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  • Writer's pictureEi Ei Samai

Untangling the 2016 Election's Mess

I attended a webinar hosted by Association for Conflict Resolution on looking at the US election through the lens of diversity with a panel of people of color. (If you know anything about the field of conflict resolution in the US, you know how precious this was.) There are three reverberating points that seem as relevant as ever in light of recent executive order on immigration.

Point One: Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca (2015 winner of the Hispanic Choice Awards Creative Artist of the Year) pointed out that the Republican win happened in the context of a Democratic Party that made its selection with insensitivity to the reality of people of color. He specifically mentioned the Clintons' policy choices in issues that matter most to POC.

My takeaway: Fault-finding is easy. Responsibility-taking is harder. The community benefit sector has to get good at locating leadership vacuums and identifying political blindspots locally, nationally, and everything in between.

Point Two: Our work needs to be relevant and practical to the communities we work with. How do we communicate the impact of budget cuts to the hustling single mom who could only attend meetings when she has the luxury of childcare and time, the combo of which she may never have?

My takeaway: We need to construct cranial bridges that link the political to the personal and back. Gaps compromise the informed part of informed consent aka democracy.

Three: Being an ally is tough work for all involved. Growth is a norm. Comfort is a sign that we're not being adequate allies. This goes for when we're getting the blunt end of the social contracts we inherited and when we're unconsciously being instruments of oppression. As POC, we have to practice self-empathy when we get stepped on, often by well-intended people who might be our board members, donors, and partners. Simultaneously, we must practice assertiveness to share how certain behaviors are counterproductive to ally-ship.

My takeaway: We need to have more cross race, cross gender, cross class dialogues--across any institutionalized power divide--specifically around the praxis of ally-ship. We have to get better at giving and receiving feedback.

ACR's panel host expressed interest in a follow up workshop. Stay tuned here:

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