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Racial Equity

What is an Anti-Racist Organization?

ESTHER has adopted the goal of becoming an anti-racist organization, but we have never defined very clearly what that means. This post is intended to start a discussion on that topic, and for that purpose, I suggest that we should explore the implications of the definitions proposed by Ibram X. Kendi in his book How to be an Antiracist.[i]

Racism Grows from Racist Policies

Kendi begins with the idea that racist policies are adopted out of financial self-interest and not because of racist ideas and prejudices. The racist ideas and prejudices are created later to justify the policies (p. 42). For example, the Atlantic Slave Trade did not develop because Europeans hated Africans or believed them to be inferior. The trade developed because plantation owners in the American colonies were willing to pay for slaves to work in their sugar cane, rice and tobacco plantations. The racist claims that Africans were inferior to Europeans grew up later as justifications for the slave trade and for the practice of slavery in the colonies. The sequence also works in reverse. Reductions in racist ideas and prejudices follow policy changes rather than preceding them. For example, the integration of the schools in the South was followed by a reduction in racist prejudices in that region.

Thus, for Kendi, the focus in fighting racism must be on changing racist policies, not racist attitudes. Changes in attitudes will follow when the policies are changed. This is the basis of his definitions of “racist” and “antiracist,” which are (p. 13):

  • Racist: one who is supporting a racist policy through their [sic] actions or inaction or expressing racist ideas.
  • Antiracist: one who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing antiracist ideas.

If racist policies are the core of the problem of racism, we must understand what they are. Kendi defines a racist policy (p. 18) as “any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups, and he defines an antiracist policy as “any measure that produces or sustains racial equity between racial groups.” He defines a racist idea (p. 20) as “any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way.” He defines an antiracist idea (p. 20) as “any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences – that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group.”

Focus on Effects, Not Motives

According to Kendi’s definition, a policy or an idea is racist or antiracist because of its effects, not because of its motivations or its obvious content.  For example, in an interview, Kendi says that the Affordable Care Act is an antiracist policy because its effect is to reduce the difference between the percentage of non-White people who have health insurance and the percentage of White people who have it. 

Focus on Effects, Not Sources

In addition, the racism of an idea does not depend on who expresses it. Black or other nonwhite people can be racists when they express racist ideas. In fact, Kendi devotes an entire chapter (pp. 136-150) to racist ideas expressed by Black people. He is particularly sharp in his criticism of the “powerlessness defense,” which he defines (p.136) as “The illusory, concealing, disempowering, and racist idea that Black people can’t be racist because Black people don’t have power.”

How Can ESTHER be an Antiracist Organization?

What does all of this mean for ESTHER? How, according to Kendi, can we be an antiracist organization? We can do it by supporting antiracist policies and by expressing antiracist ideas. In doing so, we should remember that policies may be antiracist even when they do not explicitly mention race.

Some of our existing task forces are already engaged in antiracist work:

  • The work of the Prison Reform Task Force is antiracist.
  • The work of the Immigration Reform Task Force is antiracist.
  • The work of the Transit Task Force is antiracist because a good public transit system would reduce the importance of the wealth and income gaps among the races.
  • The work of the Environmental Justice Task Force is antiracist.
  • The work of the Mental Health Task Force is antiracist.

What other policies might we support in order to become a more intensely antiracist organization?

[i] References to page numbers refer to pages in Kendi, Ibram X, How to be an Antiracist, New York, Random House, 2019.



Antiracism, Belonging and Community: A Virtual Convening

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Thursday, August 20, 2020 - 12:30pm - 5:00pm
Virtual Event

Imagine Fox Cities


Are you looking for ways to promote social justice and healing in these divisive times?

Register today for the virtual convening about

Antiracism, Belonging and Community

coordinated by the Imagine Fox Cities Initiative

Thursday, August 20, 2020
12:30-5 p.m.


Transportation and Racial Justice in Wisconsin: A Webinar

Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Zoom Webinar

Coalition for More Responsible TransportationThe Coalition for More Responsible Transportation hosts a webinar on July 9, “Transportation and Racial Justice.”  This webinar examines the impact that our transportation system has on racial justice in Wisconsin. 

Registration is required to receive the zoom link to join the webinar:

If you are unable to use this form or would prefer to call in your RSVP, please contact the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired at (608) 255-1166 from 8 AM to 3 PM on weekdays and we will register you by phone.

Speakers include:

  • Dr. Kirk Harris, a faculty member in the Department of Urban Planning, in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Dr. Harris' academic interests are focused on racial and economic equity, the pedagogy of social justice, constitutional issues in planning law and mediation and negotiation. Dr. Harris will speak about the history and present of transportation in Wisconsin and how it impacts racial justice in the state.
  • Barbara Little, a transit rider and advocate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She will be sharing her personal story as a transit-rider.
  • Lester Williams, a member of the transportation task force for Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH). He was a rider of the now discontinued JobLines in Milwaukee to reach job opportunities in the surrounding suburbs, and will share his story of job access and transit.
  • Ashley Moncrief, the YWCA Madison Employment Services and Transit Director. The YWCA provides supplemental transportation for riders who cannot reach their destinations due to lack of transit access and personal vehicles.

Equity and Racial Justice Committee Update - June 2020

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White Fragility CoverEquity and Racial Justice Committee leads ESTHER toward becoming antiracist

In an ongoing effort to make ESTHER an antiracist organization, board members are continuing our self-education by reading and discussing the book, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo.

Because this topic is so important and the idea of White Fragility is so challenging, board members have divided into “e-small groups,” each meeting for three 90-minute sessions (digitally) for self-reflection and discussion. These groups are being facilitated by Jennifer Considine, chair of Oshkosh ESTHER and chair of UW-Oshkosh Communications Department; ESTHER Organizer Bill Van Lopik; and two members trained by Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities: Connie Kanitz, chair of ESTHER’s Transit Task Force, and Penny Robinson, Co-Chair of the Equity and Racial Justice Committee.

Another step in this direction is an upcoming pilot program in which three board members will participate in the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), facilitated through Common Talks with Marijke van Roojen. This pilot is being supported financially by a special gift. The IDI is:

… a valid and reliable assessment of an individual or group’s ability to engage effectively with others across difference. The IDI is based on Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) and research conducted by Mitchell Hammer. The inventory has been used successfully since 1998 in corporate, academic and other settings to focus individual coaching and action-planning, to guide multicultural team development, and to conduct program evaluation and research.

It is expected that after the results of this pilot effort are evaluated, ESTHER will be looking for additional funding to widen the availability of the IDI to all board members who would like to participate in it.

Members of the ESTHER Equity and Racial Justice Committee are Jennifer Considine, Gwen Gibson, Kathleen Gribble, David Haas, Penny Robinson, and ESTHER Organizer Bill Van Lopik. Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month, at 10:00 a.m., by Zoom.

—Penny Robinson, co-chair

Summer of Solidarity: Racism in Suburban Schools

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Saturday, June 20, 2020 - 10:00am - 12:00pm
Zoom Webinar

These are weekly Zoom meetings sponsored by WISDOM and EXPO covering community organizing approaches and social justice topics of concern in the state and region during the summer of 2020.

The “Summer of Solidarity” event on June 20 will be led by CERN – Communities Ending Racism Now. The session will focus on race issues in schools that are not in large urban districts. The program will help participants understand that racial injustice is not just an urban problem, and that it exists in small and medium-sized communities as well. Racial injustice is everybody’s problem.

To register for this session, click here:

Tentative schedule of up-coming topics:

  • June 27 – Transit
  • July 11 – Immigration
  • July 18 – Housing for Women Returning from Incarceration
  • July 25 – Voting and Voting Rights
  • August 1 – Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women
  • August 8 – Crimeless Revocations
  • August 15 – Policing
  • August 22 – Environmental Justice

If you would like to participate, contact WISDOM ( for information about registering for the Zoom presentation.

Presentations are being recorded, and will be available at:

Which Side Are You On? A Message from WISDOM State Director David Liners

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WISDOM eblast header

May 29, 2020

Which Side Are You On?

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

The murder of George Floyd has made a difficult time into a terrible time. We were all sickened to witness the self-confident manner with which a police officer executed Mr. Floyd, and by the fact that his three colleagues were more concerned with controlling bystanders than with preventing a homicide. Today I wish to make an appeal to WISDOM members who are, like me, white.

Please, never, ever say “I am not a racist.” Racism has been deeply embedded in our land for 400 years. None of us has lived in a bubble. Racism is not a problem that belongs to people of color: it is OUR problem. We need to be part of the solution We don’t have to be in charge of the solution (really, the world would be just fine without us being in charge of a lot of things), but we can’t sit it out, either.

Our decision is whether we will be actively involved in anti-racist work, or whether we will be part of the problem. Racism is not one problem among many. It lurks at the heart of every oppression in our state and in our country.

Here are some things to stand up for, even in spaces where it would be more comfortable to be silent:

Wisconsin Historical Society Fox Cities Feb Black History Program

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Saturday, February 15, 2020 - 2:00pm - 6:00pm
Fox Valley Technical College, 1825 N Bluemound Dr, Commons (Ent. 1, 10), Appleton

Although ESTHER has no direct involvement with this event, we are pleased to publicize it because of its place in the Fox Cities’ Black History Month program.

In partnership with African Heritage Inc., and Fox Valley Technical College, the Society will host a variety of programs and exhibits highlighting the history of African Americans. The traveling exhibit “A Stone of Hope: Black Experiences in the Fox Cities” will be featured, along with other museum and archival collections, food, and live entertainment. This event is free of charge and open to the public.

More information on Facebook at

AHI Fox Cities Black History Program 2020

Posted in
Saturday, February 15, 2020 - 1:00pm - 5:00pm
Fox Valley Technical College, 1825 N Bluemound Dr, Commons (Ent. 1, 10), Appleton

Although ESTHER has no direct involvement with this event, we are pleased to publicize it because of its place in the Fox Cities’ Black History Month program.

Free Event, Open to the Public

Includes keynote speaker, musical performance, soul food reception

“Stone of Hope” presentation on display

Materials on display from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Archives and Museum Collections, including its collection of African American artifacts

More information on Facebook at

Co-sponsored by Wisconsin Historical Society

African Heritage Emerging Student Leaders Institute

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020 (All day) - Friday, February 14, 2020 (All day)
Liberty Hall, 800 Eisenhower Dr, Kimberly

Although ESTHER has no direct involvement with this event, we are pleased to publicize it because of its place in the Fox Cities’ Black History Month program.

The African Heritage Emerging Student Leaders Institute (AHESLI) was created in 2015 by Dr. Bola Delano-Oriaran as a response to the needs of Black/African American students in Northeast Wisconsin. It is a leadership opportunity for Black high school, college students, and K-12 school staff. AHESLI promotes higher education, career exploration, and job opportunities for students.

More information at

Diversity Discovery Free Day - Building for Kids

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Sunday, February 9, 2020 - 12:00pm - 5:00pm
Building for Kids Children's Museum, 100 E College Ave, Appleton

Diversity Discovery Free Day - Building for KidsCome explore what makes our community unique! We will have local diversity non-profits and community groups with hands-on activities for the whole family to enjoy. Admission is free all day. A Black History Month Event.

Follow this event on Facebook here:

Supported by:
IndUS of Fox Valley

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