Racial Agency Initiative values justice as a way of life, not simply an outcome. The goal is not to achieve, serve, or decide justice as one’s expectations might be for a court of law. The aim, rather, is to practice justice–to see it lived out in one’s every-day life. It’s about living justly. In simple terms: doing the right thing. As people, we must begin to regularly ask ourselves important questions like, but not limited to, the following:
How am I treating my neighbor?
Am I paying fair wages to my direct reports?
Am I paying a fair price in my purchases?
What products am I purchasing, from whom, and why?
How did I treat that person? Could I have done better?
What am I about to say, and does it treat that person or those people or other people with dignity and respect?
Am I taking too much, resulting in someone else having too little?
Are the systems around me inequitable for me or for someone else, and can I help to change it?
How do I lead and what are the outcomes for others?
[Think about your life, and add your own next question here…]
Racial justice pays even more specific attention to the problem of race and the systems of power that have and continue to oppress people on the basis of race. To practice racial justice as individuals and as communities within organizations, corporations, or institutions, we must first understand the concepts of race and racism and the history in which they are embedded. We must become familiar with the systems of oppression that have held people back because of the color of their skin and/or nation of origin. We must become familiar with White Supremacy and the ideology of whiteness that sustains systems of oppression based on race, affording people who believe themselves to be white (as the author Ta-Nehisi Coates describes in “Between the World and Me”) with ascribed privilege and power.
As we become familiar with the power dynamics and inherent injustices marbled into systems and institutions, we open our eyes to see the inequalities that exist because of racism. We open our eyes to see the ways in which we may have benefited or have been disadvantaged by these systems. We open our eyes to see the ways in which we may have sustained these systems through our thoughts, actions, or words. We open our minds to understand the trauma and pain inflicted upon us and our community and give ourselves an opportunity to name and address them. We open our lives to the invitation to practice racial justice. But we still must make a choice to accept the invitation.
To practice racial justice, then, is to commit oneself to living consciously to the problem of racism and working to intentionally address it within one’s scope of influence however large or small that scope may be. It is to be intentional about racial equity, and to do one’s part to ensure that people are not receiving inequitable treatment because of the racial category ascribed to them. It is a spiritual discipline just as much as it is a social practice. For some, it will require learning how to give up what they otherwise feel entitled to. For others, it will require learning how to accept what rightfully belongs to them. For everyone, it will require love, humility, and a renewed understanding of grace. And as far as racial justice leadership coaching is concerned, it will require joy.
How often do you feel joy when you hear the phrase racial justice? There is the feeling of urgency when you think of the people in need of justice. Maybe you feel anger because you are reminded of all the racial injustice. You might cross paths with frustration because you feel stuck, like nothing is moving forward. How about fear because of the risk involved? Then, there is exhaustion because you’ve been at this work for a very long time. All of these emotions are real and have their place, but have you ever considered joy as a motivator to do racial justice?
Think of joy as a sustainable energy. It is your complex carbohydrate (long-lasting energy). The other emotions like anger, fear, stress, or urgency are more like surges of energy for the work that needs to get done. They’re your sugar high (instant energy). The thing about energy surges is that they give you a good push, but they may also come with a hard crash. The work of racial justice is long and hard. It requires sustainable energy. It requires joy.
The goal is to be fueled by joy in our work for racial justice. As people, we tend to be more joyful when we do the things we are good at–when we engage our strengths. Racial Agency Initiative takes a strengths-based approach in coaching to help you find joy in the work of racial justice.
“How can you use your position of influence for racial justice?” This was the question posed by Rev. Starsky D. Wilson, while participating on a panel at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, MO in October 2015. His audience was several young adults hoping to make a difference in their communities for racial justice. His question is the question that anchors Racial Agency Initiative. This company is about the work of coaching leaders to 1) understand their capacity to influence, 2) strategize efficient and effective ways to use that influence for racial justice, and 3) make a difference in their communities.
Everywhere, there are professionals, family members, and every-day people who care about racial justice. However, they may not always know what to do. Many seek out consultants, conferences, workshops, trainings, retreats, and books to collect tools to fight racism. They do everything they know to do and somehow still feel stuck, a sense of hopelessness, exhausted, or maybe even alone in their advocacy for racial justice.
Racial Agency Initiative believes that people who put forth such effort and resources to learn racial justice are to be commended. They have increased their capacity to influence their companies, coworkers, family, and friends for racial justice. That is great work! The next step is to leverage that agency.
Racial Agency Initiative values customized coaching that helps people understand who they are (gifts, skills, and strengths), the racial justice tools they already have, and how those tools fit into their natural positions of influence (work responsibilities, family life, etc.). Think integration.
“Agency: the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power.”Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Leveraging agency for racial justice is about integrating racial justice practices into what people already do and who people already are to effectively influence systems and people. Racial Agency Initiative chooses coaching as the primary medium because everyone has different starting points. Customized coaching meets people where they are at, allowing each one to work with their coach to identify effective strategies to leverage their agency for racial justice in a way that aligns with their scope of influence and brings joy.