Yesterday we shared on Facebook that our staff is working to create more inclusive spaces for people of all backgrounds and identities, and as part of that we are taking a critical look at our practices and norms internally to see how they may be exclusionary or unwelcoming for some. As part of that ongoing work, we read White Supremacy Culture, From Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun (and we shared that reading on Facebook as part of our post). We then used this piece as a lens through which we analyzed our internal practices to see how we were or were not propagating the themes within. Our next steps include identifying specific parts of our culture we feel we can work to make more inclusive, and finding ways to do so.
I don't have a photo for this blog post, so here are some kittens.
Unfortunately, the use of the loaded term “White supremacy culture” in the article caused a lot of confusion, defensiveness, and even some anger among our supporters on Facebook. It is a very loaded term, and it’s important that we separate out the ideology of white supremacy which manifests itself in extremist movement, and a culture that has been designed for and built by white people of means, including the social norms we ask everyone who enters our office doors to uphold.
It’s important for folks to also know that this piece isn’t the only one we’re using to look at our internal culture, and we’re not as a staff 100% behind these views. Every person has their own perspective, and part of our goal is to challenge each other to think more critically about where those perspectives come from, and to find ways that we can each be more inclusive in our work. I’ll speak completely from personal experience here - I find this article challenging, and I’m not sure I entirely know how to use the ideas in it in my day-to-day work. That said, I think listening to opinions that challenge my own, and making sure that we create a culture that permits and encourages these conversations is healthy, and makes us a stronger organization when we work in our community. So personally, to incorporate the ideas from this article, I'm going to do my best to do things like find ways to create additional metrics and measurements that go beyond our strict numerical ones - like if community members feel like they’re being heard in our work. Are their voices being reflected in what we do? It's not perfect - but nothing ever will be; it's about finding ways to start improving our work and being more responsive to our community.
The fact that we’re thinking critically about how we make our organization more inclusive can lead to uncomfortable conversations and not everyone will agree with everything we read or discuss. We certainly won’t internally as a staff, even! But the process is important, and continuously challenging ourselves and each other to work to improve how we serve our community.
I hope we can continue to share our internal processes with our members and supporters moving forward, and encourage you to continue to give us feedback and ideas as we work to make sure all feel welcome in our work, in our spaces, and in bike/walk advocacy. Thanks for all that you do!