Racial Equity Step 1: Do Less

This is an update to a 2020 post on the Philanthropy New Yorks’ Insights blog.

That’s some clickbait, huh? Sorry, it’s just that sometimes, addressing institutional racism in an organization can be just as much (or more!) about doing less of something as it is doing more of something.

This shift requires two critical conversations: one on money, and one on time. Light topics! Still with me?

On money, I like to refer to the idea of budgets as moral documents. Exemplified by the Poor People’s Moral Budget, this frame argues that there are “abundant resources for economic revival”, and that “policymakers have always found resources for their true priorities.” We are always choosing how to spend, and that choice should reflect our values.

With that in mind, as an organization, engage in a critical reflection exercise around your spending:

  1. What percentage of our money goes to which types of activities?
  2. Do these proportions align with our moral vision as an organization?
  3. What can we put off, defund, or let go of entirely?

If this makes you nervous, you’re not alone. Pay attention, breathe, and wonder. And let’s keep going.

On time, I like to refer (as many do) to Tricia Hersey of The Nap Ministry. She states, “rest is a form of resistance because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy.” Many of us are already familiar with the white supremacy culture that saturates our organizations. As the Nap Ministry says, “Why are folks always making non-urgent things urgent? Why do you navigate your life like this? Take time.”

With that in mind, as an organization, engage in a critical reflection exercise around your time:

  1. What would rest actually look like in terms of deadlines, pace, agendas, metrics, performance?
  2. How might we value rest as the way we all move forward?
  3. Where can we slow down, make space, or turn off entirely?

Again, if this makes you nervous, pay attention, breathe, and wonder.

If you’ve gotten to this point and you’re cheering along, hooray! It’s all so very possible. Together, let’s embrace this moment in time — Arundhati Roy’s portal — and “walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world.”

My cat Penny is very good at resting.

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Dr. Meredith Reitman, is a qualitative and quantitative researcher who specializes in exploring how race operates within workplaces. www.reitmanresearch.com

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Meredith Reitman

Dr. Meredith Reitman, is a qualitative and quantitative researcher who specializes in exploring how race operates within workplaces. www.reitmanresearch.com