KFTC leaders confront results of racial justice assessment | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

KFTC leaders confront results of racial justice assessment

“Solidarity is not a matter of altruism. Solidarity comes from the inability to tolerate the affront to our own integrity of passive or active collaboration in the oppression of others, and from the deep recognition of our most expansive self-interest. From the recognition that, like it or not, our liberation is bound up with that of every other being on the planet, and that politically, spiritually, in our heart of hearts we know anything else is unaffordable” 

— Aurora Levins Morales

As a part of KFTC’s commitment to racial justice, the Steering Committee made the decision last year to commit to a racial justice organizational assessment and visioning process. 

During the weekend of October 5-6, members of the Executive Committee, Steering Committee, Racial Justice Team and People of Color Caucus, as well as several staff, gathered to discuss the results of the Racial Justice Assessment that was conducted by Frontline Solutions, a Black-owned consulting firm that was hired to conduct an independent third-party analysis of KFTC’s culture, obstacles and goals regarding race equity work.

Suggested Reading 

  • “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
  • “Towards Humanity: Shifting the Culture of Anti-Racism Organizing” by Tawana Petty 
  • “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo

The weekend was facilitated by Dr. Micah Gilmer and Marion Johnson, of Frontline Solutions, who established clear community agreements for how folks would work together over the weekend. Saturday got off to a bit of a challenging start as people were coming into the space with many feelings surrounding the announcement of the KFTC union the day before. The facilitators allowed for acknowledgments and discussion of feelings, while centering attendees on the tasks and topics for the weekend.

One of the basic assumptions that the facilitators gave to start is that, “Our systems, sectors and organizations were not built for diversity, for equity or for inclusion.” They helped to navigate through definitions of those terms, and others from Power (“The ability to influence others, including decision-makers; access to resources; and the ability to define reality for yourself and others.”) to White Fragility (“A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation,silence, tears, and leaving the stress-inducing situation”). 

Continuing conversations around education, understanding the vocabulary and terms of this work, is going to be important as we move forward together in this work.

Gilmer and Johnson presented results of the assessment to the group primarily in quotes and graphs that were structured by organizational culture, leadership and governance, operations and the experience of people of color (POC). They had prepared a memo, but ultimately decided not to share it with the group ahead of time because they had concerns over how it would impact people’s emotions coming into the space. 

They identified that the results of their assessment were as stark as they had ever experienced during their time doing this type of work based on how white people experience KFTC and how people of color experience the organization.

A lot of time was provided for personal and group reflection, and there were many challenging conversations as people expressed a wide range of reactions, including confusion and hurt. Saturday was uncomfortable and challenging, it did not feel good to most people. At the end of the day, the group asked the facilitators to play the “We Are Kentuckians” video so that there was a point of positivity and connection to end the day on.

On Sunday, people gathered back with a song led by Tayna Fogle and Serena Owen. Frontline facilitators had folks self-organize into a total of six small groups to focus on three main topics: Identity, Structure and Governance, and Healing and Transformation. 

After grounding ourselves in the space with a short breathing exercise, we broke into these small groups and there were two tables assigned to topic. Each group reflected on the barriers to equity in KFTC and the opportunities for growth and change in their topic area. 

The discussions began with goals for the session, followed by defining the most critical challenge in each area. When folks came to consensus, they discussed systems, processes, and actions that might help KFTC address the problems. 

After working in small groups, each team shared their ideas with everyone present. Next steps were discussed, including having two additional visioning retreats that could potentially begin processes to put some of this work into action. 

One of the most important components discussed is educational resources so that we can establish a starting point for understanding this work. Many attendees agreed that this is a critical time for KFTC to live out its values and mission by centering racial justice in decision-making and practice. 

A real cultural shift will require personal and relational work for everyone involved in KFTC. As we move forward together, we might make mistakes, but if we stay committed to this organization and each other we will make progress. 

Anti-oppression work is continual, not always linear, and lifelong. We strongly encourage all of you to reflect on your own thoughts, feelings and challenges around racial justice. Then, think about issues affecting your chapter and local communities. 

If there are people of color who regularly attend your chapter meetings, make sure you are listening to them; if there are not, consider why that might be. Some potential actions you could take include talking to your organizer about having a racial justice training during a chapter meeting, reading books and watching films about racism, white supremacy and decolonization, and remembering our resistance becomes revolutionary when it gets radical. 

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