Building better habits for equality

The 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge encourages understanding among communities

The third annual 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge has returned to campus. This year its participants started the challenge on the National Day of  Racial Healing, Jan. 21, and it will continue through Feb. 10.

“It’s critical for us because we’re fully articulating that diversity, inclusion, and access equity is a value of ours,” said Vidal Dickerson, Special Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs for Diversity and Inclusion. “It’s more than just generating policies and different professional expectations. It’s prompting conversations community-wide so this allows faculty, staff, students, and alumni to actively engage in ways where everyone can be impacted.”

Participants who are engaging in this challenge take one daily action to further their understanding of race, power dynamics, and equity issues. These actions are offered within seven categories: read, listen, watch, notice, connect, engage and act. 

The challenge heavily relies on personal responsibility. In the past, there has been feedback requesting reminders for the challenge. Accountability teams are a new component of this challenge for those who need support throughout the process. 

“The challenge is when we try to take the steps forward, we may forget or run out of time so even that struggle is a part of the experience,” Dickerson said. “It’s not just mastering the complex issues surrounding race and ethnicity. Finding personal time to invest can present challenges as well.”

The Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) department decided to take on this challenge as a group.

“We have a diversity of perspectives,” sustainability coordinator Jen Jones said. “There is immense value added in hearing from three totally different life experiences.” 

There are many ways to approach the challenge and each individual takes on the challenge differently.

“I tackled it from a more transparency standpoint when it comes to different opportunities given to each individual with the department or the campus as a whole,” said Allen Harris, Fire and Life Safety Coordinator. “While discussing that, we realized that we all have different viewpoints from walking different walks in life so that was very interesting.”

In a group setting, it can be challenging at first to discuss racial issues with other individuals. A topic that can be sensitive is hard to approach at first. There might be a general politeness before the setting is more comfortable and people are more open as they understand that it’s all about respect and verbalizing feelings.

“It’s nice to have a focused, intentional effort to think about race equity and diversity and the role it plays in your daily life,” Jones said. “Doing it as a group is a great way to reset and say I’m committed to this and I’m motivated to make the conversations between my team productive.”

From this challenge, an individual might encounter an issue that challenges a previous belief.

“For a white person, a common message we learn and teach our kids is colorblindness – we’re all the same don’t point it out,” said Jacqueline Roquemore, Environmental Health and Safety Manager. “This experience helps explore this idea and allows us to see we’re not all the same. It’s okay to say that and let’s address that and understand it in a meaningful way.”

One purpose of the challenge is to build a greater understanding of diversity and racial issues in daily life that one might not be attune to.

“For me, the challenge began way before the official challenge ever came out,” Harris said. “After it ends, it’s still going to carry on because these are conversations I have amongst my peers, family members, and friends on a constant basis so it’s more than a 21 day challenge.”

Being aware of these issues in the world is important to understand the complexity of one’s community. The 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge seeks to bridge the gap between individual life and personal life and help one understand that it’s about creating a mindset of growth and understanding throughout one’s life.

~Anna Dorl, Lifestyle Editor~

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