RED LINES, WHITE PAPERS, & BLUE PRINTS: A FOUR-PART LEARNING SERIES EXPLORING THE DIMENSIONS OF RACISM AND STRATEGIES TOWARDS RACIAL EQUITY
SESSION 2: IMPLICIT BIAS
Many thanks to the cohort of 120 members & partners who joined us for the second installment of Red Lines, White Papers, & Blue Prints: A Four-Part Learning Series Exploring the Dimensions of Racism and Strategies Towards Racial Equity this month! In light of COVID-19, HAND has converted its Training & Capacity Building programs to a webcast format to protect the health and safety of its membership. This virtual convening built on the foundation of the first installment (Structural Racism), and we were pleased to welcome Julie Nelson (Director, Government Alliance on Race & Equity) as the featured speaker.
This thought-provoking program explored Implicit Bias – a concept based on an emerging body of cognitive research which identifies ways in which unconscious patterns people inevitably develop in their brains to organize information actually affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Years of exposure to structural and cultural racialization and privilege have embedded stereotypes and biases in individual psyches and the broader culture. Due to the link between cultural stereotypes and narratives, and systemic policies, practices and behaviors, implicit bias is one part of the system of inequity that serves to justify inequitable polices, practices and behavior.
Hear more thoughts directly from the cohort and Julie below.
Thank you to our series sponsors, DC Housing Finance Agency, Kaiser Permanente, Wells Fargo and Meyer Foundation!
REFLECTIONS FROM THE COHORT
“This training is so greatly needed. I have been engaged in the racial equity space formally for about 9 months. I consider it a great privilege to now have the opportunity to learn about it specifically within the affordable housing field with my colleagues. It is desperately needed training throughout the field and I am so grateful to HAND for providing it on this large scale in such a well done manner.”
Judith Cabelli, Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development
“The breakout sessions were fantastic…my group had a wide mix of disciplines, race and gender, and levels within organizations that it was a really great opportunity to gain
Maryann Dillon, Housing Initiative Partnership
“As I reflect on this moment, I am clear as you are that there was a crisis or many crises before this one. The issues of racial inequity and racial violence and racial injustice that we see in our communities, and that our major systems exact on the most vulnerable people in many cases in our communities all that existed prior to COVID-19. What COVID-19 has done is ripped the veil away, it has shined a brighter light on these issues, it has exacerbated in many ways racial inequity. The flip is also true – racial inequality and racial inequity is exacerbated by COVID-19.”
Ronald Galvin, The Democracy Collaborative
NOTEWORTHY REMARKS FROM JULIE NELSON
On the importance of having a shared definition:
“We have to be able to normalize conversations about race. If we come to this conversation and some people are thinking that we’re just talking about individual acts of bigotry, trying to identify who the racist is in the room and other people are using terminology like institutional and structural racism, we’re going to have a hard conversation because we don’t have a share of analysis. We don’t have commonly held definitions.”
On the importance of “Brave Space” over “Safe Space”:
“Sometimes we hear people say, ‘I just want safe space.’ We need to recognize that the idea of safe space is a little bit of a misnomer. We need to create space that is brave so that we can move into tensions that may be felt and also recognize that often times within our organizations, the space is not safe for people of marginalized groups. So if you’re a person of color, if you’re a woman, if you’re transgender, that thinking about what safety means is different based on our organizational policies and practices, so really focusing on creating space where we can take some risks and move into that tension.”
On acknowledging a history of racism in the United States:
“…We need to be really clear that racial inequities are not random. They’re not natural. The reason that we have racial inequities is because they were intentionally created over the vast majority of our country’s history. So laws, policies, practices around who could be a citizen, who could vote, who was allowed to own property, who was property, who could marry whom – all of these were laws, policies and practices that intentionally created racial inequities century after century after century. One of the reasons why it’s so important for us to understand history is that if we don’t understand what those policies and practices were that created racial inequities, then it’s most likely that we’re going to be coming up with surface-level solutions that aren’t actually going to get us to the results that we want.”
On interrupting implicit bias:
“Institutional intervention is what disrupts or prevents implicit bias from playing out.”
On channeling our power & influence to influence positive outcomes:
“Every single one of us on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, on an annual basis – we are making decisions. If we’re just making the same old, same old decisions, we’re going to keep getting the same outcomes. So looking at those decision-making opportunities that are influencing outcomes and inserting race into choice points – the decisions that are being made. Now some of us might feel like, ‘you know I don’t have much power, I don’t have much influence’ – this is where I want to push you a little bit. All of us have power and influence – how we use that power and influence individually and how we use it collectively. And the truth is that often times the cumulative impacts of many small choices can be as significant as the impact of big decisions. So the main thing is we don’t want to replicate the status quo, we want to get to different decisions being made.”
On the definition of institutional racism:
“Policies, practices, and procedures that work better for white people than for people of color without regard to intent. Sometimes it’s unintentional, sometimes it’s in inadvertent. But frankly, we have less interest in that whether it’s direct or indirect because what we want to do is focus on the impact. Not the intent, but the impact.”
On drawing similarities between racist tactics used historically and in the present-day:
“…For us to be aware of the tactics of racism that have played out historically and what we see playing out now – that it is clear that there’s some of those tactics that may have shifted over the course of time, but thinking about the reality of the institution of slavery and the separation of families that took place, it was a necessary part of slavery: separation of families. And for us to be able to think that that was a historical reality and it’s a current reality, that the separation of families that’s taking place intentionally at the borders now – it’s the same tactic. Thinking about the recent CARES Act and the response to COVID-19 – who’s going to get that $1,200 payout and thinking about the historical tactic of who has had access to things like employment and unemployment. There are similarities in tactics and while we have made progress in some ways, the reality is that the same tactics are playing out today, and so for us to be able to be proactive in those interventions to get tactics that are actually about interrupting institutional and structural racism.”
On the nuances in where we locate affordable housing:
“These are complex conversations right and we do ourselves no good to shy away from the complexity of it, and so when we’re talking about this idea of investing in neighborhoods where there historically has not been affordable housing and whether people actually want that, that’s one nuance to the conversation, and then that other nuance that we’ve got to be able to discuss is when gentrification is taking place in neighborhoods that historically have been affordable, and then you’ve got communities that are recognizing that and you’ve got displacement taking place – you need to have strategies to mitigate that as well. So being clear about what the desired result is, but the unintended consequences – whether you’re talking about the moving to opportunity approach or whether you’re thinking about displacement and gentrification, what we’ve seen is most effective is that it’s not singular strategies, and that we’ve got to be able to come up with multiple strategies for intervention.”
On implementing shared fate as a racial justice narrative:
“Shared fate means that it’s not a zero-sum game – that in fact us developing systems and structures that work better for people of color is something that is about our collective fate – that an injury to some hurts all of us in the long run.”