Day 7: Becoming an Accomplice

Day 7: Becoming an Accomplice

Read. Reflect. Take Action.

The word "accomplice" is fairly new in Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) spaces.

It is usually referenced within the legal system, or in action movies involving a heist and a getaway car. So, what does "accomplice" mean in a JEDI context?

Well, it means the same thing really. An accomplice is someone whose hands are not clean from an action being committed. It means you become a stronger ally to marginalized groups. Next, you move into advocacy, where you work to change systems of oppression. Then, you become an accomplice. Being an accomplice means equity could not have been achieved without you.

In heist movies, there is always a dynamic duo: Bonnie and Clyde. Thelma and Louise. Batman and Robin. These duos are in sync when it comes to the task at hand. They couldn't achieve it without each other. The interesting part about being an accomplice is your hands are just as imprinted on the work as others'.

Think about your journey through Equity Challenge 2024. You have learned a lot — about systems of justice and how inclusion is not always accessible. You understand the nuances between allyship and advocacy. And you probably listened to the song "Unbreak My Heart." (If you have no idea what I am talking about, I invite you to go back to the day 4 activity.)

So, what does all this mean? Yes, you've learned more, or you've reaffirmed some learnings. What is new about Equity Challenge 2024 is we are all in it together. You and I have read, listened to, and watched the same activities. That means we're accomplices in this work. We know what to expect from each other.

As a diversity, equity, and inclusion practitioner, I have heard one question from businesses of all sizes. “How do I find shared language around diversity, equity, and inclusion?”

At United Way of Rhode Island, we heard the same question. But, we did not just listen to the question being repeated. We looked inward. We asked our community what they needed. And they gave us the same answer: shared language.

Behind the ask for shared language was something else — understanding. It was knowing, "I can speak to Kevin, and although he is different from me, I know he will understand me. Even when things get uncomfortable, we can communicate through our shared language. And through that comes shared learning, which leads to shared accountability."

In 1943, Abraham Maslow introduced his hierarchy of needs. It asserts we all have the same physiological needs: food, water, shelter, and sleep. Now, think about this: When you do not feel safe, do any of these needs diminish, intentionally or not?

On day 1, I shared a story about losing my community — one I had belonged to for 20 years. When that happened, the earth shifted beneath me. I lost sleep and my appetite. I was also at risk of losing my home.

How can we expect someone to thrive if their foundation is slowly crumbling? The answer is we cannot.

You may be wondering what this has to do with becoming an accomplice. This is it: When we share a common language, we have shared agreements. And when shared agreements exist, we then have accountability. And when there's accountability, we can connect with others' humanity and ask them to be with us in the trenches.

The trenches of life are hardships that rock your world when you are about to take the next step. You feel yourself starting to slip, but someone sees you in your totality. They have been where you're going, and they will not let you fall.

Equity Challenge 2024 is meant to bring us together — to see each other for who we are. This reminds me of a beautiful greeting widely used in South Africa: Sawubona (I see you). Sikhona (I'm here to be seen).

This phrase expresses our shared desire: the need to be seen, and the ability to see.

Until the next time we see each other.

Have questions? Email Kevin Matta at