Recently there was an Executive Order that places on ban on diversity, equity and inclusion training in federal contracts that is based in critical race theory, the idea that racism is systemic and built into every major institution.
The order even begins with quotes from Martin Luther King, that we are to be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. While few would debate the goal of this statement and unfulfilled promise of America is that we are all equal under the eyes of the law regardless of our race. What has been debated over decades is how do we get there? There are many argue that by continuing to teach about race and racism, it is perpetuating the idea and giving it further perpetuity-essentially we should be color blind.
As a young person that was certainly what I have been taught. And in my day to day life I experienced how I was treated differently because of my race and how my peers were treated differently because of theirs. This caused me to be confused and experience the cognitive dissonance of a dialogue that ignores my reality.
In my first Human Diversity class in university, I learned the terms hegemony, racism, classism, xenophobia and the like and the world began to make sense. Since then I have been a part of diversity, equity and inclusion education of myself and others at every step of my career.
It is my firm belief that you cannot fix problems that you can’t name. And we cannot begin to address anti-Blackness , institutional racism without explicitly naming how institutions have been complicit and continue to perpetuate harm.
I remember being in South Africa and reading the book No Future without Forgiveness which is about the established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the fall of Apartheid. The commission’s purpose was to expose the crimes that had been committed during Apartheid and to offer an opportunity for dialogue about the harm that had been caused and reparations to be made. This taught me that there cannot be reconciliation without telling the truth and the truth is that America was founded in genocide and oppression. This truth is not determinate of the future but without acknowledgement there is no starting place to acknowledge the harm done and the reparations to be made in order to move forward.
To heal, we must be truthful. Own what has been the past and determine to do better as a nation and to treat people of color, immigrants, women and other historically oppressed groups with dignity and equity. Naming the problem with is the first step towards addressing it. Addressing it, acknowledging the pain, leads to empathy and empathy towards restoration.
To read the Executive Order click here: whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-combating-race-sex-stereotyping
I know there are days when you feel like it was yesterday.
You can still hear, smell, taste, feel, and see it like it was happening hear and now.
It’s hard to believe that it is over because it keeps replaying in your mind.
Or maybe its not over and everyday is a strategy of survival to keep your mind, body and spirit as intact as possible.
I hold no judgement against you not for the times that you went back to him.
I hold no judgement against you for running away from the group home, because three meals a day and a place to sleep isn’t what makes a place a home.
I hold no judgement for how you are trying to keep and protect your kids while in a situation no one should ever be in.
I hold no judgement for the times that you escaped from your own body because it was too much to bear.
I hold no judgement if your still out there trying to make ends meet on your own terms.
I hope that everyday you inch closer towards healing, towards more self-love, towards dreams that are truly yours.
You are amazing, and there is nothing wrong with you.
You are not alone.
You are not your own worst nightmares nor defined by the shadows of the past.
I hope this new year breathes new life into your lungs and whispers freedom into your ear.
I hope you find the courage to be yourself and to love who you are unapologetically.
I hope you begin to thread back together your mind, body and spirit.
We need you. We need you whole. We need your time, talent and energy to make this world a better place.
I believe it and I hope you do to.
Why celebrate Latinx Heritage Month? Too often as Latinos we are type casted, the portrayals of Latinas in media is either oversexualized object or a maid. Latino men are too often the gangster or gardener. We are so much more than the boxes we are put in. As I started researching for myself I learned that birth control, color television, the artificial heart all of these were invited by Latinos.
Growing up I was taught about the contributions of European culture to western civilization and was told that the United States as we know it wouldn’t exist but there was very little comment on the contributions of people that looked like me.
When I stand back and see all that Latinos have accomplished and continue to achieve in spite of adversity, I feel pride. Dolores Huerta, Frida Kahlo, Isabel Allende, Rita Moreno, these Latinas have left their mark and the world will never be the same. Too often Latinos in the U.S. are seen as invasive, as a burden ,when in reality Latinos are getting the job done.
Latinos are putting food on America’s tables, building businesses that lift up the economy and advancing in every field. Often when Latinos advance in their careers there’s a tension particularly around upward mobility. There can be family, friends, neighbors that will say quien te crees? Who do you think you are?
And it’s because to advance many Latinos assimilate; changing their names, manner of speaking, dress, mannerism etc to fit in with the mainstream. There was a generation of parents that did not teach their children Spanish for fear that it would hold them back from succeeding. We are ourselves have bought into the narrative that assimilation is the key to success.
Yet in reality we can keep who we are as we move forward on our journey. There is nothing to be ashamed of. We can pass on our language and legacy because our culture is one of achievement. We can contribute to a negative narrative of immigrants and Latinos or a positive one. What you believe about your own culture deeply impacts how you engage or disengage from it and whether it is passed down.
I was lucky that I grew up in a home speaking Spanish and engaging my culture from a place of joy and pride. This has opened countless doors for me to enter bilingual roles and to serve the community utilizing my full self.
I hope that children that grow up now in 2019 feel a freedom to embrace who they are and know they can succeed without checking their identity at the door.
Whether its women supporting each other in Congress, or women hearing each other out after a long day at work, there is something powerful about seeing and validating one another’s experience. Even the simplest act to show that another person understands what I am going through helps me and encourages me to keep calm and carry on. There is strength when women support each other even if the issues impacting our lives can be different.
Sexism impacts women differently depending on their identity and life experiences of race, socio-economic class, sexual orientation and other identities. Immigrant women, trans women, Black women, Latinas, this year I want to show up and support my peers whether the issue impacts my life directly or not. Women’s rights are not a singular issue but include and span Reproductive Justice, immigrant rights, police brutality, the wage gap, the school to prison pipeline, trans discrimination and all other issues impacting the lives of women and girls.
Popular culture would have us believe that women are catty, competitive, and not to be trusted. The reality is, everyday women show up for each other, support one another and when it counts fight for one another. Women give of themselves to their children, partners, and communities and exhibit leadership that rarely gets acknowledged or celebrated. Women and their contributions to historical movements are often rendered invisible. I celebrate teachers, I celebrate activists, I celebrate youth workers and foster parents and all the women who not only march on a single day but demonstrate everyday care in their communities.
I celebrate women from different generations. When I think about the struggles of my grandmother and mother and the sacrifices that they made so that I could live a better life, I feel gratitude and humility. Both the women in my family and friends in my life are people who help me to feel as if anything is possible and when I feel like giving up remind me of who I am and what I was put on this earth to do.
I would encourage you that if you do have close friends that are women, particularly women of color check in on them, encourage them, build them up. If you are seeking community and these types of friendships get plugged into local organizations that support women and girls. And lastly, show love to the young girls in our lives- be a mentor!
“We need to support the incredible, powerful women around us. We need to encourage that power. We need to delight in it. We need to make sure the power of other women is enjoyed and celebrated”- Shonda Rhimes
By: Elisabet Medina
When you are young, the world is different. Words are heavier, the words have ripple effects in your life. I can still remember the high school teachers and youth pastors who talked me down from the proverbial and literal edge of teenage angst. Countless adults told me that I could change the world, that I could make a difference, that my life had significance.
I still remember the blunt conversation a teacher had with me, that I was a smart kid but that my grades were mediocre and if I ever wanted to get anywhere I had to work twice as hard because I was a young Latina. It is almost as if the belief that teachers had in me during middle and high school had willed me on through to college. I remember it was a college counselor that told me to apply for a scholarship to grad school. No one in my family had done this before. I felt lucky just to have made it through undergrad, I never thought that I would have a masters.
As a social worker, I have always had interns; young people that I am willing to take under my wing. I want them to see that someone that looks like them can be a leader. Representation matters, and for young people to see women of color as managers, principals, board presidents; opens up infinite doors of possibility.
Mentorship is everything. Even today, I make it a point to be mentored by someone. Whether our conversation is about career and dealing with microaggressions in the workplace or me spilling my guts about an idea that won’t let me go. We always need someone who has been there, right at the spot where we are standing and can guide our spirits to where they need to go.
Likewise, as we ascend and grow in our field, ask who am I taking with me? How am I empowering and pouring into the lives of young people around me? Whether it’s a church youth group, mentoring of a foster youth, a niece, or an intern: beneath that bravado there’s a soul longing to be seen and believed in.
Young people need to hear that they are loved, that they matter, and most importantly that they are not alone. I have seen young women be exploited, suffer violence and even take their own life under the powerful belief that they are worthless. The opposite is the truth, young people are more valuable than words can express and whatever tragedy they have experienced is not the end but only the beginning of their story. Take time today for a young person, be the mentor you wish you had when you were younger. You won’t soon forget it and neither will they.
By Elisabet Medina
Resilient after colonization.
Resilient after dictatorship.
Resilient after displacement.
Resilient after deportation.
Resilient in the aftermath.
The catastrophe was not the end of us.
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed...
Perplexed but not in despair;
Persecuted but not abandoned;
Struck down but not destroyed"
Resilient light in the face of darkness.
Not overcome by the fear of what may come,
But filled with possibility of all we are becoming.
Dreaming in the midst of struggle.
Thriving in desert land.
Doing good even to those that intent to harm.
We are resilient.
By Elisabet Medina
Let us not teach our daughters that their strength is bound to how much they can carry without breaking.
Resilient doesn't means pretending that the load isn't heavy.
Let us not teach our daughters that it is their obligation to do the emotional toil that others are not willing to do because the work is too hard.
Resilient doesn't mean avoiding conflict.
Resilient doesn't mean being silent again or swallowing the words you are eager to say but others may not be ready to hear.
No one is less than for not being able to endure.
No one is less than for giving voice to their struggle.
No one is less than human.
Resilient is like the sun shining again after a dark night.
Resilient is like a butterfly emerging after it thought it had died.
Resilient is pulling yourself back together after falling apart.
Resilient is finding yourself all together new.
Resilient is like realizing your body still remembers how to dance.
By Elisabet Medina
Powerful. At times we think of power as negative. We think fight the power! Or absolute power corrupts absolutely. And yet each one of us possesses inner power. Power over our thoughts, power over how we treat others, the words we speak, and the actions we take. What if we made a commitment to use our power, whatever that looks like or means to us to do good in the world? Just imagine the impact! Love never receives the publicity that hatred does, but it is no less a powerful force in the world.
Positive. Nowadays it’s hard to stay positive. The jaded social worker is more than a cliche, it’s a fact that most social workers leave the field after 5 years. It’s too easy to get cynical and skeptical about making a difference. It's easy to be disenchanted by the institutions and boundaries we work within. And yet it changes everything, when one or two people are hopeful, optimistic and joyful about helping others.
Force. It’s not easy. Whether you’re in social work, education, health care any field that is seeking a more equitable and just world is full of challenges. When the naysayers and obstacles come, be a force for good in the world. Resist and persist to a level of stubbornness that the world can be and ought to be better than it is. Justice has never come about through passivity only through passion.
Be a powerful positive force for good today.
By: Elisabet Medina
What do you do with the rage you feel?
Let the fire cool to ember and let it flow like lava through your veins. Or deposit in your bones.
What do you do with desire?
Lock away in the vault to keep it safe from robbers.
What do you do with rejection?
That whisper that says you’re not enough. Do you listen to it’s voice and hold it near, like an old friend that you can’t stand.
What do you do with disappointment?
When the vision of your life gets shattered to tiny bits of glass impossible and painful to try and put back together.
What do you do with loss?
The feeling that earth has shifted and life as you know it will never be the same. Where it’s all rearranged and unrecognizable even to you.
On the outside you smile, don’t cause a scene, use your poker face because life’s dealt you a hell of a hand. Not a soul knows what’s going on.
On the inside;
You take a day at a time.
You radically accept reality.
You dust yourself off.
You roll around in the dust.
You remember who you are.
You grieve what will never be.
You embrace your humanity.
You let go.
You stop doing and start being.
You feel all of it.
The Rage, Desire, Rejection, Disappointment, Loss they all gather around your kitchen table. You pour them coffee and make space for them. And when the evening has come and you've heard their stories, you walk them to the door and thank them for stopping by. It’s because of them not in spite of them that you are: human. free.
As a social worker you’re in it because you want to help people. You want to make a difference. And every social worker whether at a school, hospital, shelter, or family resource center exists within a system. Systems are build as a means of allocating resources to meet a need or solve a social problem. Therefore while the social worker is given resources to help people; those resources are finite. The system then is set up to say x,y,z and resources are for a,b,c clients. If a client comes to you with g, k and s problem guess what that client is SOL.
If a social worker is worth their salt, they will have an ace up their sleeve and be able to redirect the client to another agency and system that can help them. Yet, something happens in your soul when you have to tell a client. “I’m so sorry but we can’t help you, you have to go to somewhere else”. You look them in the eye and the disappointment, frustration, desperation is palpable. Over the years,
veteran social workers can become dissentized, or construct a narrative like “that’s the way things are” or worse shift the blame to the client for an arbitrary reason we can’t help them. Lately I’m realizing the cognitive dissonance of going against your primary instinct to help over and over. I’m learning to sit with those limitations of myself and the systems. Because if we can’t be in touch with our own feelings how can we hold onto to empathy? How do we hold onto to our humanity? Yes, people need food, shelter, therapy, legal services etc but they also need us to be human. I remember being in a rough spot financially and applying for food stamps the worker never looked me not once. He kept his eyes between the computer and his paperwork. I remember feeling like nothing. The old saying is true; people will forget what you say and what you do; but they will never forget how you made them feel. Let’s reconnect with ourselves, our humanity and our higher purpose.