I am an antiracist and committed to the work, I am not a big fan of the word because it literally focuses (by the definition of the word “anti”) on what we are against as opposed to what we are for. It is similar to the late Mother Teresa stating that she would never attend an anti-war rally but would attend a pro-peace rally.

If you really want to assess your antiracist efforts, you should look at what progress your company has made eight months after the killing of George Floyd, which was one of the major catalysts for today’s antiracist efforts along with the killing of Breonna Taylor. In the same way you have not heard their names on television lately due to potential social justice fatigue, is your organization experiencing antiracism fatigue or just not moving forward? The three steps above may help you but only if you and your organization are sincere about the work and honest about exposing the challenges your organization faces in order to make sure that you are part of a movement and not a moment.