Nonprofit Network Blog

Why I Do See Color

Thursday, May 28, 2020 3:26 PM | Tracey Wilson (Administrator)

Laura Fuller
NN Capacity Builder

Growing up in graduate student housing on the Wayne State Campus in the 1980's, I was blessed.  I know a lot of people don't think growing up in downtown Detroit in the 80's would be a blessing, but you'd be wrong, it really was.  I had friends from around the world.  Rusbeh, a boy from Iran, shared stories of a land so different that it felt like a fairy tale.  Greta, a girl from Germany, taught me to roller-skate.  And Abdul, a teenager from Detroit, taught me that it’s what’s on the inside that matters, but that race is still relevant.  It was true then, and it is certainly true now.

In the wake of yet another murder of an innocent black man, it’s more relevant than ever.

Nonprofits exist to change the world.  Maybe we have different missions and we do it in different ways, but we all are here because of a vision for a better future. Part of that vision NEEDS to be Equity.  For race, gender, socio-economic, religious, abilities and disabilities.  When Nonprofit Network presents on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, one of the exercises we do is to examine peoples’ various identities and share how that has impacted their lives.  We need to stop pretending that peoples’ lived experiences are not shaped by the color of their skin.

So what can your organization do?  Because it is not enough to pay lip service to the idea of equity without actually DOING something about it.  Here are some ideas:

  • Have your team, volunteers, board members, and partners learn about their own Implicit Biases.  They can take a free quiz here.  Then follow up with a group conversation about how those biases effect their work and some strategies to be aware of their impact on those you serve.
  • Revisit your organizational mission, vision, values, and policies and specifically look at ways that they might limit inclusion and equity. 
  • Is a commitment to diversity included in the way volunteers, board members, and staff are selected and on boarded? Are all voices welcome at the table?
  • Does your organization expect its partners to uphold its values of diversity and inclusion? 
  • Are your organizational values shared on your website and on your social media sites so that someone interested in your organization can see if your values match theirs?
  • Is your organization effective at reaching out to diverse groups?
  • Take the time to ponder how your own multiple identities show up in the work you do and interact with others.
  • Discuss how inequities in the community or unequal access to resources in the community impact your mission.

I recognize that this is a heavy topic, even for those of us who are skin-privileged.  But I dream of a world where my friends don’t have to teach their children not to put their hands in their pockets because it might be a death sentence if the wrong person feels threatened.

If your organization needs help with diversity, equity, and inclusion, feel free to reach out.  You can visit our Diversity, Inclusion & Equity page for free tools and updates on upcoming events. As always, we’re here to help you make the world a better, safer, more equitable place. 

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