Windows and Mirrors

I must preface this post with the knowledge that anything I post about race, I do so with a beginners mind. I know that as a white person, this is never a topic I can master, yet I also have the responsibility to continue to work on this in myself and speak and share when I see the need. 

Windows and Mirrors: Authentic Representation Matters

I am on our school equity committee, and when talking about addressing equity and diversity in our curriculum the concept of "windows and mirrors" is often used. The goal is that students can both see themselves reflected in mirrors of the materials they are reading, and also see windows into other unfamiliar experiences. 

This concept has come up to me a lot recently as I reflect on my own social media experience. I realized in the last year that my Facebook feed was significantly more of a mirror than it was a window into other people's rich experiences. It was not that I was actively avoiding diversity in my feed, but that I realized I was not trying hard enough to seek it out. 

This became more apparent as I reflected back on my podcast interviews. I knew I needed to reflect a wider range of diverse personal experience, and specifically share more stories of women of color, but I also wanted it to come from a place of authentic connection.

This has gotten me exploring further the idea of "token diversity" vs. true diversity. For me, token diversity is when we ask someone to participate in something soley because they fit a specific category we need to fill. This feels shallow to me, but it can be the start of a deeper self-exploration if we allow ourselves to explore it further. 

It can be especially challenging when the communities around you tend to lack natural diversity. I live in Portland, which is known for it's predominant whiteness and history of anti-blackness. I also connect in spiritual communities, where spiritual bypassing and whitewashed spirituality is all too common. 

I am only at the beginning of my journey in this, but I have taken a few steps to expand my windows and find mirrors where I hadn't seen them before. I share my personal journey to help prompt the discussion, I would love to hear what has helped you as well.

Actively follow and financially support the work of people of color. Currently, what little money I have on Patreon is going to the work of women of color who I have learned from in the last year. As my means grow, I intend on growing that support as well. I have also taken steps to see these women's posts at the top of my Facebook feed so that they don't get lost in the hundreds of posts that echo my own personal experience. 

Take responsibility to educate yourself. At the same time, while I make a point to follow people of color, I acknowledge that it is not their job to educate me. It is my job to educate myself. There are people out there who make this their life's work and for that I appreciate and support them. Currently, I would recommend the book So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Olli. I especially appreciate her perspective as a fellow Pacific Northwesterner. I also appreciate that it is available on Audible! Catrice Jackson is another author and educator who does live trainings. Her She Talks We Talk Race Talks for Women is coming to Portland in April and I am planning to attend. If you can't attend a training, she has several books on the topic as well. 

Find reflections within windows. While there are experiences of oppression that I can never attempt to fully grasp, having not experienced them, there is power in connecting with our shared common experience. I experienced this powerfully in last week's interview with Alexandra Loves. Our conversation was both a window into her world, and a reflection of our shared experiences and perspectives. 

Don't turn away from discomfort, examine it. In Bill Sinkford's article, The Dream of White Innocence, he shares how white members of Unitarian Universalist community were ready to jump in and support the civil rights movement - until things got too uncomfortable. We have a tendency to focus on peace and love and can't we all just get along? But as Sinkford says, "resistance is what love looks like in the face of hate." When we see something that makes us uncomfortable or challenges our own sense of who we are, we must face that discomfort and understand where it's coming from. If someone challenges us on our words or actions, we must look at the impact of the actions, not the intent. To help you examine your discomfort, Leesa Renee Hall, who I will be interviewing next month, has put together this list of Expressive Writing Prompts to Overcome White Fragility & Spiritual Bypass, along with weekly writing prompts to question their beliefs. 

This is only the beginning of my own journey, the process is ongoing. I would love to hear from you - what has helped to expand your own windows and mirrors? What has helped you to question your previously unexamined beliefs on this topic?