The Inner Journey of Equity Awareness

Meg Mitchell, Wings grad and co-creator of our new Equity and Agility seminar (launch date postponed due to COVID-19)

Learning about race as a person who identifies as white has been a continuous journey of uncomfortable richness for me. Years ago, I would have said that my journey began as part of my employer’s diversity and inclusion initiative. We were trained to avoid undesirable behaviors around racism, gender bias, sexism, (dis)ability, and ageism; we learned the consequences of “getting it wrong.” It was a fear-based model of training, one that could provoke certain behaviors, yet rarely inspired inner awareness or lasting growth. Shaming ourselves or others for what we didn’t know resulted in silence.

Learning about race had started much earlier in my life, as it does with most of us. I began asking myself what I did and didn’t learn explicitly or implicitly about race, social rank, and power. The more I explored my life experience, the more I became aware of my strengths, biases, and unexamined assumptions. There were things I did know, and there were things I didn’t realize that I didn’t know. As a white woman growing up without a fear of police, I was predisposed to believe that anyone who got in trouble with the law generally deserved it. Choosing to see this differently was challenging, mainly because I wanted to believe that our justice system was based in fairness. I discovered that seeing a broader perspective was humbling, not humiliating.

I began to have different kinds of conversations. I stumbled and didn’t always get it right. At times, I felt embarrassed and wanted to explain my good intentions, or I got defensive. At other times, I judged others for not being interested or not getting it. I learned to listen to others’ experiences without filtering them through my own or feeling a need to respond. And I started to ask better questions.

Today, part of my time is spent discussing race and equity with others on a similar journey. Our biases and blind spots lose their power when we take the time to notice and acknowledge them, and this awareness gives others permission to do the same. Sharing what we don’t know may be more important right now than sharing what we do know. The time and effort spent on the inner journey of discovery around race and equity directly influences the people, places, and things we engage and care about day to day: places of worship, health care, transportation, the arts, education, environment, law, or our friends and families. Racial differentiation is real, important, and completely contrived by human beings. In this paradox lies the power to change our minds and hearts.

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