US: Putting Racism to rest

“Sometimes,
it’s hard being a Chicana
Because Mexicanos
see that you’re too white
and white people
see that you’re too brown
You’re always in a limbo
You might not come out
with bruises and broken teeth
from what people say
about your nationality and culture
but every part of you
is scratched up
You become shattered
and there’s nothing
you can really do about it…..”

–Sarita, 6th grade

This is the voice of a 12-year-old Chicana girl and her experience of living in the United States.
As expressed through the entries to our 2017 Courageous Conversation Challenge, racism affects and damages youth at every age.
The New Mexico Deconstructing Racism Committee, a diverse group of organizational representatives and individuals, is coordinating an 8-year action to educate, advocate and legislate to end institutional racism, which is defined as “actions that result in differential access to goods, services and opportunities of society due to the existence of institutional programs, policies and practices that intentionally or unintentionally place certain racial and ethnic groups at a disadvantage in relation to other groups.”
Institutional racism contains unconscious or implicit biases that permeate all of our perspectives, preferences, and worldviews and distort our behavior and decision making. Because largely unconscious, such biases are often denied and their effects unexamined (Margaret Montoya, Professor Emerita of Law, UNM School of Law.) We are not looking at an individual and whether they’re prejudiced or discriminatory. We are looking at patterns of practice (Diane Torres-Velasquez, UNM College of Education.)
Our approach includes developing curriculum for mid- and high school youth which explores various US cultures, their racial/ethnic privileges, creating opportunities for youth representatives from the Courageous Conversation to present their spoken word and art work entries on the Senate floor and to the public, and pushing for legislation to correct the effects of exclusion and discrimination in employment decisions and practices.
We are fine tuning an Anti-Racism Pledge and requesting signatures/endorsements from legislators, organizations, and individuals. It contains a definition of racism and institutional racism asks for a pledge to work toward equity and diversity. It encourages signers to list personal action items and gives examples so that people can pledge to help with the change process in concrete ways that are unique and important to their own lives.
As part of our collective identity we need to begin looking at our individual perspectives, our organizations, our communities, our school curricula and policies, our laws and policies, to notice, in order to raise awareness and correct the effects institutional racism.

 

Anti-Racism Pledge
We understand that race is NOT biological, and that racism IS real.
We believe that actions, practices, policies, or structures are racist if they have the result of advantaging people of a certain race or ethnicity, or of oppressing people of a certain race or ethnicity.
We believe that actions, practices, policies, and structures are racist if they have racist results, no matter whether the intentions behind them were friendly or hurtful.
We commit to examine our own actions, and to seek with humility to correct our own actions that are racist.
We commit to examine policies, practices, and structures for racism, and to use our own power to improve them however we can.
We commit to listen to those who have different heritage, culture, and experiences from our own with open hearts and open minds, and to learn from them what actions, practices, policies, or structures they experience as racist.
We commit to cultivate human potential by increasing racial equity; creating diversity-oriented educational, employment, and business opportunities; and investing equitably in our communities.
We commit ourselves to learn the history of New Mexico and the United States through a multicultural lens; to celebrate the triumphs, grieve
The tragedies, and learn from the mistakes of the past; and to remember that our past is also our present, no further away than a memory.
With this pledge, we commit ourselves to honor and embrace diversity, and to stand against racism wherever it appears.