Lessons-learned on holding up the mirror and committing to anti-racism habits


“Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.”

Ibram X. Kendi


Kendi’s words have been echoing in a lot of conversations lately, providing foundations upon which necessary dialogues are igniting. I always say that addiction is a powerful analogy for antiracism work, as it requires that we be brutally honest with ourselves while looking at our habits.

2020 has been a year of being brutally honest with myself and holding up the mirror–day after day after day after day. I’ve also spent hundreds of hours in conversation with clients and colleagues about mirror-work, holding space for discussions about anti-racism and racial equity habits, shifting agendas, unpacking what it means to speak up with integrity, and talking about being a work-in-progress daily.

It’s been fascinating to see and feel the impact of the global conversations-changing. I have received more inquiries than ever before, held space for more conversations about racial equity than ever before, I’ve on-boarded team-members for SPARK Equity In Action, and I continue to discuss why it’s imperative that we all continue to hold up the mirror (as individuals and organizations) while de-centering white supremacy culture–day after day after day after day…

Holding up the mirror–for racial equity–takes courage and commitment.

I’ve observed more folks step into the racial equity arena than ever before, responding to Kendi’s call for persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination, which gives me hope.

I’ve also found myself committing to my own mirror-work too in new ways, going inward (spending less time on social media and refusing to add to the noise) and having a heightened awareness of what it means to take up space. While turning down the noise and taking intentional time to go inward, I’ve written a lot, I’ve prioritized showing up fully for folks in my circle (my family, my team, the SPARK Family, clients, and friends), and I’ve created pockets to pause.

Some days are better than others. Other days I fumble or fail-forward. And that’s the work, because this is a marathon, not a sprint.

What keeps me on the path? My commitment to my community, living my values, and leading with integrity.

In that spirit, I’m sharing some of the lessons-learned I’ve had over the years as reminders for myself (and us all) as we navigate down these paths together…

Always remember:

  • Put people first
    • Listen first, speak second
    • Hold space for humanizing experiences (people drive change)
    • Normalize emotion and the stages of grief
    • Prioritize racial affinity group discussions
    • This is head AND heart work, not an intellectual exercise
  • Don’t move too fast or do too much too soon
    • Starting slow and small allows space for adjustments to be made and feedback loops to be refined
    • Acknowledge your commitment to addressing root causes and not checking boxes and hold yourself accountable to that
    • We need stamina and strength to sustain this work–find pockets to pause and tend to the wellness wheel
  • Hold up the mirror
    • Put your oxygen mask on first–as an individual and a system
    • Create space for critical self reflection and unpacking content learned (alone, in affinity, and across-difference)
    • Incorporate community feedback every step of the way
    • If you make public commitments externally, follow-through internally with accountability structures/systems/processes
    • Prioritize and commit to ongoing learning/unlearning about unconscious bias, systemic racism, and racial equity
    • Avoid the compartmentalization trap and infuse a DEI lens into every conversation the strategic plan
  • Actively work to de-center whiteness
    • Discuss white supremacy culture characteristics, unpack the antidotes with accountability
    • Be open to adjusting agendas/plans because of community input
    • Have accountability systems for unintentionally centering whiteness
    • Hold space for unlearning, unpacking, and untangling white fragility
    • Ensure there are racially diverse voices at decision-making tables


That’s my starter list. Which line/section stands out to you most?

Also, I would love to hear from you: What are you wanting to talk or learn more about? I’m working on my blog calendar for the remainder of the year, and I want my content to be grounded in your input/needs, so please comment below or email spark@rachelvrosen.com and let me know.

In Community,

Rachel V Rosen 

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