“what if we treated all the -isms of inequity… as social addictions?”
~melvin bray, equity consultant
if we choose to see racism, sexism, queerantagonism, ageism, classism, etc, as societal compulsions that we might aptly characterize as “social addictions,” we immediately recognize that not only is it possible to recover from these systems of inequity and the supremacist logics that undergird them, but we are already familiar with a proven path to that recovery. using the 12-step framing as a starting point, we articulate below specific steps important for meaningful progress toward equity.
of course, the way an individual would enact each step is different than the way an organization would, but the work has to be done at both the personal and structural levels, if the goal is to change persistently inequitable outcomes. working the steps helps individuals and organizations make four behavioral gains key to the practice of equity—, , , and .
the following Truth & Transformation Model, that provides a framework for our as well as our more customized consultations, focuses on changing actions, not feelings, with the expectation that finally doing well toward one another will eventually engender the positive feelings so many seek. and if not, doing better will at least create a world worth our feeling better about.
1- We admit that supremacist logic in sundry forms has been core to Western culture as a whole as well as in the development of our own particular nation, society, community, and sense of self, and whereas we are powerless to control the people and the circumstances into which we are born and the ways they have shaped us, we do have power to change its persistently inequitable outcomes.
2- We realize we can’t make the journey to better by ourselves—it will require strength beyond just our own—so we seek and embrace the aid of various kinds of accountability partners.
3- We routinely ask our evolving community, professional support, and/or God (as we understand God) for help in learning to seek the good of others in cooperation with them.
4- We give unflinching moral accounting of our specific relationship to power and privilege and how they have been used to advantage or disadvantage ourselves or others.
5- We admit to ourselves, to God (as we understand God), and to other human beings the exact nature of our wrongdoings, not just our thinking and feelings about the subject in general.
6- We begin the work of transforming our shortcomings of allegiance, behavior, and character, which were previously shaped by our social addiction to wanting to be on top.
For the historically marginalized…
7- We reach for healing from overexposure to systemic, structural or behavioral hostility, while holding ourselves accountable to others seeking healing and while learning how to accept only equity in our dealings with others.
8- We make a list of persons who are currently harming us (materially, economically, physically, psychologically, spiritually) and/or structural impediments to equity we encounter regularly, and we commit to either improving those realities or eliminating them at the earliest possible convenience.
9- We seek to eliminate or improve hostile or harmful dynamics wherever possible—the only exception being when to do so would somehow injure others or ourselves—and we solicit aid to remove when possible (or, if not, to subvert) structural impediments wherever encountered.
For the historically privileged…
7- We work to evolve our shortcomings, while holding ourselves accountable for growth to those we often negatively impact and while learning how to relate equitably across social identities.
8- We make a list of persons who identify differently than us whom we have harmed (materially, economically, physically, psychologically, spiritually), are in a position of power or privilege to harm, or are in a position to aid in overcoming or removing structural impediments to equity, and we become willing to make amends or be of assistance to them all.
9- We make direct amends to those we harm wherever possible—the only exception being when to do so would somehow injure those involved—and we give material aid to remove when possible (or, if not, to subvert) structural impediments wherever identified.
10- We continue to reflect on our evolving allegiances and behaviors and their impact on others, and when we are wrong or complacent, promptly admit it and make amends.
11- We promote and participate in communal reparations, defense, solidarity, and construction efforts on behalf of those historically disadvantaged or marginalized by structures and systems that advantage or privilege others.
12- Having begun a journey of truth and transformation, we seek to reimagine possibilities for how we relate to one another and to invite others into the practice of equity in all that we do.
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