I have mentioned here that I am a big fan of a plan. I think strategic planning is fun, and in a crisis the first thing I do is evaluate the situation and map out my plan. But of course there is no planning during COVID-19. As a result, I am now in month three of planlessness, with no end in sight. There are many ways this is wearing on me, but mostly I just find myself feeling discouraged and focusing on how much I don’t know. But something came to me as I was working on my current jigsaw puzzle. I had all the pieces laid out on the table and it looked like chaos. I looked around and noticed a fence, so I gathered all those pieces and started fitting them together and I was off and running. I didn’t plan how I would put the puzzle together. I noticed something familiar and took the first step.
I realized that I could apply my favorite jigsaw puzzle strategy to work as well. Yes, there is a lot I don’t know about how things will move forward over the next few months. However, I do know SOME things about where we are headed. I don’t have to know the whole plan, or even what the picture looks like. I just have to take the next step. Whew. My enthusiasm has returned.
There is another situation that I find overwhelming, and I’ve realized that focusing on the next step is helpful as well. As with many of you, I find myself questioning my life choices, especially about racism. I have long considered myself someone who is strongly in support of racial justice and equity. But when I look at how I live my life, I don’t actually see any action that would reflect that. I am afraid that I am actually one of the white moderates that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about, and that is a devastating realization.
In thinking more about my inaction, I keep coming back to planning. One of the reasons I like to have a plan is because I hate to make a mistake. I want to use the right words and talk to the right people and look purposeful and like I have my act together. I want to make people feel happy and empowered and I don’t want to say something that would do otherwise. So if I can plan everything, I can avoid all of the “wrong” things.
But planning can be a form of procrastination and avoidance too. When it comes to change, “working on it” doesn’t cut the mustard if there is no action. Clearly, there needs to be action. I need to be taking action. I don’t want to think of myself as in support of racial justice and equity. I want to BE anti-racist. I find myself feeling overwhelmed by my discomfort and insecurity. But my fear and self-centeredness is not a good reason for inaction, and I need to get past it.
To do this, I have been focusing on taking a next step every day. Sometimes a step has been to learn more. Sometimes it has been to reach out. And sometimes it has been to speak up. So far, none of the steps have been in my comfort zone, and I feel that several of them were likely not well done, but all of them have been a step, and all of them have been about action. I don’t know where I am going, and I don’t know what being anti-racist in my life really looks like, but I am going to keep taking steps until I do.
I don’t think MMA has shown a lot of action about being anti-racist either. There has been considerable talk about inclusion, equity, access and diversity on the inside, but that inside is very white and very little of that conversation has been evident on the outside. The action that has been visible has not resulted in a sustained culture change. Some of the personal steps I mentioned are related to MMA, and I know I am not alone in experiencing self-reflection and a raised awareness of the need to learn, listen and, most importantly, act. I hope that moving forward you will begin to see more action, and I will continue to work on the next steps to make that happen. Though I am aware that I need to be doing my own work, I am happy for company on the journey if you'd like to join me.
Lisa Craig Brisson
*Who is Craiger?!?
MMA Executive Director Lisa Craig Brisson was born in 1967 and was one of many Lisas in the classroom growing up - a nickname was inevitable. Craiger came into use in elementary school and was solidified after a strong friendship was formed with another Lisa in high school. By the time the two attended college together, Craiger was rarely known by anything else. The nickname fell out of use after college, but Lisa still considers it as part of her identity and smiles every time it is used.
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