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  • Achieving Racial Equity in Human Service Practice

    Jan 16,2017

    Here we are on Martin Luther King Day. It is fitting for me to sit down and finally share some thoughts about a presentation I attended last month. As a member of the Cultural Equity Task Force of Orange County, I have the honor of serving in the role of Community Training Committee Chairperson. In December, the county hosted three brilliant women to discuss the topic in which this blogpost is titled.

    Sandra Bernabei, Cyndi Carnaghi and Tracy Givens-Hunter led the workshop. Though they are well versed in talking about institutionalized racism, they did not come in with all the answers. If anyone had all the answers, we would not need to be having this discussion in 2016. What the workshop leaders brought to the table were many questions; questions that 150 attendees were engaged in answering during our morning together.

    Some questions that were asked include:

    • What is culture?
    • What is race?
    • How do disparities show up?
    • Where is there discrimination?
    • What is power? And where are you on the “Power Line”?
    • Why are people poor?
    • How do the systems you work in diminish, discount and disrespect communities of color?
    • How does your agency act as a barrier to success for these communities?

    The room was covered with flip chart paper that was filled with responses. We were all challenged and encouraged to take these questions and discussions back. Back to our agencies, back to the Cultural Equity Task Force, back to our homes, on the lines of the supermarket checkout counter, and everywhere we encounter racism. The beginning of making change is to start with where we are; to have the dialogue where ever we have power. That is where we need to organize!

    At Jewish Family Service of Orange County, our mission is to: empower all people facing challenging times to live with dignity, hope and strength. What a perfect opportunity we have as human service providers to ask difficult questions, engage in meaningful discussion and make positive change.

    And fitting today, to end this post with a quote from one of our heroes, “the time is always right to do the right thing,” Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Special thanks to the Trauma Institute of Orange County, JMHCA and funding from Orange County for their sponsorship of this presentation. Photo above left to right: Elise Gold, Sandy Bernabei, Tracy Givens-Hunter and Cyndi Carnaghi.