For the last six years, I have worked with World Trust Educational Services. I’ve written three volumes of curriculum and a parent lesson plan for talking to your kids about race. Additionally, I travel around the country to support people through a deeper understanding of systems based on the film Cracking the Codes: the System of Racial Inequity. 

Shakti Butler, the founder and artistic force behind World Trust has been a mentor and mirror, supporting me in recognizing my growth edges and presenting countless opportunities for me to grow my confidence and abilities.

The work with World Trust is centered on a specific systemic framework, pictured above. There are a number of ways of looking at impact of oppression, I will explore both the Management Assistance Group Framework and Sandra Pacheco’s Levels of Engagement in the future posts. World Trust’s framework looks at internal and external components simultaneously and takes into consideration how it is all moved by power and economics while manifesting in history, culture and identity.

The internal components are bias, privilege and internalized racism. As humans we often spend a good deal of time on the internal. We obsess over how good we are, we lose sleep over our intentions and seek that article or book that will help us to outline how to rid our brains of that pesky privilege conditioning. As people of color, we hide the ways we internalize racism, not wanting to speak it out loud in the possibility that some very well meaning white person will use it against us or against our brothers and sisters. This internal landscape is a tricky composition of all the things we want to be combined with the foundation of how we were raised and the messages we are inundated with on a daily basis. When we get too wrapped up in our internal dialogue we miss impact, we miss our sphere of influence, we miss the long arc of history and daily conditioning that shape bias, privilege and internalized racism.  By marrying our internal experience to the external system of racism we are able to see things much more clearly.

The external components are interpersonal, institutional and structure. At the interpersonal level we are considering the ways in which I treat you or you treat me, and the decisions we make (or don’t make) about it. How does positional power get used, where do we interrupt things or let them play out? Institutional racism is what we are confronting on Facebook and in the news everyday, violence pornography of dying black people captured and replayed. It is the bodies of color that are stepped over on the street, the assumptions made about welfare moms and baby daddies. It’s the time you decide to ask for more references before hiring a person of color or wonder about their ability to be a culture fit. Institutional racism is all the ways in which we have been acculturated. Structural racism is the policy, the procedure, written and unwritten, the building of a solid frame to hang everything on. It is the continuation of policy because it is the way we have always done things, even when we know it is harmful and antiquated.

This is all moved by power, moved by economics. We continue to do the things we have always done because when you follow the money the same people have it and continue to create systems that benefit them. For those that have power, it works. There is no incentive to do things differently. Through the disruption of power, the disruption of the flow of money that we start to make significant headway in making social change, albeit slowly. The divesting of banks connected to DAPL is a perfect example of how this works.

Once you start to take in the complexity of how racism works, it becomes so much clearer why knowing your history matters, why culture change moves so slowly and why identities are so complex. The capacity for paradox becomes a necessity.

While looking at the big picture it is imperative to also do internal work, and examine your spheres of influence. In order to make change, we must be able to hold responsibility to the collective while at the same time examining our internal realities.

One of my mentors, Jackie Dennis, simply calls this being a grown up. Honestly, I kind of like that. Who wants to be a grown-up today? I do.


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