What is ARAO?
Anti-racism and anti-oppression
What services do you offer?
We love to co-create plans with our partners–feel free to reach out HERE if you have a specific vision in mind for a partnership.
Why do you do a land acknowledgement?
It’s impossible for our work to be either apolitical or ahistorical. While it’s nice to acknowledge that the phrase “We are all immigrants” is untrue for Native peoples (and descendants of enslaved Africans), it’s even more important to name just whose land we are residing on. Native peoples are not people of the past, they are people with a past. Settler colonialism is still happening, and it is crucial to name Native peoples as holders of the land, acknowledging both their history and their current presence.
Why do you do a pro-Blackness recognition?
Emergent Strategy tells us that what we pay attention to grows, and Theory of Change tells us that it’s not about what we think is wrong, it’s about what we think ‘rightness’ looks like. By doing anti-Blackness acknowledgements, we felt that we were centering anti-Blackness and exhausting our Black firm members who already encounter anti-Blackness in their everyday lives. Rather than try to course-correct by decentering anti-Blackness, we decided instead to center pro-Blackness. We made the choice that this is what ‘rightness’ looks like; Black joy, not as a pick-me-up as a tragedy, but as something important that should be elevated in its own right.
Why do you pay land rent?
The Homestead Act gave 10% of all land in the United States to homesteaders, and 20% of the U.S. population can potentially trace their family’s history of building wealth to this very act. This act was made possible through genocide, deceptive treaties, and forced expulsion of Native peoples (who are one of the most economically disenfranchised groups in the United States, due to the methods listed above). We will begin paying land rent at the end of 2021 because we feel that it goes hand-in-hand with a land acknowledgement. We acknowledge that we reside on Umaha and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ land, and we financially support Native groups in return.
How do you pronounce Umaha and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ?
The best way to get an accurate pronunciation would be to ask a tribe member of either of these peoples. Our pronunciation comes from comparing various sources online, and the way that we have been pronouncing it as um-AH-hah and oh-CHEH-tee sha-KOH-ween. Our sources come from here, here, and here.
My organization wants to diversify its staff/board/clientele, are there any quick tips or easy fixes that you recommend?
Short answer: No
Long answer: No, because there are no quick fixes. Unconscious bias, socioeconomic inequalities, and redlining are not barriers to entry that quickly developed. They gradually accumulated and compounded over decades and centuries, and they must be actively combated, not approached with a ‘one and done’ effort.
Change navigation is something that we are passionate about because we believe a better future comes from better systems, better systems come from better organizations, and better organizations start with investing in the people within them. Even though it is very hard sometimes, we love the work that we do.
“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” Fixing your organization means investing in the humans in and around it. And that investment is a long-term process that requires new effort everyday.
Do you have a basic anti-oppression syllabus?
We do not, but we do have a list of resources that we use regularly and semi-regularly! You can find that list HERE.
What do you mean by “race is always at play”? Can’t an interaction just exist without bringing race into it?
We would love it if that was the case, and would be happy to be put out of business because of it. However, race is always at play because oppression is always at play. While that seems bleak, it’s important to know that -isms and phobias aren’t necessarily personal choices. Colonial powers have historically operated in a scarcity mentality, so one group reaping benefits and abundance means that another has had to experience a deficit.
These imbalances have resulted in deeply ingrained systems of (sometimes seemingly benign) oppression that have had a 500+ year head start on any interaction that we have today.