What is the 21 Day Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge?
The 21 Day Challenge is designed to create dedicated time and space to build more effective social justice habits, particularly those dealing with issues of race, power, privilege, and leadership. Our 21 Day Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge began on July 6 and wrapped up on Aug. 3.
Scroll down and fill out the brief form to be added to our Monthly Challenge e-mail list.
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You will be presented with challenges such as reading an article, listening to a podcast, reflecting on personal experience and more. Participation in an activity like this helps us learn how racial injustice and social injustice impact our community, to connect with one another, and to identify ways to dismantle racism and other forms of discrimination. This is an exciting opportunity to dive deep into racial equity and social justice. We hope you will join us on this journey beginning July 6. You will receive a daily email and can view the challenges on our website and social media. We can’t wait to get started!
The 21 Day Challenge was originally developed by Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. and Debby Irving. The project is designed to create dedicated time and space to build more effective social justice habits, particularly those dealing with issues of race, power, privilege, and leadership. We want to thank Food Solutions New England for inspiring this initiative and adapting an exercise from Dr. Moore and Irving’s book into the interactive 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge, which they launched in 2014. We also want to thank YWCA Greater Cleveland for generously allowing us to adapt their project for our local association.
If your company is interested in sponsoring the 21 Day Challenge, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to make a donation to support our racial equity and social justice work, please click here or the button below.
Week 1 - Voting
INTRODUCTION: Before you get started, if you haven’t done so already, please fill out this pre-event survey to set your intentions and share your goals for the challenge with us. We also encourage you to refer to the Aspen Institute’s structural racism glossary as we go through the next 21 days.
Watch this video that explains that, while race and racism have a real and significant impact on our lives, race is a social construct and one that has changed over time. None of the broad categories that come to mind when we talk about race can capture an individual’s unique story. For more information, read this article on how science and genetics are reshaping our understanding of race.
Read this article defining Anti-Racism and why the term is so powerful. If you are ready for a deep dive, you can listen to the podcast featuring historian Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to be An Antiracist.
Watch this video about the difference between being non-racist and anti-racist. YWCA’s 21 Day Challenge will encourage you and give you tools to be an anti-racist because it doesn’t require that you always know the right thing to say or do in any given situation. It asks that you take action and work against racism wherever you find it, including, and perhaps most especially, in yourself.
VOTING WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Explore, learn, and engage with the National Museum of African American History and Culture through their numerous digital resources.
LEVEL 2: Dig into the Racial Equity Tools website to acquire tools, research, tips, curricula and ideas to increase your understanding of working toward justice at every level – in systems, organizations, communities and the culture at large.
LEVEL 3: Register to vote and learn more about voting by mail / absentee voting in Tennessee by visiting the TN Secretary of State’s website for more info.
The fight for women’s suffrage was not as straightforward as you might think. Today we are going to examine the intersection of race and gender and how this played out during the fight for the 19th Amendment. Black women were marginalized in the movement and their contributions sidelined by history. Today we need to look back at these pioneering leaders and how they laid the groundwork for universal suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement. In our action steps below, learn more about local women from the past and the present who have led and are leading the fight in voting rights efforts in Tennessee.
Read this article about the African American suffragists who fought for the vote while fighting racist backlash from the movement’s white leadership, many of whom did not believe that any black person should have the right to vote before white women.
Watch this video to learn more about the told and untold stories of Black women during the Suffrage Movement.
Read about five amazing women of color who bravely fought for the abolition of slavery, the rights of women, and civil rights in the United States. They pioneered the idea of intersectionality more than a century before the term would be officially coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw.
VOTING WEEK ACTION ALERTS
1. Learn more about African American women and the Nineteenth Amendment by watching this story from ABC’s Good Morning America. Learn about Nashville’s influential suffragist Juno Frankie Pierce and how she is being remembered by clicking this link.
2. Get to know more about two local women-led groups active in voter registration and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts. Click here to learn about The Equity Alliance and here to read about The League of Women Voters.
3. TODAY is the last day to register to vote in Tennessee for the August elections. Register and learn more about voting absentee by visiting the TN Secretary of State’s website
Today, we are looking at the history of voter suppression and how people of color were systemically kept from the ballot box and the challenges they had to overcome to exercise their right to vote. This will provide much-needed context for tomorrow’s challenge where we will be showing how voter suppression has changed over time and how it is disenfranchising marginalized communities today.
Print out and take this literacy test (click here for pdf of test) that was designed to disenfranchise people of color (white men were exempt). These tests were a prevalent requirement to vote from the 1890s to the 1960s. You would have been given 10 minutes to complete this test so make sure to set a timer before you start.
View this interactive timeline of the history of the Voting Rights Act and see how access to the vote was expanded and restricted over time.
Read this article highlighting the role that the Voting Rights Act played in protecting Asian Americans’ voting rights. Until 1952, federal policy barred immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and having access to the vote.
VOTING WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Read this article about the racist roots of denying incarcerated people their right to vote.
LEVEL 2: Read this Time Magazine article about the reason the Electoral Collage exists.
LEVEL 3: Click here to learn if your voting rights were taken away and if you can get them restored.
LEVEL 4: To get involved in voter restoration efforts in Tennessee, email Free Hearts
Yesterday, you learned about voter suppression and its impact on U.S. history and people of color. Today, we are going to talk about how voter suppression continues to impact our democracy and disenfranchise marginalized people. With this being such a significant election year, it is important to recognize the barriers to voting that many people still face and to work to eliminate those barriers so that our representatives and laws reflect our increasingly diverse country. We will highlight local Nashville/Tennessee groups that are led by and were founded by black women, working to promote voting, civic engagement, and voter restoration.
Campaign Legal Center is working in Tennessee and across the U.S. to assist people with convictions through the rights restoration process, train community leaders, and educate the public on the impact a felony conviction has on one’s right to vote. Read this article and watch the brief video to learn more about their work.
The right of Native Americans to vote in U.S. elections was not recognized in 1948. Read this article on the systemic barriers to voting that Native Americans face today and what steps are being taken to protect the suffrage of Indigenous people.
150 years after the 15th Amendment was passed, barriers to voting remain. Learn about how social media, gerrymandering, access to polling places and other strategies have all been used to limit access to the ballot box by reading this article.
VOTING WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Review The Equity Alliance’s website to learn more about the state of voter suppression and disenfranchisement in Tennessee and how you can help restore the vote and the voice of the people.
LEVEL 2: Free Hearts is led by women who have formerly been incarcerated. Check out their website here and Facebook page here. If you need to get your voting rights restored and/or you would like to get involved in voter restoration efforts in Tennessee, e-mail Free Hearts at email@example.com
LEVEL 3: For a deeper dive into voter restoration, watch YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee’s Stand Against Racism: Voting in a Time of Crisis webinar, featuring Free Hearts, The Equity Alliance, and ACLU of Tennessee
Every 10 years the federal government undertakes the important task of counting every person living in the United States. Today, you are going to learn about the Census’ history, why people of color are routinely undercounted, and how this seemingly old fashioned program impacts the lives of every American without most of us even realizing it.
Before you begin, click HERE to see a map of the census response rate for your neighborhood. Be sure to plug in your zip code and make a note of any observations you have.
At the end of May, 60.2% of Tennesseans had participated in the 2020 census. That response rate is almost a 16% point decrease from the 2010 census. Read more about the response rates across the state, and encourage your friends, neighbors and co-workers to complete the census!
Watch this video about the challenges facing the 2020 census and how failing to accurately count the population would threaten the integrity of the country’s most authoritative dataset that drives public policy.
Read this article recently published in the Tennessee Tribune to learn how children could go hungry if there’s a Census undercount.
Listen to YWCA USA’s Organize Your Butterflies podcast about their YWomenCount campaign to encourage everyone to participate in the 2020 census.
VOTING WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Get COUNTED – Take the Census! Click here to fill out the 2020 U.S. Census.
LEVEL 2: Click here to read about efforts to encourage minority Census participation.
LEVEL 3: As we wind down this week, here are a few questions to reflect on your own racial identity formation and personal journey (questions provided by The National Museum of African American History and Culture)
- When were you first aware of your race?
- What do you remember from childhood about how you made sense of human differences? What confused you?
- What childhood experiences did you have with friends or adults who were different from you in some way?
- How, if ever, did any adult give you help thinking about racial differences?
Week 2 - Education
Welcome to week two of the 21 Day Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge. This week we will discuss the history and impact of inequity within our education systems. Over 65 years ago the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka case declared racial segregation unconstitutional, yet today we see our schools just as segregated, if not more than in 1954. The result of this continued segregation has perpetuated a lasting negative effect on children and communities of color. Today we will explore that history and it’s continued and renewed impact on our education system.
Read this article about the desegregation of Nashville’s public school system and how social change began with a group of 6 year olds.
Read this quick piece to better understand how America has used schools as a weapon against Native Americans. From years of coercive assimilation and historical trauma, generations of Native children find themselves suffering with subpar education outcomes.
Read this article on how busing within school districts was implemented as a way to break segregation’s stranglehold within education and it’s affect on generations of students. Find out how in 2020, we find our schools once again segeregated.
Districts can draw school zones to make classrooms more or less racially segregated. Read this quick article and find your school district to see how well it’s doing.
As the child population becomes “majority-minority,” racial segregation remains high, income segregation among families with children increases, and the political and policy landscape undergoes momentous change. Check out this study on the consequences of segregation for children’s opportunity and well being.
EDUCATION WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Read this brief introduction on school segregation and bring together a small group of colleagues, family or friends to participate in one of 6 interactive activities.
LEVEL 2: Before reading Tuesday’s material, create a quick list of your top 5 favorites books, that you read in high school. Keep these in the back of your mind as you move through the day’s content. After reading the content, take a look at the authors of the books on your list and answer the following questions. Is there any racial/ethnic diversity? How did the cannon affect your viewpoint as a young pupil? Now create a list of 5 books you would add to the high school canon that you feel all students should read.
LEVEL 3: Listen to this half-hour NPR segement on the persistence of segregated schools and the difference between desegregation and integration, featuring Nikole Hannah-Jones and Eve Ewing.
If you’ve ever changed schools in the middle of the year, you may be able to recall minor differences in curriculum between districts. However, imagine moving from a predominately white high school in Texas, to a more diverse school in California, you may not think much about the vast ways in which the exact same material can vary depending on a pupil’s school, school district and instructional materials. Today we will examine how textbooks, authors and state legislation, collectively “what we teach,” impacts society’s world view and understanding of history.
Textbooks are supposed to teach us a common set of facts about who we are as a nation, but the influence of religion and politics in instructional material can skew those facts. Read this article to see how history textbooks reflect America’s refusal to reckon with slavery.
For a local look at this issue, read how Williamson County is updating how the district teaches social studies and getting parental input on teaching sensitive topics, including race and slavery under state standards.
Half of all school-aged children are non-white. Of children’s books published in 2013, though, only 10.5 percent featured a person of color. In 2016, this number doubled to 22 percent, but white is still the “default identity.” Read this article to consider ways in which some educators are reconstructing the canon.
California is moving closer to requiring all state university students to take ethnic studies courses to graduate. Learn more about this effort here. The ethnic studies curriculum for students in grades K-12 is currently being developed. According to California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, what’s taught in schools hasn’t done enough to highlight “the contributions of people of color and has actually minimized the importance of their role.” Read more about how California is re-drafting its Ethnic Studies curriculum here.
EDUCATION WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Watch this powerful TED Talk from 2018 by David Ikard, Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, titled “The real history of Rosa Parks — and why we need to confront myths about black history.” Trigger warning: there are some photos displayed of violence against Black people
LEVEL 2: Very few states require Holocaust education in their school systems and a 2018 survey showed that two-thirds of U.S. Millenials were not familiar with Auschwitz. Read this article on how one state hopes to change that statistic, during this surge of anti-Semitic hate crimes.
LEVEL 3: Check out Teaching Tolerance, Facing History and Ourselves, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture to dig into their K-12 classroom curricula.
LEVEL 4: Read this article and dive into resources recommended by Dr. Gina Cherkowski on why mathematics is a social justice issue.
As individuals interested in learning more about racial equity, you’ve likely heard of the term “school-to-prison pipeline,” (if you haven’t check out the infographic made by the ACLU). Most notably this term is tied to the systems that funnel African American boys out of school and into prison at alarming rates. Today we will learn more about how school disciplinary policies disproportionately affect Black students including black girls. Stereotypes and misperceptions, which view Black girls as older, more mature and more aggressive have led to a lesser-discussed trend, the adultification of Black girls.
Out of school suspensions have doubled since the 1970s and continue to increase even though juvenile crimes have continued to drop. Watch this quick video which explains the school-to-prison pipeline. Trigger warning: there is a clip of police violence against a Black youth.
In this interactive data-set, you can plug in your school system and those around you to investigate whether there is racial inequality at your school.
Watch this video to learn about the restorative justice work of Nashville-based organization Gideon’s Army, whose mission is to reduce and ultimately eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.
Nashville schools spent five years and millions of dollars trying to close the racial gap in suspensions. The Passages Program was put in place to address the disparity. While some progress was made, a Tennessean investigation revealed there was still much work to be done. Read this story and learn about the suspension problem that still plagues MNPS.
LEVEL 1: Across the country, Black girls are six times more likely to be suspended than white girls. Check out this study to better understand how Black girls are being pushed out of school and read this article on how they are seen and treated more like adults than children.
LEVEL 2: Here is an interactive database to study Metro Nashville Public School suspensions by race. Search for your school’s 2018-2019 school year data. Learn more about the suspension rates by race in Tennessee for individual schools by visiting the TN Department of Education website and downloading Additional Data / Discipline Data.
Yesterday we challenged ourselves to look deeper into the ways in which school disciplinary policies disproportionately affect children of color and Black girls. Today, let’s take a look at the early impact teachers have on students’ educational outcomes and their likelihood to attend college. Unconscious biases within white teachers, who favor a “colorblind” approach, may cause unintentional harm to the very students they vow to uplift, while early acknowledgment of differences can prepare students for a diverse world. Positive outcomes sparked by same-race role models can potentially shrink the education achievement gap and usher more Black and Brown students into colleges and universities.
Watch this quick video that illustrates how some California preschools are getting children to participate in conversations about racial differences at an early age.
K-6 classrooms are often lead by a primarily white, female teacher population, who’s inherent biases often come into play in their approaches to children and teaching. Read this interview with class Dr. Robin DiAngelo, YWCA’s 2020 It’s Time for Equity speaker on white fragility in teaching and education.
Black students who’d had just one black teacher by third grade were 13% more likely to enroll in college. Check-out this quick article on how the role-model effect can potentially shrink the educational achievement gap.
EDUCATION WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: According to the Tennessee Department of Education data, the 2017-2018 academic school year reported 37% of Tennessee students were students of color, but teachers of color represented only 13% percent. In addition, half of Tennessee’s 147 districts had at least 95% white teachers. Furthermore 40 districts had no Black teachers, and 50 districts had no Hispanic teachers. Click on this link to the TN Dept. of Education data page and click on the Educator Race and Ethnicity Data to find the latest stats for your district. In Metro Nashville Public Schools, nearly 25% of teachers are Black or Latino and 69% are white.
LEVEL 2: Check out this page on bias from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Watch the several videos on bias in order to get a deeper dive, reflect on your own biases, and seek to grow.
LEVEL 3: Write a letter to your local school board or attend your next school board meeting to bring up a big issue of concern.
To wrap up Week 2 and our discussion around issues of racism and inequity within our educational systems, let’s challenge ourselves to consider some of the barriers that people of color face in attaining a college degree. Standardized tests designed to keep students of color and women out, the adversities poor Brown and Black students experience while on campus and the economic turmoil graduates of color face in repaying their loans are all a part of a flawed higher education system.
Twelve years after starting college, white men have paid off 44% of their student loans, while Black women owe 13% more. Read this article to better understand how the student debt crisis has hit Black students especially hard.
The Ivy League and others talk a good game, but look at who they admit, writes MarketWatch columnist Howard Gold. Click here to read this column published last month. Next, read this piece by Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Anthony Abraham Jack on why colleges must learn that students who come from poverty need more than financial aid to succeed.
Carl Brigham, the creator of the original SAT believed that American education was declining and “will proceed with an accelerating rate as the racial mixture becomes more and more extensive.” Watch this video featuring Dr. Ibram Kendi. He and the interviewer discuss how standardized tests were designed by men who held racist views and believed strongly in eugenics.
While popular misconception characterizes Asians as the most educated minority group in the U.S., Southeast Asian American students experience serious educational inequalities that are often masked due to their categorization as “Asian.” Learn more here.
EDUCATION WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Tennessee’s HBCU leaders say FUTURE Act signals a change in the tide for their schools’ futures. Read about the FUTURE Act here.
LEVEL 2: Check out the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative, which funds and coordinates on-site degree-bearing college programs to incarcerated individuals in Tennessee prisons, leading to Associate’s degrees in Business Administration and Political Science.
As we head into the weekend, consider these questions, courtesy of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Continue to spend some time reflecting on your own journey, and the role bias plays in your life.
- What are some of your own biases – positive or negative – that you are aware of?
- How have you experienced bias in your own life
- How might our biases towards others affect how we shape our own lives?
Week 3 - Criminal Justice
Welcome to Week 3 of The Challenge! We’ve reached the half-way point, and we thank you for joining us on this jouney. For many of you, racial bias in our criminal justice system and the high profile murders of Black people at the hands of police have brought you to The Challenge. The New York Times has compiled a comprehensive look at this issue in its Race and America section. Bias within the criminal justice system is not a new phenomenon, however, in recent years, the massive impact of these biases on communities of color has been highlighted in the media, creating national movements around criminal justice reform and around abolition. Today we will learn about the damaging and often fatal effects of bias and over-policing. Before we begin, take a few moments to review this interactive piece “How Black Lives Matter Reached Every Corner of America.”
We want to hear from you! Since we’re halfway through The 21 Day Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge, please complete click here and take this survey to let us know your thoughts thus far.
In communities in which people have more racial biases, African Americans are being killed more by police than their presence in the population would warrant. Read this article to see how data is used to pinpoint where disproportionate shootings of Black and Brown individuals were most likely.
Stanford University researchers found that Black and Latinx drivers were stopped more often than white drivers, based on less evidence of wrongdoing. Read this study to uncover the extent of this evidence, which is driven by racial bias.
Following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, The Washington Post began creating a database cataloging every fatal shooting nationwide by a police officer in the line of duty. Check it out here.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Now more than ever, it’s important to look at the reality of race and gender bias – and understand how the two can combine to create even more harm in policing our communities. Kimberlé Crenshaw uses the term “intersectionality” to describe this phenomenon; as she says, if you’re standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you’re likely to get hit by both. Learn more from her Ted Talk.
LEVEL 2: “’Police abolition’” initially repulsed me. The idea seemed white and utopic. I’d seen too much sexual violence and buried too many friends to consider getting rid of police in St. Louis, let alone the nation. But in reality, the police were a placebo. Calling them felt like…everything when your other option is nothing.” Read more from human rights lawyer Derecka Purnell about how she became a police abolitionist.
LEVEL 3: The killing of George Floyd has sparked protests outside the U.S., and not just about American police injustice. Those abroad are taking the moment to raise their voices about racist policing at home. Read more in The Christian Science Monitor.
LEVEL 4: Since 2014, The Marshall Project has been curating some of the best criminal justice reporting from around the web. In these records, you will find the most recent and the most authoritative articles on the topics, people and events that are shaping the criminal justice conversation. Explore this page full of videos, articles, etc., from various viewpoints on the prison system. The Appeal produces original journalism on how policy, politics, and the legal system impact America’s most vulnerable people. They hold officials accountable and expose the human impact of our most routine policy and practices through original reporting, explainers, newsletters, podcasts, and in partnership with NowThis, a daily, live talk show. The Appeal is an editorially independent project of The Justice Collaborative, which is a fiscally sponsored project of Tides Advocacy.
Today we will discuss the impact of racial disparities in incarceration on communities of color in the U.S. Building on last week’s discussion on education and the school to prison pipeline, mass incarceration of targeted demographics has an effect not only on those persons, but also on the entire racial and religious groups and future generations.
Watch this video on mass incarceration to understand how for certain demographics of young Black men, the current inevitability of prison has become a sort-of normal life event.
Incarceration of women is growing twice as fast as that of men. In 2017, the imprisonment rate for Black women was twice the rate of imprisonment for white women. We’ll look at this in greater detail on Thursday, but in this short YouTube video from Listen to Black Women, the panelists ask “Why Aren’t We Talking About It?”
Muslims make up about 9% of state prisoners, though they are only about 1% of the U.S. population, a new report finds. Listen to this report which sheds light on the obstacles some incarcerated Muslim people face in prison while practicing their faith.
Read the Sentencing Project’s report to the United Nations on racial disparities and racism in the U.S. criminal justice system.
LEVEL 1: Read this article by the Prison Policy Initiative, explaining why states should stop excluding violent offenses from criminal justice reforms.LEVEL 2: Check out this courtwatch report by the Nashville Chapter of Southerners on New Ground to learn about money bail and pretrial detention in our city.
LEVEL 3: Look at our stats in Tennessee from the TBI that show racial disparity in police arrests. Of those arrested in Tennessee, 33% were Black men and women, yet they make up only 17% of the population.
Tennessee has an incarceration rate of 853 to 100,000 people, meaning the Volunteer State locks up a higher percentage of its people than many wealthy democracies do. Today we will take a deep dive into the many policies that keep Tennessee residents tied up in the criminal justice system at an alarming rate. We will also listen to the voices of zip code 37208, and we’ll learn about local advocacy work being done to address the problem of mass incarceration.
58,000 of Tennessee residents are locked up in various facilities across the state. Check out this report and accompanying infographics to see how many Tennessee residents are in jail or prison and see how Black individuals are overrepresented while white men and women are underrepresented in prisons and jails.
Nashville’s District Attorney General recently announced he would no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession. In a statement, General Glenn Funk’s office said, “demographic statistics indicate that these charges impact minorities in a disproportionate manner.” Read more about this policy change from The Nashville Scene.
North Nashville’s 37208 ZIP code has the highest incarceration rate in the country, according to a 2018 study from the Brookings Institution. Read the study here. Now take a few moments to hear from the children in the 37208 zip code in this NewsChannel 5 special report.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: We are half-way through The 21 Day Challenge. If you haven’t already, please take two minutes to fill out our survey and share your thoughts on this project.
LEVEL 2: Criminal justice advocates in Tennessee respond to Governor Lee’s police policy reform announcement. Check it out here.
LEVEL 3: Read about a new Tennessee law that offers some caregivers alternatives to jail time.
LEVEL 4: Nashville-based No Exceptions Prison Collective is a grassroots organization in Nashville, dedicated to the abolition of mass incarceration through education, legislation, litigation, and organizing. Learn more about their work here.
Over the past 30 years, the trend of confining more women to federal, state, and local correction facilities has exploded at an increase of 700%. Today we learn how antiquated healthcare policies, harsher disciplinary consequences, and unmet needs, while incarcerated and after release, perpetuates a cycle of generational imprisonment, poverty, and trauma for women and families.
A recent study of 22 U.S. state prison systems and all U.S. federal prisons, found that roughly 3.8% of the women in their sample were pregnant when they entered prison. Read this article to see how prisons neglect pregnant women in their healthcare policies.
Listen to this investigation from NPR, which finds that in prisons across the U.S. , women are disciplined more often than men and almost always for low-level, non-violent offenses.
Read this article on the cycle of poverty, trauma, and the unmet needs of women in jail and after release, to understand how the criminal justice system exploits those who are economically and vulnerably positioned.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Learn about Tennessee-based organization Free Hearts to get a better understanding about women who have been incarcerated. The organization joined with Healthy and Free Tennessee to help pass a prenatal care law during this past legislative session. Read how it will help pregnant women who are incarcerated.
LEVEL 2: Among women who are incarcerated, it’s reported that 86% have a history of being victims of domestic and/or sexual violence. Read more about this and the federal Dignity Act that seeks to change this statistic in this Time magazine article.
LEVEL 3: Do you want to learn more about victims of domestic violence who are incarcerated and an organization addressing this issue? Check out the Survived & Punished website.
LEVEL 4: Check out The Tennessee Prison Books Project (TPBP). TPBP is dedicated to connecting people outside of prison to people in prison through sharing books. TPBP is a volunteer group of feminists committed to creating community and working with those inside jails and prisons in TN to get the books they want and need into their hands.
Life after prison can often be just as difficult as time spent behind bars. Most people who are formerly incarcerated struggle with culture shock, mental health issues, disenfranchisement, unemployment, and a whole host of other problems upon release. Today we will learn more about some of those issues and the struggle the formerly incarcerated face when trying to re-engage in society.
Long-term imprisonment inevitably changes the personalities of those formerly incarcerated individuals. Read these findings from interviews with 25 former ‘lifers,’ who had served an average of 19 years in jail.
Maryam Henderson-Uloho was convicted of obstruction of justice, she was sentences to 25 years in a Louisiana prison. When she was released she felt dehumanized. Watch the incredible story of how she turned her life around – and continues to support other female ex-offenders.
Locally, the COVID-19 pandemic is making it especially hard for those leaving prison to be successful. Take a listen to this story from WPLN’s Samantha Max spotlighting one local man’s challenges and the nonprofit Project Return (also a YWCA partner) working to make a difference in the lives of of formerly incarcerated individuals
CRIMINAL JUSTICE WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Learn more about Nashville-based nonprofit Project Return to stay up to speed on reentry services and programs for individuals coming out of prison.
LEVEL 2: People who were formerly incarcerated are unemployed at a rate of over 27% – higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression. Read this article which outlines the barriers people who were formerly incarcerated face when looking for unemployment.
LEVEL 3: Over the past 10 years, Tennessee’s incarceration rate has risen to 10 percent above the national average. Governor Bill Lee convened a task force to address challenges within the criminal justice system and improve re-entry success. Learn more in this NewsChannel 5 story. Read the interim report here.
As we wind down this week, think about how your personal story and your biases impact your political decisions and your perspective on how society should make change. In addition, take these action steps below to get more acquainted with the different U.S. criminal justice movements taking place.
Week 4 - Public Health
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Welcome to the last week of the 21 Day Racial Equity and social justice challenge. People of color suffer worse health outcomes than white people, even when controlling for income and other factors. Learn why these disparities aren’t about race, but racism. Today we are talking about the impact of toxic stress caused by daily exposure to discrimination on the health of people of color.
Watch this TED Talk about how research has found that higher levels of discrimination are associated with a broad range of negative health outcomes, such as obesity, high blood pressure, breast cancer, heart disease, and early death.
Listen to this podcast about the effect of chronic stress from frequent racist encounters on the health outcomes of people of color. The article also features a case study on how a large scale ICE raid in Iowa impacted the health of pregnant Latinx people across the state.
Read this article about how the mental burdens of bias, trauma, and family hardship lead to unequal life outcomes for girls and women of color.
PUBLIC HEALTH WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: “We must acknowledge the historic causes of mental health challenges: the legacy of racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, economic stressors, and systemic failures that contribute to our mental health struggles,” says Yolo Akili Robinson, Executive Director and Founder of Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM). Click here to read the following Q&A, where Robinson shares insights about the impact and implications of COVID-19 on mental health within communities of color.
LEVEL 2: The Water Bear Cooperative Land Project is a community center and land trust dedicated to programs of learning, healing, and building for the Black community in Tennessee. Check out the website here.
LEVEL 3: Peruse Tennessee Justice Center’s website to learn more about health (in)equity in Tennessee.
LEVEL 4: Read about how racism and microaggressions can lead to worse health outcomes, and what can be done about it in this article from The Center for Health Journalism.
The U.S. is the most dangerous, wealthy country in the world for women to give birth. Tennessee is a big part of the problem. The Volunteer State ranks 41st in maternal mortality and 43rd in infant mortality. Toxic stress and bias in medical care mean that women of color are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications. Racism is a public health crisis and it is time to treat it as such.
In the U.S. , Black babies die at twice the rate of white babies. In Tennessee, the mortality rate is even higher than the national average. Listen to this story from WPLN News about how Black women in Nashville are learning and practicing to be birth workers, in order to save Black lives.
Watch this interview featuring Stacey D. Stewart, the President and CEO of March of Dimes, where she and her co-panelists grapple with the growing maternal health crisis, and how to provide every mother the best care.
Read this article on how the negative impact of institutional racism on maternal and infant mortality for Native American women closely parallels that of African American women.
PUBLIC HEALTH WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Learn about policy solutions to infant mortality and maternal mortality from Tennessee Justice Center.
LEVEL 2: Click here to learn about Eliminating the Racial Disparities Contributing to the Rise in U.S. Maternal Mortality: Perspectives from the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), and International Confederation of Midwives (ICM).
LEVEL 3: Write a letter to your local elected officials urging them to declare racism a public health crisis. Click here to find all of your elected representatives by simply plugging in your address.
A large part of our health is determined by our environment. For generations, the impact of pollution and environmental damage has largely fallen on communities of color. Systemically racist policies have resulted in people of color having an increased likelihood of exposure to unsafe drinking water, lead paint in homes, and industrial waste. Today we are looking at the environmental justice movement and the people of color pushing for change.
Watch this video about how systemic racism means that African Americans face disproportionate rates of lead poisoning, asthma, and environmental harm.
Watch this interview with scientist and philosopher Vandana Shiva, who links environmental activism to social justice and how that intersection can help us find common humanity.
Read about the climate crisis’s disproportionate impacts on Indigenous communities, and how Indigenous people have been at the forefront of the fight against the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and other environmental injustices.
“Environmental Racism? Northwest Nashvillians say their neighborhoods have been “a dumping ground” for Davidson County,” reads the headline from a 2004 Nashville Scene article. Since that time, many other news outlets, including the Tennessee Tribune, WTVF-NewsChannel 5, and most recently WZTV-Fox 17 have exposed how this part of Metro Nashville receives more than its fair share of controversial waste sites.
LEVEL 1: Take a deeper dive into learning about environmental racism. Read this interactive Aftermath of Katrina: Environmental RacismLEVEL 2: Check out the Sunrise Movement’s website to learn more about environmental racism and what can be done about it! To find out what’s happening in your local community, check out the Facebook pages of the different chapters, including the Nashville Chapter.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
– James Baldwin
The history of the exploitation and brutalization of people of color by doctors and others in the medical field is one of the United States’ most tragic and largely untold stories. The infamous “Tuskegee Study” is the 40-year old experiment on Black men conducted by the U.S. government from 1932-1972 to study untreated syphilis. The subjects were recruited and told they would be given treatment for ‘bad blood’. They were not aware they were a part of a federal study, and many didn’t receive any treatment at all. Read more about this shameful experiment here. Thanks to authors like Harriet Washington, who documented the Tuskegee Study and centuries of medical experimentation on African Americans in her award-winning book, Medical Apartheid, there is a new willingness to grapple with the impact of this trauma. Knowing our past is the first step towards a more equitable and just future.
Watch this video about the history of institutional racism in U.S. medicine and how racist 18th-century beliefs and practices are still leading to adverse health outcomes for people of color today.
Listen to this podcast about the United States Supreme Court ruling, Buck v. Bell, that institutionalized the racist eugenics movement and led to 70,000 forced sterilizations of people of color and people with physical and mental disabilities.
Read this article about how racist stereotypes led to approximately 20,000 people – many of them Latinx – being forcibly sterilized in California and how this is echoed in the political landscape today.
PUBLIC HEALTH WEEK ACTION ALERTS
LEVEL 1: Click here to read about how we fail black patients in pain and for guidance on working towards more equitable treatment of pain.
LEVEL 2: Medical schools were closed to Black people in the U.S. South and, to a lesser degree, in the North. Learn more about the color barrier in medicine from Duke University’s Medical Archives.
LEVEL 3: Meharry Medical College Proposes Consortium of HBCU Med Schools to Tackle COVID-19’s Uneven Toll. Read about it here.
LEVEL 4: Dr. Dorothy Brown broke many barriers, including becoming the first Black surgeon in the U.S. South in 1948. Read this brief biography from the National Institutes of Health on a true Nashville trailblazer.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping through the U.S., communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the deadly virus. Black and Latinx residents are more likely to become infected with COVID-19, and African Americans are more likely to die from the virus. A recent survey has shown that nearly one-third of Black Americans know someone who has died from COVID-19. Researchers say the pandemic has exposed a glaring health gap caused by systemic racism.
Think about these questions. Have you ever been to the doctor and have them tell you that the pain or discomfort you are feeling isn’t real or isn’t serious? Do you worry that, in an emergency, unconscious bias could delay or deny you life-saving care? If you are a person of color this is an all too common experience. Today we are learning how a history of racism in U.S. medicine combined with unconscious bias from healthcare professionals is impacting the quality of care that people of color receive today.
Watch this interview with Harriet Washington, author of Medical Apartheid, who talks about how, even though the worst medical practices of 18th and 19th centuries are over, there are still a lot of medical research studies that can be abusive.
Read this article about the dangerous racial and ethnic stereotypes that still exist in medicine today and how they impact the care that people of color receive from their healthcare providers. And now listen to this podcast about how unconscious bias becomes dangerous in emergency medical situations where providers are much more likely to default to making decisions based on stereotypes.
Read this VOX report about how medical bias against Black people is shaping COVID-19 treatment and care. Now review to this NPR report from WPLN-FM’s Blake Farmer, featuring Nashville’s Meharry Medical College. It highlights familiar patterns of racial and economic bias in the U.S. healthcare system, impacting the distribution of testing sites and showing a disparity in access to medical care that has long persisted.
PUBLIC HEALTH WEEK ACTION ALERT
LEVEL 1: More than 600 attendees from across the Southeast participated in a June 24 webinar hosted by Vanderbilt and presented by the chief diversity officers of universities in the Southeastern Conference. The event brought together 16 medical, public health and diversity experts to discuss how long-standing health disparities and inequities have been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. View the webinar here.
LEVEL 2: Read this article, which highlights how Black and Latinx physicians need community to thrive.
LEVEL 3: Hot off the presses! Check out the Tennessee Justice Center’s report, released this week – “Rooted in Racism: An Analysis on Health Disparities in Tennessee.” This report highlights familiar patterns of racial and economic bias in the U.S. healthcare system, impacting the distribution of testing sites and showing a disparity in access to medical care that has long persisted
As we wind down this week, review your reflection log over the last 20 days and write down your responses to these questions:
- What do you notice?
- What feelings did you / do you have alongside of the challenges you wrote down?
- What lessons have you learned?
- How will you intentionally move forward? How will you address these feelings and ideas you have through action?
More resources –
Thank you for accepting The Challenge! More than 2,600 individuals signed up and actively participated in this project. We hope our first-ever 21 Day Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge has given you a foundation for understanding systemic racism and its impact. Let us know what you thought by taking this brief survey.
2020 marks a significant year of bottom-up uprising against racism, white supremacy, and injustice. We are also recognizing the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the U.S. Yet even with such an historic and empowering movement for women, we see the ugly faces of racism and white supremacy in the struggle for the right to vote. Next week we celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. August 6th is also Election Day, so make sure you VOTE or help someone else to vote!
We are grateful you chose to move with us on this journey. In the midst of it, we’ve experienced intense grief, having lost many souls and several Civil Rights icons, including Reverend C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis. Please listen to and read the parting words of the late Rep. John Lewis.
“I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.” – Rep. John Lewis
We invite you to reach out to YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee for opportunities to engage in facilitated discussions and dive deeper into The Challenge. There’s a role for every single person in our society, especially as we build for a bright, anti-racist future.
In the spirit of carrying the torch, please see below for action steps to take as we challenge ourselves every day to work towards achieving YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.
Sharon K. Roberson, President & CEO
YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee
YOU’VE TAKEN THE CHALLENGE, NOW GET INVOLVED:
2. Thursday, August 6, is Election Day in Tennessee. We need everyone who can vote to vote now more than ever.
4. GET INVOLVED! Read about the different organizations we shared with you over the last 21 days and get connected to learn and volunteer. Information on these organizations is found in the 21 Day Challenge page on our website.
6. There are so many subjects and themes we did not get to on our journey together. Here are a few articles we think you’ll find interesting:
–Why Now, White People?
– We Are Losing a Generation of Civil-Rights Memories
– Here’s What The Racial Wealth Gap In America Looks Like Today
– Black Economist’s Research Finds A Blindspot On A Theory Of Innovation