Slavery ended more than 150 years ago and the Civil Rights Movement dates back to the 1950s and '60s.
Schools, sports and entertainment are integrated, and the N-word is taboo.
So why, after all these years, is the country now in turmoil over issues such as racial equity and systemic racism?
A new effort by the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region aims to help people understand why, and to eliminate misconceptions and equip them to change systems and practices that discriminate based on race.
Nearly 300 people have already signed up for United Way’s 21-Day Equity Challenge, which runs from Oct. 19 to Nov. 16.
The self-guided online program invites participants to learn more about historical race-centered inequities in national, state, and local systems and institutions and how they came about.
The learning journey explores the specific history and impacts of racism in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo and the different ways that bias, prejudice, privilege, and oppression still show up here in everyday life.
Learn more about racial-centered inequities in the 21-day challenge.
“Some of the examples we've seen include access to quality, affordable healthcare within communities of color, access to quality education supports within communities of color, and availability of economic development resources within communities of color,” says Claire Michael, who chairs the regional United Way’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Participants will commit to spending 10 to 15 minutes daily for 21 straight weekdays, deepening their understanding of racism and their willingness to confront it, organizers say. Content arrives daily by email.
The daily challenge might include readings or activities, such as this quiz option
on day three that invites a check of one’s own privilege.
“The topics in the 21-Day Equity Challenge are explored through various lenses--national, state and local,” Michael says.
Where possible, the team adapted the challenge by adding some local data for the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, but anyone who is interested is invited to sign up, wherever they're located, Michael says.
“No matter where you are in your own personal racial equity journey, the Equity Challenge will be eye-opening,” Michael says. “This is an amazing opportunity for us to learn together, to raise our collective understanding, and acquire the resources and tools to help us acknowledge our biases, confront racism and build more equitable and just communities.”
Many Americans already recognize some of the challenges created by racial inequity. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey
found most U.S. adults agree that the legacy of slavery continues to create barriers for Black people, with 45 percent agreeing that the nation hasn’t made enough progress toward racial equality.
These inequities directly influence every social system, including the needs United Way addresses in education, financial stability, health and basic needs. That is why equity and racial justice are key drivers in United Way’s work, Michael said.
As part of the Equity Challenge, participants will receive links to readings, videos and podcasts. They will be encouraged to write down their thoughts in a downloadable activity log and to share what they’ve learned online with the hashtag #miequitychallenge. Also, those who sign up will be invited to join a Facebook Group and take part in conversations with other participants.
The 21-Day Equity Challenge was originally developed by Eddie Moore, Jr., Ph.D.,
a diversity education consultant; Marguerite Penick-Parks, Ph.D.
, a leadership and policy educator at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh; and Debby Irving, an educator and author specializing in racial justice. The Equity Challenge has been adapted by Food Solutions New England, the Michigan Association of United Ways and local United Ways throughout the state.
to learn more and to register.
Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years, most of that time in Southwest Michigan.