Inside Out: The Equity Leader’s Guide to Undoing Institutional Racism

By Caprice D. Hollins. New Society Publishers, 2022. 256 pages. $24.99/paperback or eBook.

If you are interested in teaching people about racism and developing equity within an organization, you will find this book to be a treasure trove. It actually is written for professionals hired by organizations to make their cultures more equitable. As someone, however, who has developed antiracism workshops by trial and error and who now clerks the Diversity Committee at my retirement community, I learned a lot.

This book is not about how racism works; you will not learn about redlining or implicit bias. Rather, that knowledge is assumed, and you will learn about using your knowledge to teach others.

Being the equity leader in a corporation or nonprofit (or a monthly or yearly meeting) is a really tough job. Often, the position is created to make the organization look good, but in fact, the leadership has no real commitment to change. Resources may be meager. The equity leader may be excluded from meetings where policy decisions are made.

Although some people will show little enthusiasm for change, the author is clear that they are not barriers to your work; rather, dealing with their resistance is the job. That said, the author shows from her own experience that the equity leader needs to be tough. This can be lonely work, and she offers advice on how to build support within the organization as well as how to practice self-care. For a Quaker, this might include having a support committee.

For readers who are not professionals but want to teach f/Friends about racism, here are ten pointers I found salient:

  1. As the title suggests, we start with ourselves. We must understand privilege and implicit bias, including our own. We need to be well-educated on structural racism. We must equip ourselves—both with skills and emotional clarity—to lead difficult cross-cultural racial dialogue. We need to make conscious our own motivation for doing this work.
  2. The next step is to develop objectives for the people we are teaching. They need to deconstruct how they have been socialized. It is important for them to know something about the experience of people with racial (or other) differences from themselves. They need to develop skills to engage across cultures. And finally, they must develop a readiness for action and advocacy.
  3. Shaming seldom leads to change. Rather, it usually creates backlash or leads people to shut down.
  4. We will often encounter the anger of People of Color and symptoms of White fragility. We should try to bring out the hurt that people are experiencing rather than focus on the way they are expressing it.
  5. People of Color have experienced racism but may not understand the dynamics of racism, power, and privilege. Some White people, on the other hand, may have the theoretical knowledge, but they don’t know what it feels like to be targeted by racism.
  6. There is a small percentage of White people who will fight us all the way. Don’t engage with them. Save your energy for people with at least some openness. But set limits on disrupters’ expression of their opposition.
  7. This work takes time. There are no quick fixes or cookbook approaches. If one approach doesn’t work, try another. Celebrate small successes.
  8. Leading cross-cultural conversations is your job. Learning from them is the job of the participants; they will do so at their own pace. Change takes time.
  9. Look for opportunities to influence policies that affect entire organizations.
  10. You will at times offend someone. It is inevitable. See it as part of the process; deal with it; and move on. Learn to become comfortable with the discomfort. The author dedicates an entire chapter to responding to each type of offense: offending someone, being offended, and witnessing someone offending another person or group.

I found the author’s suggested conversation stems especially helpful. She offers actual wording for situations, such as someone telling a racist joke or speaking disrespectfully.

This book is a rich resource for volunteers as well as professionals who are committed to bringing about change. Many Friends will find it useful, as we commit to becoming antiracist faith communities.

Patience A. Schenck is the author of the Pendle Hill pamphlet Living Our Testimony on Equality: A White Friend’s Experience. She is a member of Annapolis (Md.) Meeting and lives at Friends House in Sandy Spring, Md.

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