- Being with Anti-Racism Organizational Change Efforts:Using a Process-Oriented Approach to Facilitate Transformation
We can no longer ignore the deep roots of racism in American life, culture, and institutions. This truth became more evident when the world witnessed the brutal murder of George Floyd by police officers in May 2020 in Minneapolis, MN. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, we were a captive audience that watched this tragedy play out repeatedly in the media. Floyd's murder represents multilayered trauma—mass deaths from the virus, a disproportional number of deaths of People of Color and the economically disenfranchised, countless unwarranted deaths of Black and Brown people at the hands of police, centuries of racist law and policy, economic devastation and social isolation—all made worse by divisive politics. As scholars and leaders in the College of Education at the University of Iowa, we asked: How can we use our scholarship to inform practice and bring together our collective expertise to best meet the moment?
The strategic plans, task forces, and lists of demands typically generated to effect change in higher education seemed insufficient (Watt & Multicultural Initiatives Consortium, 2020). These efforts often displace blame onto proverbial groups (People of Color, White people, etc.) and ambiguous others (leadership, structures, systems, etc.) and prioritize a decisive end point leading to institutional activities and actions that are performative and neither sustain system change nor end racism.
Structural racism is an enduring problem. There is no finish line. There is no singular answer that will end racism. Our effort towards organizational change focuses on a process that institutes intentional and perpetual conversations about racism into the organizational culture. This article describes the design and implementation of the Anti-Racism Collaborative (ARC) within The University of Iowa's College of Education. The developers of ARC drew upon scholarship of Sherry Watt and others to inform practice (Watt, 2007, 2015; Watt & Multicultural Initiatives Consortium, 2020; Watt et al., 2009, in press); ARC fosters and reflects a process-oriented approach to transforming racist policies and practices on an organizational level. The aim in developing ARC is for members of the institution to [End Page 130] think and act together to continually and proactively change racist practices. We invite you as scholars and practitioners to ponder along with us the successes, the challenges, and the value of simultaneous "ways of being" across individual, relational, and community levels to shift the culture of an academic unit toward intentional anti-racist practices.
THE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION ANTI-RACISM COLLABORATIVE (ARC)
ARC aids in structuring community conversations to critically examine how racism operates within the College (policies and their enactment, recruitment and retention, curriculum and instruction, etc.). Difficult dialogues are necessary and natural for sustainable organizational change. Watt (2007) defined a difficult dialogue as "a verbal or written exchange of ideas or opinions between citizens within a community that centers on an awakening of potentially conflicting views of beliefs or values about social justice issues (such as racism, sexism, heterosexism/homophobia)" (p. 112). ARC was formed when Dean Daniel Clay reached out to scholars in the College to ask for their expert advice on how our College could be more attentive and fully engaged in transformative organizational change regarding racism. Through a series of small-group, large-group, and college-wide dialogues with scholars, alumnae, students, and community members along with Professor Watt and her Multicultural Initiatives (MCI) Consortium, ARC began as one of the strategies to address structural racism in the College. ARC is now organized by a steering committee that includes the authors.
Description and Application of the Theory of Being in ARC
The Theory of Being emerged from the empirical and conceptual work of Watt and the MCI Consortium. When applied to practice, this theory teaches being skills that support how to engage in ongoing difficult dialogue that creates an organizational culture that fosters examining racism within structures (policies and practices) and that supports taking steps toward system-level change. Fundamental to the Theory of Being is a process-oriented approach to change...