One week ago nearly 400 of us sat together for an evening of extraordinary connection, challenge, conviction. When most people looked around the room they saw friends, neighbors, their children’s teachers, peers and community leaders who have been instrumental in their own anti-racism journeys.
Together we considered our role in the systems we have and our responsibility in helping to create the systems that we want - and that our region’s children deserve.
Dr. Hagerman challenged us to consider the role that we as white parents play in reinforcing racial inequality and how our actions often don’t align with our stated values. Specifically, she encouraged us to consider how our individual and collective actions contribute to the reproduction of not just systemic inequality but also ideological racism. And she wondered how often we demonstrate that we value children collectively instead of leveraging privilege for our own children to the detriment to others.
As she detailed the findings from her ethnographic research of 30 white families in a Midwestern city, she described what she calls the "conundrum of privilege" wherein white families place their desires to be good parents in opposition to their desires to be good citizens.
Dr. Hagerman suggested that there are other choices white parents could make that would better prepare children for a diverse democracy, and perhaps bring this tension into greater alignment. That call to action mirrors the animating force behind We Stories - we believe racial equity in St. Louis is possible and that white folks have a role to play in supporting that possibility.
She offered a hard but necessary look in the collective mirror, highlighting challenges to which there are no easy or quick solutions.
Over the course of the last week we have received a lot of feedback, not just about the content of Dr. Hagerman’s lecture, but also how powerful it was to be in a room that full, connected, and eager - eager to join and deepen the work. That’s community my friends. It’s an essential part of change and you are an essential part of it. We will only be able to accomplish lasting change if we stick and work together. Thank you for showing up for us, for each other and for what could be.
As we shared that evening, we are at the start of an engagement campaign that’s about getting #offthesidelines. This is a campaign about action and continually reaching and recognizing the steps, both big and small, that we can and must take. We have already been hearing stories of movement and commitment to move further from the sidelines. We hope that you continue sharing them with us in the coming weeks and months!
One way to get off the sidelines is to invest in initiatives that are moving the needle on racial equity in St. Louis. We are but one organization seeking to create lasting change, and... if you are reading this we have the distinct pleasure of being important in your journey. We will continue to engage more families in moving off the sidelines, joining in an antiracist parenting community, and stretching toward justice together. While much of the news shared was admittedly not good, Dr Hagerman also shared her belief that white families have the potential to be a place where radical work is done. Let’s make it so.
One component of furthering our work together is investing in the capacity of our organization. Give STL Day (May 1st) is one of the most important fundraising days for the year for us. It directly impacts the amount of alumni work, education and organizing we are able to do over the next year. It’s also a day where gifts of all sizes really matter for us, as the total number of donors allows us to be eligible for additional prize monies in amounts that are otherwise hard to attain for our organization.
We believe it’s important for the families that we are touching to consider their philanthropic practices and responsibility as citizens even at times in our lives when the expenses seem endless. How much are we willing to contribute to solve a big problem? How long will we invest in change? In what ways are we willing to fund the community and region we want to be part of?
We also have a giving begets giving philosophy. Once we begin to think about our financial responsibility to invest in the solutions to the systemic challenges we care most about, we have found that our families are likely to start, increase and shift giving in many ways that matters. Give STL Day has been an opportunity where many We Stories families have begun their giving traditions not just to We Stories but to organizations aligned with and working towards racial equity across the board. As an organization we look for ways to uplift and reinvest in regional organizations leading in this work, and we invite you to do the same on May 1 and beyond.
So please mark your calendars for May 1 and commit to helping racial equity show up across the board on Give STL Day. Together, we have the opportunity to demonstrate that anti-racism is a priority for St. Louis families and that we are willing to invest in the changes we want to see.