#2 Personal Vision & Benefits of Being an Anti-Racist - Intro

What’s Worth the Journey?

“What might be worth the effort, sacrifice, and risks required to even begin

the journey to counter racism, let alone sustain it?”

That is a critical and very natural question that demands answers if we are to truly commit and persevere in countering racism.  One of the greatest gaps in countering racism is the failure to ask and answer that question.  Having a personal vision of the benefits of being an anti-racist is a key foundation piece – one well worth the effort to create.

“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter


We Need Two Types of Energy


In successful major change there are always two types of energy required.  One is threat driven energy and the other is vision led energy.  Both are required to drive and sustain change.  Threat driven energy says, “It is intolerable to stay here in our current reality.”  Vision led energy says, “This is where we are going and why it’s worth it.”  The threat driven energy is usually the wake-up call and gets things moving.  The vision led energy then adds to the momentum and keeps the change going.  


We Need a Vision of What Might Be


This “vision led energy” is the critical missing piece in most efforts to counter racism.  We need a clear and compelling vision of what’s possible – the benefits that might be created that are worth the potential risk, effort, and sacrifice.  That vision can be personal, organizational or community in scope.   It requires a surprising amount of courage to create and affirm a vision of what is desired.  The courage is necessary because it is really about making choices and commitments – seeing what might be possible.  It also naturally leads to actions that we might, or might not, be ready to take. 


“May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears.”

Nelson Mandela


Visions of a Desired Future – Guiding Questions


There is a set of guiding questions that can help identify the elements of a vision worth pursuing – whether personal, organizational or community in scope. The guiding questions are common, but the answers will vary widely from person to person in terms of possible benefits.  The answers may change over time and with experience, but the initial answers are critical.


Possible Individual Benefits


Fast Track to Personal Growth.  We can find individual growth, increased maturity and completeness, understanding and wisdom, faithfulness to values and beliefs, and the opportunity to exercise courage and risk taking.  We come to know ourselves and define ourselves in engaging the challenges that life presents us and the challenges of racism hold tremendous opportunities for growth and an enriched life.  


Examples of Guiding Questions:

  • When I truly engage in exploring these issues of racism, what opportunities for personal growth, stretching, completeness, new understandings and capabilities might I find?
  • How might I better live up to my values and beliefs?
  • What can I do to take advantage of the opportunities to be of significance and make a difference? 


Possible Interpersonal Benefits


Enhanced Interpersonal Competence, Richness, and Enjoyment.  There are many losses and missed opportunities in a life that is short on diversity in relationships.  And we can also miss the ability to collaborate effectively with people to achieve desired outcomes in our organizations and communities.  


Examples of Guiding Questions:

  • How might I come to feel more comfortable with individuals or groups in my community? 
  • How might my effectiveness in my organizations or communities be increased?
  • What relationship skills will be called upon, how might I strengthen them, and how might that help in all of my relationships?


Possible Organizational Benefits


The Two “Business Cases.”  There is a “moral case” for organizations to counter racism, just as there is for individuals and communities.  There is also a “business case.”  The elements of the business case can range from market opportunities and more robust human resources to higher levels of creativity and operational performance.  They can include individual, group and systemic benefits. 


Examples of Guiding Questions:

  • How can we use our commitment and skill development in countering racism to unlock the potential in other areas of diversity (for the individuals and the organization)?
  • What would it feel like to be part of an inclusive organization where everyone’s talents were fully engaged?
  • If we develop capabilities to counter racism within the organization, how might those capabilities be applied to performance in other areas?


Possible Community Benefits


Specific Outcomes and Sustainable Development.  Communities can achieve specific outcomes in countering racism and, at the same time, develop as communities.   Community building requires effectively building on diversity vs. being separated by it.  The process of coming together and bridging differences to work on projects builds community even if the outcomes are not fully realized. 


Examples of Guiding Questions:

  • How much value could be added to my neighborhood, town/city, or the nation if we countered the racism that exists?
  • How much more competitive in the world could we be as a nation if we were aligned and countered the racism that splits us – bringing all of our talents to bear?
  • How might I feel about my community and my place in it if I engage?


Four “Next Steps”


The steps to creating a personal vision and identifying the possible benefits of gong forth to actively confront racism are very straightforward – but they are not always easy.  They are, however, well worth the effort.


#1  Commit to Creating Your Vision

Accept the journey realities and engage with a seriousness of purpose and an expectation of success on a tough journey.  


#2  Act

Just begin.  Answer the guiding questions.  Start small if desired.  Start larger if ready and the opportunities are there.  


#3  Focus on Growing and Developing

Develop whatever skills and knowledge are required for success.  Assume that you are starting with 70-90% of what you need and can develop whatever is missing as you go.   


#4  Connect with Others – Individuals, Groups and Organizations

Connecting with others is important for inspiration and support.  It is also critical in countering racism because there is power in groups and power is required for countering racism, particularly in the case of policies, processes, and laws. 


“The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not

enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.”

Vance Havner