white antiracism & racial healing: moving from learning to integration and action by Elizabeth Grim

Elizabeth Grim
Elizabeth Grim

Hi! My name is Elizabeth Grim (she/her). I am an evaluation consultant helping organizations tell their story through data. I am also President Elect of the Eastern Evaluation Research Society.

What does my antiracist journey look like?

When I was asked to contribute to this week, I wasn’t sure I was the right person to speak on the topic. I wish I could say that my antiracist journey was more intentional and evolved. I wish I could say that I have a daily contemplative practice to process my learning, or that I have challenged every racist comment or policy that I have encountered.

But if I’m being honest with myself, lately I have spent more time being frustrated about performative responses to racism than I have on recognizing my own complicitness or working to dismantle the system.

Learning about systems of oppression is not new for me. I have a background in social work and public health. I started my career in work to end homelessness. Like many of my white friends and colleagues, I made a list of antiracist commitments for myself during summer 2020. This checklist may sound familiar: Recognize privilege, read books, diversify social media feeds, disaggregate data, expand boards. 

But learning and lists in isolation of contemplation and accountability is performative. It is one thing to learn and it is another to act. I’ve realized that I still have a lot of fear around challenging discourse about racism and white supremacy. In my experience, when something scares me, it is usually a sign that I need to lean into that. So while I remain committed to learning from peers and resources, I’m now focusing even more intently on recognizing when that fear takes over and to explore why I am having that reaction. 

Lesson Learned:

  • Racial healing is not just brain work — it is somatic work, it is heart work, it is community work. You can’t think your way out of racism.
  • Being on a journey of racial healing isn’t about checking boxes. Being antiracist is an ongoing unlearning and relearning process. It is about recognizing that you have a choice with every action to change systems and conversations.
  • Assuming good intentions can be harmful. You can be kind and compassionate without excusing the ways in which uninformed or hasty actions have caused harm or trauma to colleagues and communities.
  • Recognizing fear and discomfort can be an opportunity rather than a threat. Doing this work requires becoming comfortable with discomfort. You have to step into fear, recognize where you are perpetuating the system, and be willing to change.
  • Commitment without accountability is performative. Because racial healing is a journey, it is important to foster relationships with people who will challenge and hold you accountable for your words and actions.

Rad Resources: 

These Dare to Lead podcast episodes with Brené Brown’s guest Aiko Bethea describe the dangers of action bias and how to use empathy to transform culture:

This week, AEA365 is hosting white antiracism & racial healing week where contributing authors explore the theme: What does it look like to be a white person committed to antiracism and racial healing? Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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