California Lawyers Association

Build Better Habits with the Racial Equity Challenge

By Lexi Purich Howard

It can be easy to forget that my own experience as a white woman moving through the world is vastly different from the experience of an African American person. The Racial Equity Challenge helped me to remember this and to foster some new habits for self-improvement and for creating real change. 

In this context, what is most effective when engaging in difficult conversations? How best to evaluate when to be empathetic, tolerant, and consensus-building, and when to loudly and emphatically do otherwise? Sometimes that means checking in with others and taking action; being quick to acknowledge a mistake, and then setting things right; or being an active listener and a soft landing place.

I’d like to share my experience with you and invite you to take the challenge yourself. 

Theresa Moore, Sabrina Ashjian, and I – with the support of CLA colleagues Ellen Miller and Lauren Oakley – identified the ProHabits racial equity challenge as one that was both impactful and easy to incorporate into our busy schedules. In addition to the robust content, the challenge allows participants to set reminders at times of their own choosing. I set the first email to arrive when I was usually at my desk eating lunch (a terrible habit, I know, but made better by engaging in learning opportunities such as this during that time) and then the follow-up reminder for early evening. 

The ProHabits team intends the platform to assist with “creating effective social justice habits that disrupt power, privilege, supremacy and inequity” as part of a lifestyle change, and describes the daily activities as “bite-sized micro-actions that will help you make racial equity a habit.” That description turned out to be spot-on.

I appreciated that the first email of the day presented the topic, provided a link to the material, and allowed me to commit to that activity or to choose a different activity. The varied media – whether in the form of an essay, letter, news article, or video – provided information that was thought-provoking and brief enough for consumption in a few minutes. Some of the topics were not solely focused on racial equity, and included consideration of intersectional identities, recognizing the experiences of those who are transgender, disabled, and otherwise considered “other”.

Some of the topics I committed to and completed were:

  • Is your workplace becoming more antiracist?
  • What is your role in the pursuit of life, liberty, and justice for all?
  • Are you a bystander or an upstander?
  • What does it look like to feel injustice?
  • What is tone policing and why is it wrong?
  • Can you be poor and still have white privilege?
  • Does America prioritize people or profits?
  • Do you call out or in?
  • How well do you understand the experience of being transgender?
  • Is COVID-19 an equal opportunity pandemic?
  • What does race have to do with immigration?
  • Are you keeping your world safe from microaggressions?
  • Could your sources of inspiration cause trauma?
  • Do you encourage difficult conversations?
  • Is your comfort zone part of the problem?

These activities formed the basis of further candid conversations with colleagues, clients, friends, and family. Those conversations have been about, among other things, understanding our own privilege and perspective and how our experiences can blind us to the experiences of others if we are not scrutinizing our own assumptions and actions; and about racial oppression and injustice that we must not only talk about, but also act upon. I am grateful for the experience. Will you join me?  

Lexi Purich Howard is a real estate and business attorney in Sacramento, CA with Murphy Austin Adams Schoenfeld LLP, and a former public policy advocate and trade association executive specializing in real estate, business, and the judiciary. Lexi serves on the CLA Racial Justice Committee, the Board of Directors of the Sacramento County Bar Association, and is a past Co-Chair of SacLegal, Sacramento’s LGBTQ+ Bar Association. Lexi can be reached at lhoward@murphyaustin.com.

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