In order to practice antiracism, we have to continually shift our focus from the micro to the macro and back again through four levels of racial oppression: internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic. As a race-based caucus facilitator and one-on-one antiracism coach, I am constantly thinking about those different levels and how to guide people to expand their thinking, envisioning how they or their organization can become antiracist. For example, when discussing a micro-aggression in caucus, white folks must examine it with the following in mind:
- Internalized: Have I bought in to the underlying assumptions that make this micro-aggression something I would do or have done? Am I complicit here, and how can I make sure I pay attention to this blindspot?
- Interpersonal: What dynamics are at work between the transmitter and receiver of this micro-aggression? Am I, or could I have been, complicit here, and what power do I have in this situation?
- Institutional: What policies and procedures as well as general cultural norms exist in this organization that make this micro-aggression possible? How am I complicit here, and what power do I have to make change?
- Systemic: What are the larger systems in place that make this micro-aggression possible? How am I complicit here, and what power do I have to push for change?
As I explained in a previous piece about power, we all have the ability to shift culture within an organization or system. The cumulative effect of multiple people doing this results in tangible change. Taking in the whole picture, all the levels of racial oppression, gives us clarity and the ability to see a way forward.
©2019 Judy Blair LLC
One reply on “Shifting Focus”
[…] Equity Matters, a Seattle-based consulting firm, has a set of ground rules they use for workshops and discussions. One of those ground rules is, “Put relationships first — Work to build community and trust with an awareness of power dynamics.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and what it means to put relationships first both on an individual level and as a way of disrupting systemic racism, switching between a macro and micro focus. […]