On January 11, 2021, Sacred Fire Creative hosted a virtual forum entitled “Introspective Dialogue on Racism and Equity-Based Interventions.” The purpose of this forum is to provide a safe space for professionals and business owners to have a relevant discussion on diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging, collectively known as DEIB. The forum also recognizes a strong need for employers to create meaningful change in the workplace through DEIA-based interventions.
For this online event, Sacred Fire Creative invited Nathan Baptiste, the founder and principal of EDI Mindfulness Consulting.
Through EDI Mindfulness Consulting, Nathan helps various organizations in developing inclusive and equitable work environments. Before he got into consultancy, he served as Oregon Metro’s diversity program manager. His work there included launching an equity, diversity, and inclusion professional development training plan. He also has experience in the academe, leading the diversity programming at the Lewis & Clark College.
Nathan shared a personal encounter with racism during the forum. He grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and attended a mostly white high school in Oregon. As one of the few Black students in the school, he experienced bullying, especially during his sophomore year. His schoolmates made a game of throwing rice at the back of his head to see if the grains would stick to his afro. Some of them even called him the n-word.
To address the issue, Nathan went to see his school’s assistant principal, to whom he suggested including Black history and literature in the curriculum. However, the assistant principal’s response was colorblind—that if the school started offering classes on Black history and literature, it would have to do the same for the Asian and Latino students. This caused Nathan to feel withdrawn. He knew that the bullying he experienced because of his race was wrong. But at the time, he didn’t have the language to process it. So he internalized it instead.
This changed during his junior year. In that year, Nathan’s classes included a political action seminar. One of his projects there was organizing a dialogue on racism and the prison system. It turned out successfully, as did his later projects for the class. He found it encouraging because it sowed open-mindedness about race discussions in a less diverse environment.
The need for explicit dialogue on racism
Nathan raised the following points during the forum:
- The event is timely, as it came at the heels of the rioting that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6.
- There’s a need to define what white supremacy is, as well as its effect on individuals.
- Racism is both internal and interpersonal, and it has become systemic in society. It’s so laced into our institutions and our culture that even people of color have internalized it.
- Racism is not a competition; instead, it is intersectional, as we don’t live one-cause lives.
- We need to have explicit conversations about racism. We need to raise awareness of how racism manifests systemically and allow ourselves the space to reflect on it.
- Any conversation on diversity will fail if racial equity is left out of it.
- The more diverse a workplace is, the more innovative it becomes and the better it would be for the organization’s bottom line.
Questions to discuss
The forum participants were then divided into breakout groups to discuss the following questions:
- How do you define white supremacy?
- How may you define anti-racism, and what principles help you to define it?
- Going beyond simple statements of condemnation or support, in what ways does white supremacy and anti-racism show up or not as influences in your life?
The participants agreed that this conversation about racism isn’t going away anytime soon and must be continuous. Many suggested gaining others’ perspectives on the issue, calling out racism instances on the spot, and watching who you vote for.