I am Matteah Spencer Reppart, visionary leader and principal consultant with Proponents LLC. Connected to my evaluation practice, I engage in work related to values orientations, systems and structures, and creating conditions for greater insight and awareness.
As a white person embarking on the never-ending journey of unraveling myself from white-supremacy, I recognize five pivotal lessons that have supported me along the way:
- Practice self-compassion. On this journey, I have messed up. I’ve tripped up to the point that I want to sink and hide. Yet this shame response does not support me. Practicing self-compassion, however, has been incredibly important in my own resilience and ability to sit with this uncomfortable work. To unravel my white supremacy requires that I examine every aspect of my life and how I show up. This is challenging. I must give myself grace and compassion.
- Keep a travel journal: I have greatly benefited by documenting my personal history and WRITING DOWN formative milestones, beginning with my early childhood. What significant relationships, interactions, or moments have shaped my views and understanding on race? What or who has propelled me to see or understand something in a new way? How was I raised? What do I understand about my whiteness? Doing this work, we can learn so much, carry these lessons with us, and keep reaching for new formative milestones.
- Know my patterns. Engaging in my own personal development work, I’ve learned that how I do one thing is how I do everything. Author Richard Kessler writes that we each embody a personality pattern – a patterned, default, auto-pilot response to stress. While on this journey, we are bound to encounter difficult experiences. How we respond is critical. What is my default response? Where does the energy in my body go? By recognizing my personality pattern, I have awareness of my triggers. This gives me awareness to either perpetuate my pattern, respond from a more grounded and intentional place.
- Find companions for the road: I have benefitted from the support of other white people in my journey. As white folks, we need to shoulder the responsibility of doing this work ourselves, providing our education, enhancing our self-awareness, and supporting our emotional labor. Find a community by reaching out to peers and colleagues that share your interests (like many of the blog authors this week!). Invest your time and resources to engage a coach (check out Dr. Rita Fierro and Brett Bradshaw with the National Equity Project). Check out your local SURJ chapter. Join a book club. But do the work together, supporting each other along the way.
- Climb the mountain – one step at a time. In the era before COVID, my family and I were traveling to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. On that trip, my brother and I hiked a mountain, reaching a 3,000 foot elevation gain within 1.5 miles. Every time I looked up, it felt like the summit moved higher and I was never going to reach the top. If I kept my head down, putting one foot in front of the other, I was surprised by the distance I was able to cover. My fellow white evaluators, let’s be relentless in our pursuit of growth and transformation. As we climb the mountain, let’s not measure our progress by the unreachable summit, but by our determination to put one foot in front of the other.
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 email@example.com. 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.