An Invitation to Deeper Work

Antiracist Leadership
4 min readSep 15, 2021


Dear White Leaders:

We write this as an invitation to our white colleagues who are struggling to understand their place in the context of the country’s history of racism. We are leaders in nonprofits, government, and academia who met through a national community leadership and racial healing fellowship. While we don’t necessarily carry a unified vision of how to undo the harms of racism or reach liberation, we have found great utility in not doing this work alone. In our white accountability group, we are able to grapple together with the complexities of being white leaders without burdening our Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander colleagues or other allies of color.

As leaders at this critical moment, we need to struggle with our own beliefs and the ways we have internalized white supremacy. But we don’t need to struggle alone when we have other like-minded white colleagues with whom we can multiply the impact of our efforts. In this letter, we offer a high-level rationale of our thinking and an opportunity to link to more specific processes that our group has developed in the course of our collective journey(s).

Why Now?

Both the health threat of COVID-19 and the economic effects of its containment have laid bare longstanding and entrenched inequities in our social fabric, with historically oppressed people experiencing more infection, a higher death rate, and deeper financial hardship. The pandemic has highlighted the way environmental racism, inconsistent access to quality medical care, segregated and disparate educational services, and generations of poverty have chronically impacted our communities across the United States.

In parallel, the country has witnessed traumatic acts of violence against people of color and taken to the streets to protest the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Ma’Khia Bryant, and countless other stolen Black lives. Anti-Asian animus has grown more virulent, evidenced by hateful attacks against the AAPI community in Atlanta, New York, the Bay Area, and elsewhere. More insidious but no less violent forms of exclusion — the insurrectionists’ attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, the subsequent raft of legislation to disenfranchise BIPOC voters, and the attempts in many state capitals to whitewash the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow — are on the rise.

We know the pain of racism isn’t new or unique to the U.S. But we stand at an inflection point, a moment that demands that we remain vigilant and not yield to complacency.

Why Together?

This work cannot be done alone. In fact, today’s resistance against police brutality, structural racism, and white supremacy already stands on the shoulders of countless people taking courageous action seeking justice and dignity on behalf of all our communities. As white people, we may be tempted to retreat to our cocoons of privilege, but now more than ever, our country and communities need us to examine and dismantle the white supremacy that lives within us, our institutions and our systems.

Being regularly connected to and in relationship with each other has enabled us to navigate our individual paths with greater integrity and to engage with both more humility and resolve. We have built a safe space where we can talk through the doubts and dilemmas that inevitably arise in our work seeding power in, and ceding power to, historically marginalized communities. This group of critical and caring colleagues serves as a touchstone, a reminder to hold ourselves to our highest values and a means to move from fragility and guilt to vigilance in managing our own power, privilege and racism.


We describe explicitly how we formed our group, as well as the norms and processes that we have created, in this “How to Guide.” We offer this as a living, evolving document, and we invite others to enter into dialogue with us. We hope that by sharing our learnings, we will be able to move more rapidly toward liberation for all.

This is hard, messy, deeply human work. As white leaders, we have been conditioned to feel fragile when we get called out for our own racism or guilty when we make inevitable mistakes. Sometimes we shut down; sometimes we get defensive. We write this letter to say that the answer is not to run away, but to commit: commit to learning, commit to listening, commit to being honest, and commit to staying the course and being vigilant, not fragile. As white people, we have the privilege of choosing to do this work. Because our lives may not be under literal existential threat every day, we can opt to disengage. But white supremacy destroys us all, so we must be resolute in our efforts to liberate ourselves and to reclaim our collective human dignity.

Join us! Reach out at

In community and solidarity,

David Ahlborn, Sunny Baker, Hal Bowling, Sarah Bryer, Brent Godfrey, Jacqueline Hammack, Esq., Hon. Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Sandra Ortsman, Alexandra Quinn, Rev. Sarah Stripp, Patrick Weems



Antiracist Leadership

We are a group of white leaders in nonprofits, government, and academia grappling with the complexity of being white leaders committed to racial equity.