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Nina Berman Post by Nina Berman

By Nina Berman on October 30th, 2020

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What Does It Mean When We Say Doing "The Work"?

Big Ideas | How We Work | Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression

When we talk about building a more anti-racist, anti-oppressive world, it’s often framed as doing “the work.” It’s called “the work” because it’s not something that happens overnight, and while we can approach it with joy and optimism, it is frequently difficult and painful. We know that building a better world with one another is ongoing; it doesn’t happen once every four years at the polls and it doesn’t just happen during demonstrations in the streets.

We use the phrase “the work” to acknowledge the breadth of space where we as a society can shift our perceptions, interactions, policies, culture, laws, and more. And that “the work” requires a diversity of tactics and skills. But, what exactly do we really mean when we say “the work”? Is anti-racist reading “the work”? What about diversity, equity, and inclusion workshops? And why is it important to define, anyways?

I started out this piece thinking that I was just going to write it like I’ve written other articles about antiracism. I would make a provisional outline about what is and is not “the work.” I would end up with answers; maybe even a list.

But after I brought up the question to my colleagues Tim Cynova, Courtney Harge, and Lauren Ruffin, we’ve ended up with something a little bit different, as you can see below. Instead of a checklist detailing what is and is not “the work,” we ended up with a conversation.

My colleagues and I each bring different perspectives and experience to the question of “the work.” To capture each of our perspectives, and to model the ways that our internal conversations about issues around antiracism tend to go, we recorded the conversation. Listen to the conversation, published as a Work. Shouldn’t. Suck. podcast, and check out the transcription below. Spoiler alert: We don’t end up with an easy answer.

Tim Cynova: Nina, you were the person who tipped us off to tackling the topic in this way. In your role at Fractured Atlas, you've been quite active in recent months as we publish more about our organizational journey toward anti-racism, and in about every piece, we talk about the work. A while back you said, "I think we should try and define what we mean by this." What does "the work" mean to you? What's included in “the work” and what isn't? What's your current thinking on the topic?


Nina Berman: So for me, we're now seeing all of these companies and organizations that had that very tasteful sans serif block of texts about listening and learning, and we're a few months after that. Now I think is a time to check in and say, "Okay, so where are we? Where are our colleagues across organizations? How are we thinking about making change?" And the language that we use to chart that is “doing the work,” and it's clear that it's something that's amorphous in a lot of ways, that's both internal and personal but also tangible and material and policy-based, both your work policies and larger government policies and things like that. So for me, it feels important to articulate what “the work” is because that's ultimately how we hold ourselves accountable to living our values.

My personal frustration [is that] I think sometimes people will consider posting on social media or reading an article doing "the work" of anti-racism and I am not convinced that's true. So I wanted to think through originally what we could set up as some guidelines for thinking about what it means to do “the work.” So I enlisted all of you. I don't think we're going to come to an answer, but it feels important to use this big and confusing term with a little bit more specificity to hold ourselves as people and as institutions accountable to our own politics.


Lauren Ruffin: When you prompted us with that question a couple of weeks ago, I've definitely been in my head about it because for some people posting on social media is a big deal and it can feel like doing “the work.” So many of us have been isolated for the last few months, posting online is the thing that you can do to push people, and I'm not sure if I'm arguing for or against that being “the work,” but I'm adding a point of complexity to muddy the waters further.


Tim Cynova: Yeah. If you thought you'd get a better idea of what “the work” is. Well, this isn't the podcast for you. You're going to be more confused about all the options.


Lauren Ruffin: From social media posting to we went to book clubs, of course, because everybody knows I'm a big fan of telling people to read a damn book before you talk to me. But is that “the work”? I mean, up until we started asking this question, I was pretty convinced that it was, and now I've flip-flopped again in the last couple of days. Maybe it isn't “the work.” Maybe I'm being too easy on people.


Tim Cynova: Well Courtney, where are you with that? Because so far we have posting on social media, we have book clubs, we also throw into the mix diversity, equity and inclusion trainings. Is that part of “the work”? Or maybe is that a preface to doing “the work”? What are your thoughts on this right now?


Courtney Harge: I think all of those things can be the work. Recently listening to Brene Brown's podcast. She was talking to Sonya Renee Taylor of the “The Body Is Not an Apology,” and they were talking particularly about radical self-love, particularly as it relates to diet culture. But something that really stuck with me was this idea of the alignment of the “how you're doing something” with the “why you're doing something.” That means any of those things or anything you're doing can be the work, can be something that is moving the needle toward a more radical and equitable future. But it very much depends on why you're doing whatever it is that you're doing. If you're posting on social media because you know that your audience, even if it's not huge, will be impacted by it, and because this is where you feel empowered to do something, that can be the work.

You can be having conversations that are prompting or supporting other people to have conversations. If you know your particular social positioning, simply saying something can connect people to who you are. So if you are a cis person posting positively about trans rights, in a space where a trans person may not feel safe, you are using your power to basically take some of the negativity that people may throw [at that trans person] away from a trans person and providing some space, providing a space to amplify a valued voice. That can be “the work.” It can also not be "the work" if you're doing that to silence or take up room from trans people.

I think because there is no grade, "the work" actually is never done. There's no moment where you turn around and say I literally did "the work." You have to, in essence, question and consider everything you're choosing to do. Some things you're just doing because you feel like doing them and some things you're doing because you think, again, it's going to get us to what I would hope is a better, more equitable place. I don't think there is one right answer. I think there has to be an alignment of how you are moving the needle and why you are choosing this tactic to do so.


Lauren Ruffin: You raise the issue of safety, and as a person who is on the record in several instances saying that protesting is not my ministry, being out in the streets with large crowds is just ... that's not the way I'm going to get saved. I've got this whole point, which is with all this work that I feel like I'm doing is “the work,” is there an element of because I'm not often risking my physical safety, does that mean I'm not doing “the work”? Is that a metric that we should measure by? Because people talk about it that way.


Nina Berman: That talk, for me, privileges able-bodiedness for one thing, and it privileges also a real kind of machismo, in my opinion. The like, “I'm going to be at the front lines,” this real soldieriness. I think it's important to consider that there is really important and powerful work that doesn't happen at the barricades or something like that. But on the other hand, I feel like sometimes people do let themselves maybe off the hook in some way where people are like, "Well, I have posted on Instagram and I have purchased a memoir. I have now completed my anti-racism work of the day. Back to the rest of my life." I think there has to be a balance, that when we consider what counts as "real work," how does that end up reifying norms about what is brave, what is important, what is good? But how do we also still push ourselves to engage in meaningful and real ways?


Courtney Harge: I also want to add that I think there are multiple ways to do the work. This is a war on many fronts, and so doing "the work" is like, are you in a room and is a racism happening in that room and are you interrupting it? But yes, protests are helpful and valuable, but also you can be in a meeting and somebody said a thing and interrupting whatever that is is also part of doing “the work.” I think where you show up and actively interrupt the systems of oppression in a variety of ways is also doing “the work,” but do have to be accountable for it. There is no one way to do “the work.” There is definitely a serious way to not do “the work,” which is to not interrupt the systems when you see them.

I also don't protest because I can't be effective there. But there are many places where I can be effective in interrupting the status quo, and so I try to make it a point to, if I'm in that room and I see a thing or I'm experiencing something or even if just asking the question to interrupt what we accept as the system, like that feels just as valid or maybe valid in a different way. But if racism or oppression is happening somewhere and you are interrupting it, you are contributing to doing “the work.” If you're in a room and no oppressive systems are present, and then you're just performing, that's different. But if racism has made it to any space, if racism can make it to soap dispensers because of light sensors and all of that, then any place you are interrupting, it is valuable.


Lauren Ruffin: Until we had this conversation, my personal take on why I didn't protest was almost that it was too easy. Where I'm located with my able-bodied privilege and everything else, it's too easy. But the things I can do really about strategy around legislation, and those things that are probably a better use of my skill set that I think is relatively unique. Then I went down the Talented Tenth route. Are you being elitist by thinking that's your position? And in the revolution, to write legislation, is that even valuable? I don't know. That's just the personal struggle.


Nina Berman: I feel that. In some kinds of organizing spaces when a lot of stuff is happening in a chaotic way, I'm like, "Oh, I can help streamline this and I can help give us a structure." Then part of me is like, "Oh, I'm using my white collar creative class job to import those values into this radical space.” But ultimately I do think that a big part of figuring out what "the work" is also means figuring out what your skills are, what you're good at.


Tim Cynova: Much in the same way, if you're trying to achieve massive change any other way, you look to who has what kind of skills, what kind of resources and pull those together in the best configuration to give you the best chance to achieve that. Some of those things are our default, some of those things push us out of our comfort zone, but it's a mix of these things that I think inform the conversation, inform "the work" and ultimately lead to change and successful change.

I want to spend a minute on [whether] reading is “the work.” Because we initially split, in a lot of different ways, and as we see a lot of books about anti-racism that have been back-ordered, people are doing a lot of reading right now, or have been doing a lot of reading during the summer, especially following the murder of George Floyd. Where do you stand on reading as part of “the work”? Yes, no, maybe, sometimes?


Lauren Ruffin: So I'll give my rationale for why, right now, at this second, reading is “the work,” and it lies at the intersection of my own process of educating myself over the last decade or so, in particular around how the government has treated Black and Indigenous peoples throughout this history with extreme hostility and persecution. The need for people to read about that, or the fact that it happened, coupled with it's knowledge that you're not going to get in 99.9% of curricula at any educational level.

The city of Chicago recently started a police brutality curriculum because of the torture case they lost when they have police officers literally torturing people in projects in Chicago. But above and beyond that, we don't have any type of public school curriculum. It's not just the dedicated work of maybe one or two individuals in a school district, probably against the will of many, many more people in a school district.

So that's why I think reading about specific points in history is the work, because my approach to doing "the work" is so deeply rooted in the education that I've given myself in that space, which is part of why I’m so firm and part of why it's so direct and harsh because we've not really framed Black folks as a persecuted minority class, that's happened at the hands of the state. I think that's a really important distinction that I don't know that we talk about enough. Most certainly we get into disagreements with people who don't know that the city of Philadelphia dropped a bomb in a neighborhood, who really don't know about COINTELPRO and how the federal government murdered Fred Hampton in bed next to his pregnant wife. When we go throughout history and think about these things, we don't know that police departments grew out of slave patrols 400 years ago. So to me, that's why I think the reading is "the work" because I don't know if we can have a conversation without people understanding that.


Courtney Harge: I think the reading is the beginning of the work. I find an inherent anti-Blackness in having to read it to understand it. The lack of empathy frustrates me. When I both logically get that reading is fine, there are some things that people are just telling you. We are saying this is what's happening, this is a pattern of persecution by the state, this is not the first time, and to look people in the face, to watch these videos of harm being enacted on Black people over and over again, and we're like, "This is the status quo, this is not new, and this is what we need to address," and to hear, "Yeah, but is it ... Did somebody else write about it? Did somebody I respect wrote about it? Did they use the language that makes me feel comfortable to understand it?"

I get frustrated, is the only word I can think about, to really cover that because it's like I still feel an essence of debate for my humanity. I could be in tears in front of you saying, "This is my reality," and you're like, "That's super cool, but where's my book club? So that me and my friends can discuss your pain with a glass of Chardonnay while a woman of color is probably watching my children." I get that whole process irks me in a deep, spiritual place.


Lauren Ruffin: Exactly, Courtney. I can't agree with you more, which is why I'm at the point, for the last three years, when I'm about to talk to a white person about this I say, "What have you read?" Because I'm not doing that anymore.

There's a lot of shit that I didn't know about. It was never that I thought it wasn't happening because I grew up in a Black family who grew up in the hood, from the hood of Baltimore. So I know about police brutality. I know how we've been tracked and how we've been treated. I just needed a litmus test because I wasn't going to engage in those conversations anymore because I get angry. When I get angry, it's hard talking me down.


Nina Berman: I originally was really firm on the side of reading is not the work, because I think that it is so often considered to be like an end in itself, you check it off your list. You order the book, you order it from an independent bookshop, from Black-owned bookshop, and then you're like, "Great. I did it," and then according to your point, you discuss it and have a glass of Chardonnay. But if you're reading as part of your political education, as part of what will truly shape you and shake you and change the way you move in the world, if it has material consequences for how you think, how you work, how you engage with other people, then maybe I'm softening a little bit because often you're absolutely right.

We are not taught these histories at all. I was taught that the Civil War was about states' rights and the North was way better than the South. Boy howdy, not true on both counts. So being able to learn more and read more and listen more has been really crucial. But I guess I just don't want to give people too easy an out. If people are going to read books and really let them shake them, then good. But if you're just going to read and be like, "Huh, interesting," then I'm not into it.


Lauren Ruffin: That's a good point because I'm over-educated. We have a country that has for generations been actively miseducated, and so we've got to spend some time ... Eight-hour diversity training's not going to fix that. The building's on fire. There's a lot of strategies, and I don't know. For me and where I am in my engagement, you got to read something.


Tim Cynova: Well, let's flip right there because you brought up the eight-hour training. So are eight-hour trainings “the work”?


Courtney Harge: One, I'm going to say, yes, they are "the work" with the caveat that I don't think anything is unequivocally “the work.” I think it is the collection of behaviors with an aligned how and why. My “yeses” are “mostly yeses.” Even my “no’s” might just be “mostly nos.” I think diversity trainings, these eight-hour trainings, are "the work" for a few reasons.

One, I think the shared conversation, the shared experience of people who have to work in a place, being able to have these conversations. Even if the trainings aren't the best, [they] are valuable experiences. In discussing these dynamics, you frequently also get to see the dynamics play out in real-time because you're dealing with what is very difficult for a lot of people to be able to engage with. A lot of the power dynamics and a lot of the microaggressions and a lot of the stuff shows up in those spaces in ways that can be named as they are happening frequently.

Two, I think the shared experience of being able to normalize around language about what we mean when we say this is racism [or] oppression; just creating some shared definitions in space, creates value for conversations, post-trainings.

Third, I think that these create a space for questions where things frequently have been resting on people's spirit, and there has not been a space to really say them, and so being able to pull them into this shared experience frequently creates value.

I think those three things are true, regardless of the quality of the trainers, I've been in a few, I've facilitated some, I believe in the power of the work. But I think having the space to ask questions, having the shared experience for definitions and getting to watch some of these dynamics play out in real-time in ways that allow people to name them creates value inherently, which is why I do think they are the work.


Lauren Ruffin: I land on the side of they are "the work" primarily because I haven't ever been to one where I haven't learned something, and that goes back to the value that I place on learning, whether it's a new framework or an approach, or just an actual nugget of this is something that happened. I do worry because white supremacy demands that we come away from things with a checklist or a clear pathway.

In the art sector, we spend a lot of time thinking about arts civic diversity and equity training, which is often rooted in live performance in large institutions, the impressive damage they've done, and then with some folks like Equity Quotient and Keryl McCord focusing on the narratives, like the responsibility of creatives to have focus on first voice in narratives. But I often think we walk away feeling like “This is the way, [this] in the light.” It's one option. I've been thinking a lot about how we get people a smorgasbord of options with an approach that you can pick and choose to find your own way forward. That might look a lot different than someone else's way forward.


Nina Berman: I've never actually been a part of any of these workshops, which is maybe telling about my employment history. But I wonder any time you're bringing people together for a very intense and time-limited experience where people might engage really intensely with one another or with themselves, and then you go out and you feel transformed, but then without anywhere for that to go, I worry that you end up just feeling good about yourself for having sat through the workshop. But I also wonder if being in that space creates those grooves for those questions, those thoughts, those frameworks to sit so that the next time it gets brought up, that groove is easier to find again, so that you're not completely reinventing the wheel.

I mean, this is a big question. Is there a limit to the amount of anti-racism work that you can do in a workplace when you're always and much more explicitly engaged in the framework of capitalism, which is built on the exploitation of Black and Indigenous people? Is that a ceiling for us?


Lauren Ruffin: Yeah. Well, we talked about that at our board retreat last year. We were doing the ladder with Keryl [McCord] and it became pretty clear that just by nature of "the work" we're doing in financial systems, we're probably never going to get to that, I think it was a level six, or whatever it was, and we were always going to be a little bit short because we do participate so heavily in the capitalistic financial system. To me, the question remains, we've not moved the needle on this, but what can we do in our role to impact that system?


Tim Cynova: I think your point about financial systems and oftentimes doing "the work" uncovering instances that are stumbling blocks, but maybe really baked into how the organization works and operates allows you to start to identify or talk about how you can untangle those things or what you could do about it. A lot of our colleagues in the funding sector right now are talking about where their portfolios are invested, and are they invested in ways that are maybe actively working against multiple times over "the work" that they're trying to do by funding through program initiatives as organizations look at who manages their financials. Are you working with organizations who might have different values than you do and value other things?

I guess spoiler alert, way after the fact, I view trainings as part of “the work,” keeping mind, to what end and where's intentionality. I also view reading as the work, especially I think reading as "the work" for white cisgender men. That is something that, because I view this as both a personal and professional journey, I think that has to be part of it, especially in order to not further oppress, further burden people who are not white cisgender, heterosexual men, that's part of the work. When you hear something, you have to go look it up, you have to read about it, learn about it so that you understand the context in which, particularly if you're leading an organization in the space that that organization works and operates how you understand what policies and procedures, what kind of effect they have on the team, and ultimately how you can be a part of co-creating that next thing, while understanding all the different dynamics at play.

That's why it's a lifelong journey because white guys have a lot of time ... We have a lot to make up here. That's why I consider that part of the work, whether you drink Chardonnay while you're reading or not, but it's to what end and the intentionality that goes into that I think for me is foundational to be able to do everything else, to be able to pull apart an organization, look at all of the different component parts and then rebuild the hiring process and look at all of your different policies and how people work, which I think is more ... that is "the work" and I think the more impactful work. But I would say early on, trainings, reading, I would consider that part of "the work" as well.


Courtney Harge: I think that's a great question. I also think it is not quite the right question, and I say that because I frequently see people addressing anti-racism anti-oppression work and they're getting ahead of themselves. [You will] hit a wall and the wall is probably capitalism and or American imperialism and or a few other things, there will be a limit. We have so much work to do before that wall. Don't even worry about it right now. I have seen organizations be like, "Because we are still embedded in financial systems, we won't even ever be able to do it. So I'm going to not do the things that I can do."

Part of the way the system works, the system builds things that make it convenient to continue to feed it, and if you start interrupting the things that feed it, if you make it harder and harder to rely on the system to get to the ends that you want, then we can start addressing the system.

COVID and the subsequent fall of American democracy that we're witnessing as a result, all of a sudden, all of the things that fed the system are actually taking so much more energy and effort to maintain right now. It's still there, but people are not working, all of a sudden they don't have the money to feed the thing, and all of a sudden the beast has to break so many other pieces to get fed that people are starting to question capitalism casually. But that is because the things that feed it, all of a sudden those systems, those chutes and ladders, aren't operating with the same efficiency they were operating before.

So I agree that, yes, in any system, because all the things we have are built on, again, capitalism and American imperialism, everything is built to serve that, we have to start creating ways that interrupt in the levels and under our purviews that we can manage, that will interrupt it and make feeding the system as it stands, both inconvenient and inefficient, which will then prompt people to start adjusting the system or start questioning and interrupting the bigger broader system as it works.


Lauren Ruffin: That's so spot on, Courtney. As you were talking and Tim was talking, I kept thinking power. Tim and I spend a fair amount of time and need to spend more time interrogating how we begin to cede power throughout the organization? What does that look like? Because I think for me personally, when we leave Fractured Atlas at whatever point that might be, and we've not done anything to really rethink the hierarchy, which probably is necessary. It just is. Perhaps to me, the highest part of "the work" is when people start thinking about succession planning with urgency and how do we really begin to cede power to Black and brown people to run these organizations and to hold onto the power that's really been accumulated throughout the arts sector by white people in particular?


Tim Cynova: Lauren, you're pushing down to what I believe is “the work.” How does this show up in organizations? Courtney, you're one of our rare return guests to the Work. Shouldn't. Suck. podcast. You previously joined us for episode four. This is episode 41. In that episode, you and our coworker, Nicola Carpenter were discussing a bit about the Fractured Atlas' journey and anti-racism, and more recently we were chatting about "the work" and things that organizations can do.

You [recently] offered a helpful distinction for people to keep in mind that I found really useful. You said, "I think people confuse tangible with impactful, and impactful with visible. Adding pronouns to emails' signatures is tangible. Ending gender discrimination is impactful. Increasing gender diversity at an organization is visible.” First, thank you for articulating it that way, and secondly, what else do you have to offer about this distinction that you put forward?


Courtney Harge: People confuse what they want to happen, and those distinctions are important to me because a lot of times, particularly people who have not been marginalized–this can be white people, this can be cis people, this can be straight people, this can be able-bodied people–they tend to want visibility. They're like, "See, I did X and you can see the results." Frequently, marginalized people are asking for either tangible or impactful before visible...There are moments where you get into these conversations where somebody is like, "What can I do?" And it's like, "Well, what you can do, in fact, is talk to your racist uncle who may or may not be in charge of a school board and tell him to not be racist and create those policies."

They're like, "Yeah, but what else?" There's not going to be a plaque, no award, no ticker tape parade [for] things that would be impactful. Ending gender discrimination would be impactful, and there are many ways where you could just not. You could just not discriminate based on gender. But instead, we get the diversity stats of this is the number of women on staff and these are the number of women in these leadership positions or these are the number of gender nonconforming folks in these spaces. It's like, okay, that's visible, but one are those folks in fact agents of gender discrimination? Because women are in fact some of the biggest agents of the patriarchy.

There's some stuff you can just make a change to right now. Changing your email signature almost never really requires permission. You can just do it. That is a tangible thing that can make people feel safer and be able to converse and share their pronouns with you. Ending gender discrimination would be the most impactful if you could just stop doing that. But then again, people tend to go toward the visible. I think people should be really honest with what they want to do. Do you want something that is visible because you need to feel better, because you need to be absolved?

Because that's not fine, but that is real. I can engage with you. As somebody who started a theater company based on telling the stories of Black women, I used to jokingly say I'm happy to take somebody's white guilt dollars. If you need to be visible, if that makes you feel better, because I know I'm actually going to do the work with it. I'm going to tell the stories, I'm going to empower people of color, I'm going to do some really impactful things, if you want to be visible and write me a big check because that makes you feel better, no, I don't think it's “the work,” but I will take that dollar. I will take the money. I will do that. But let's be honest with what you want, what you want is to be seen being helpful because the ways you can be seen being helpful can often be very different from the way that you are actually helpful.


Lauren Ruffin: I feel like whenever people are like “What can I do?” I want to be like, "You're not going to be happy unless I tell you to recreate Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech on the National Mall. Well, that's what you want me to say, but you can't do that. You can't figure out the steps that it took to get there because all you see is the radical individual heroism that you think was the Civil Rights Movement at that particular time when it wasn't. It was actually thousands of primarily brown women doing things like handwriting flyers and cooking food and making sure people were taken care of during the movement that made that possible. But you want to jump right to the National Mall.


Tim Cynova: Our conversations, there's always more to talk about than we have time, and this is no exception to that as we're starting to come up on time here. Let's start to land the plane by going with our closing thoughts on the topic for now. Nina, since you prompted us to have the conversation, maybe let's start with you.


Nina Berman: I'm much less settled at the end of these few conversations we've had that I was when I came in and I think that's a good thing. I think broadly, one of the things that I'm taking away is when we're talking about terms like” the work” or other things that feel vague and important, we need to talk about what those words mean. I think that helps us become more clear about the futures that we want to build with each other and where we see our roles in that building. I think for me, I'm thinking a lot about Courtney's suggestion that intent has a lot to do with whether or not something is the work.

Are you doing it for absolution? Are you doing it to tick a box? Are you doing it because you know that this is for a better future? I'm softening on whether or not reading is “the work.” So I'm grateful. I'm grateful for this conversation. But I think for me, it's more continuing to really ask what do we mean when we say whatever it is we're saying, and that you're not going to end up with're not going to end up necessarily with a really neat soundbite.


Lauren Ruffin: Language matters, for sure. The words that always tie me up are “the work” and “the journey.” And then “power.” We never seem to spend enough time on power in our conversations. So I always walk away thinking, what can we be doing, and how quickly can we cede power throughout every community that we're in, including the Fractured Atlas community. That's where I'm at. Courtney, your turn.


Courtney Harge: My final thoughts around this are it is a marathon. The opposition has a 400 year head start, and so we're catching up even if we're all throwing everything at it. At the risk of sounding like I'm letting people off the hook, it is important to take care of yourself. But as people, it's almost like exercise, and I say this as not necessarily an exercise fanatic, but everybody talks about the January, the New Year's resolution, gym time, where you can't get in there. Everybody is running to the gym in January because they are so excited and like, "I'm going to do this," and they can injure themselves or they can not do things that take care of themselves and end up burning out and they disappear.

So the gym is a very different place in January than it is from May. Fighting racism is like that. A bunch of people get really into “I'm going to read everything and I'm going to do all of this work,” and then three weeks later... or in this case, if you look at the difference between July and now (in October), people disappear, they peter out. They're like, "It's too hard. I don't understand it. I can't." They just disappear, and it's like, you have to take care of yourself as you are doing this challenging, necessary work. It is critical to our collective survival that we fix this. Knowing that this marathon means that you're going to have to take breaks, you can't actually fight it at every front all day. Being real with yourself, that maybe today I did not do what I needed to do, maybe today I did not do "the work" but I'm going to re-engage tomorrow is enough because it is continuous, it is everywhere, and we can make significant change, we just have to be willing to keep going.



See what else we’ve been thinking and writing about regarding antiracism, especially as it intersects with the arts, nonprofits, and organizational culture.

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About Nina Berman

Nina Berman is an arts industry worker and ceramicist based in New York City, currently working as Associate Director, Communications and Content at Fractured Atlas. She holds an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago. At Fractured Atlas, she shares tips and strategies for navigating the art world, interviews artists, and writes about creating a more equitable arts ecosystem. Before joining Fractured Atlas, she covered the book publishing industry for an audience of publishers at NetGalley. When she's not writing, she's making ceramics at Centerpoint Ceramics in Brooklyn.