“Waking Up White” - A New DEI Activity

“Waking Up White” - A New DEI Activity

Cover Photo Waking Up White

An Exercise in Exploring our own Unconscious Biases

Sue Brandy, LWVDV Administrative Vice President

At the February 13 LWVDV Board Meeting, the Board discussed an addition to the Board meeting agendas which will  further our position of commitment to increased Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) throughout the League and the country. The Board members agreed that we would make a commitment to further our own personal exploration and understanding of unconscious and institutional bias and racism.

At the beginning of every Board meeting we will be taking 10 minutes to discuss a question from the end of a chapter in “Waking Up White” by Debby Irving. This book is Irving’s description of her own journey in recognizing blind spots and unconscious biases in herself.  Each chapter ends with questions to reflect on for the reader, based on her insights.  In upcoming Board meetings, members will be encouraged to read a chapter of the book and think about their own responses to the questions at the end of the chapter.  While it is not essential to read the chapter in order to respond to the question, Irving’s open and honest assessment of her own discoveries about herself provide an inspiration for everyone else’s reflections.

The action of the Board members to incorporate this process into the routine business meeting reflects, in my mind, their willingness to be vulnerable and open in order to make a real commitment to the process of increasing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Our goal is to examine possible unconscious barriers that we may be unaware of, thereby opening the doors to furthering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in our League and in our lives.

We would like to invite all LWVDV members to join us in this experience.

This month (April) the LWVDV Board will be discussing the question from Chapter 2 of Waking Up White.  Last month we had a short but important discussion about the first chapter question, which asked  “What stereotypes about people of another race do you remember hearing and believing as a child?  Were you ever encouraged to question stereotypes?"  

This month the question is: "What values and admonitions did you learn in your family?  Think about education, work, lifestyle, money, expression of emotions, and so forth.  Try making a list of ten principles, values, and unspoken beliefs. Siblings and cousins can be good resources for thinking about this.  Now consider what conclusions you drew about people who did not appear to follow your family's belief system."

Join the Board in thinking about these topics each month.  It's an opportunity to become more conscious and aware of our own blind spots and misunderstandings about people who are different from us.