Whose comfort are we prioritizing over justice?
That is the central question asked of participants during The Broad Center’s recent Leading for Equity Intensive. Hosted by The Broad Center’s Partner Strategy and Alumni and Network Impact teams, the multi-day gathering led by Overcoming Racism brought together 20 people from seven of our partner organizations to reflect on the question above and to work with colleagues to identify and begin to confront the injustices in their systems.
The Partner Strategy team works with school systems where our network members work and provides supports and assistance that extend beyond our core leadership programs. As our team travels the country, meeting with partner school system leaders to understand their priorities and barriers, we have been encouraged to see that almost every system is actively pursuing a DEI agenda of some kind. However, very few leaders have had the opportunity to reflect on their leadership and understand how it impacts their efforts to increase equity in their systems. Many leaders, in their well-intentioned rush to “fix” their DEI issues, go straight to developing technical solutions, looking for best-practices and asking “who is doing this well?”.
However, when we do this, we miss a big piece of this work – understanding how our personal history and identity impact how we show up in and navigate equity work. That must then be combined with understanding the history of racism and how it has been institutionalized in education. Without these core understandings, we often justify our current situation by leaning on past successes, progress and relationships or become overly satisfied with superficial changes without examining how the past was built on a racist and assimilationist foundation and what it will really take to address fundamental challenges in our school systems.
A two-day convening is never going to eliminate racism, but it did allow senior leaders to:
- identify and understand how the education system was developed and continues to implement policies based on a history of racism,
- start or deepen the uncomfortable, individual and personal work needed to overcome racism as an adaptive – not just technical – challenge, and
- understand how overcoming racism at all levels in the system is essential to achieving greater student outcomes.
Overall, the convening allowed participants to start to question if they are putting their own comfort, or the comfort of those who are already in privileged positions, above creating a just and equitable system.
We know this work is hard and that it is work that will make people uncomfortable. We absolutely need to be thinking about solutions, best-practices, and learning from others in the work. But if we are hoping to move our school systems further in the journey to becoming anti-racist organizations and aren’t willing to put justice over comfort, we won’t make it very far.
For further reading:
There are many resources for people seeking additional reading and development on racial equity and anti-racism. Below are just a few sites to explore; please share other recommendations along with your comments on social media: