Resolutions for racial equity | Opinion | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Racial equity is only possible when you apply justice to a system that is out of balance. Recall for a moment the racial trajectory of our nation. Families were separated, kidnapped, and trafficked from their homes to populate the system of slavery, a billion-dollar U.S. industry that created generational wealth for some and generational trauma for others. The system of slavery ended and was replaced with Jim Crow, segregation, marginalization, red lining, and discrimination, continuing the seemingly endless exploitation and oppression of Brown and Black people.

Pittsburgh continues to wade in that historic trajectory of racism, allowing those systems to continue. Data from The Center for Race and Social Problems at Pitt, Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices report by New Voices Pittsburgh, and the City of Pittsburgh Gender Equity Report are some of the studies that confirm these systems of racial oppression do not make this city livable for all.

As we enter the year 2020, we have an opportunity to apply justice to these systems that are out of balance. A colleague said to me, “We can no longer just advocate, we must agitate.” 

As an experienced diversity and inclusion professional from higher education and a racial justice educator, I share seven resolutions for you to consider:

1. Give decision-making power to those impacted by the decision. While education, wisdom, and expertise are important, individuals’ lived experiences and emotions bring balance to the story and equitable resolutions. 

2. Seek out and listen to the voices of those who are marginalized. Let power and prestige step aside to make room and space to let other voices be heard.

3. Share your expertise and wisdom with someone who does not look like you. Mentor, sponsor, and coach with the passion that would empower that person to reach the success of their dreams.

4. Let your desire for diversity and inclusion flow into racially diverse friendship circles. Break pita, challah, naan, or cornbread at neighborhood tables to take your ally spirit to the next level through new friendship patterns. 

5. Walk in someone else’s moccasins daily in neighborhoods and communities beyond your own. Amble through your discomfort toward a deeper engagement with strangers. Learn about their hopes and dreams with an intention to bring them into your sphere of influence and help remove barriers to their success.

6. Hire 50% more Black and Brown people. If you are not in the hiring role, recommend persons to be hired or to apply. I often hear, “We cannot find qualified people.” That is the imbalance. Qualifications are often barriers to equality, so create new qualifications that upright the imbalance. 

7. Read the works of Black and Brown authors who share the truths that our history lessons have missed and get the story right. Some that have been eye-opening for me are Isabel Wilkerson, Ijeoma Oluo, Madhur Jaffrey, and Esmeralda Santiago.


Barbara Johnson is the senior director of race and gender equity at YWCA Pittsburgh

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