Anti-Racism Open Forum
During our Open Forum in June, we had many questions submitted to us, and we are actively working on these responses. Since there are many, we determined that we would need to release these responses as they are ready. We will be working on the remaining questions and will release them as soon as possible within the next few weeks.
If you have additional questions, thoughts, or concerns, please feel free to submit them here.
Should majority-white leagues create diversity committees if they will be composed of white people?
White people can and should be part of the work of examining the policies and structures within your league that uphold white supremacy. We’ve also gotten a lot of valid feedback around the fact that many leagues are simply not recruiting BIPOC skaters or developing policies that create safe environments to manage diversity conversations well.
A D&I committee is a reasonable place to explore these issues and does not need to be a committee of experts. A committee can and should research and consult outside resources, including best practices from other leagues or organizations that are farther ahead in the work and have better policies in place, as well as professionals with relevant expertise.
A great starting place is a commitment to intentional work, to listening to and centering the voices of BIPOC skaters, and advocating for changes within the league structures that do not serve all members. Ensure BIPOC voices within the league are included and heard in conversations about policy changes. There are additional resources for forming D&I committees in the Code of Conduct Toolkit.
Any tips on how our league can center BIPOC voices in our conversations about race and inclusion, without putting more pressure and asking for more emotional labor from these folks?
The first step is self-education and the COC Toolkit has some great exercises for beginning this work. Additionally, there are a multitude of resources and reading lists available online and in local communities. In the coming weeks and months, the WFTDA is going to look for more resources to assist member leagues in this important work.
The pandemic and lack of actual training/gameplay makes our league a very quiet place these days. How do we kick-start important anti-racist work while we are not functioning? We want to be mindful of everyone’s capabilities right now but we also know this work is vital. Where can we start?
This forced break that COVID-19 is causing in WFTDA roller derby is a great time to start examining the policies and structures within your league overall, and in particular, ones that uphold white supremacy. Looking at your league systems and practices through an anti-racist lens does not require a D&I committee, though it can be supportive of that work. All it requires is a commitment for league members and leadership to doing that investigation and thoughtful exploration of structural improvement.
Urging league members to engage in self-education around anti-racism, having honest discussions about how league structures and culture have perpetuated white supremacy, and what feedback has been received that has prevented growth is a good place to start the reflection process. Then your league can begin the work of applying what you have learned to change that culture.
Is there a way for leagues to share case studies around how they have successfully tackled poor representation in their league and addressed barriers? Would be useful to see what is most effective.
It seems (to me, at least) like a glaring problem or several problems that leagues from cities with majority BIPOC populations do not have that diversity reflected in their skater populations. Why aren’t we addressing that?
We agree that this is a common issue that needs to be addressed across the sport. Before contemplating a deeper recruiting policy with BIPOC community members in your area, it is important to examine the policies and practices of your league that may have created a polarizing effect in your league. The WFTDA is investing in this process as an organization, and it requires an ongoing commitment to do this work. The Board of Directors, members of the WFTDA Staff, the WFTDA D&I Committee, and our Accountability Partners are committed to holding regular working meetings to examine how our current structures uphold white dominance and shape a working plan to dismantle and change those structures. Part of this work will involve exploring ways leagues will be asked to provide information on how they are actively recruiting and maintaining members. Details on this will be forthcoming. Education is in the process of adding more tools and resources to the Code of Conduct Toolkit.
What are we doing to educate our leagues in how to be welcoming and actively anti-racist in our activities?
We’re definitely not doing enough as it stands today, and we acknowledge that. The WFTDA is committed to doing internal training within our Board and staff first, before we develop materials for WFTDA membership that is outside of the WFTDA Code of Conduct and education. Additionally, Education is in the process of adding more tools and resources to the Code of Conduct Toolkit. We are always looking for feedback on the toolkit. If you have a suggestion, please submit it to us here.
What work has the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Advocacy Committee created in 2017 accomplished? Why hasn’t it been enough?
We recognize that the work of D&I has felt slow; but the D&I Committee, along with staff and organizational leadership, has been engaged in several major organizational initiatives that have some sincere impacts:
- In order to change the culture of the WFTDA, D&I and WFTDA leadership knew that two key issues to address were the Code of Conduct and Grievance Process.
- Overhauling the WFTDA Code of Conduct was a massive, multi-year effort that required two staff members, an attorney, our D&I committee members, and more.
- We began requiring all participants to sign and agree to the new Code of Conduct
- We developed the “Code of Conduct Toolkit,” which provides education materials for leagues to learn more about how to intentionally create an antiracist and inclusive culture, improve their league codes of conduct, and create their own diversity and inclusion committees.
- Overhauling our broken grievance process so that Code of Conduct violations can be addressed in a timely fashion, and that has also been an ongoing process for two years.
- Creating the Support Services program so that community members experiencing discrimination or oppression in their league have a place to turn to for support and guidance, and an outside party to help advocate on their behalf.
These changes have all been implemented within the past year, with Support Services becoming available just in April. Especially in light of seasons being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is too soon to know if they are making a difference yet. But there is so much more we can do: For example, D&I has begun an analysis of league logos and names for bringing to membership. This is work we intend to expedite in the near future, along with educational tools over time, including additional support for leagues.
What have you learned and/do differently in light of the outcry from your response to the #George Floyd protests and anemic response to racism in derby? What steps are you taking to improve in the future?
We acknowledge and apologize for the shortcomings in our communications during this time, and hope to earn back some of the trust eroded by engaging more thoughtfully moving forward. Since making our initial apology, our first steps have been to publicly commit to becoming an actively anti-racist organization and to bring regular updates on those actions being planned to dismantle and rebuild an organization that represents our community values. Work is also ongoing to put more resources into our Communications Department; impacts to our budget following the pandemic have slowed down any recruitment plans currently.
Are you writing a specific, measurable policy about addressing racism? Racism cannot be addressed through just a code of conduct. It is a completely separate issue, and diluting racism into conflict is a problem.
We know that our systems, policies, and structures are built in white supremacy by nature, and to this question specifically, a specific, measurable policy may not address the entirety of the issues we are identifying within the org. Our first steps to do this is to get help to build out a racial equity-informed approach to addressing our structures. We are excited to share that we have engaged a consultant, Dr. Bennett-Alexander from the University of Georgia, a diversity and inclusion specialist, to help us with framing our conversations.
A Board Advisory Council will be formed in the coming weeks to work directly with the Board Internal Partners group on overhauling the Board’s internal structure to be explicitly anti-racist. We would like to make sure we have BIPOC guidance and involvement in looking at our policies, and we welcome public engagement around this, which is why WFTDA Board meetings will be open to the general public for the foreseeable future.
From these discussions, we’re looking to create a series of concrete goals and a preliminary work plan toward addressing racism and long term anti-racism work within the WFTDA and its member leagues. We commit to transparency and resisting the impulse to provide a quick fix, but recognize that the community needs timely and ongoing action from the WFTDA.
We know it’s easy to say “we’re inclusive” but not actually take any action to increase inclusion in the highest levels of leadership (league and WFTDA). What are some actionable strategies you’re considering for (and recommending) increasing black and brown voices in leadership positions (Board, committee chairs, etc)? Baller had a great point about champs being very short of diversity (minus all us Indig folk! Lol) and how can top-ranked teams be held more accountable for equity practices to create space for top-level black and brown athletes on top-level teams?
At a Board of Directors level, a Nomination Committee has been created and their primary objective is to identify needs and perspectives that are currently missing from our existing leadership so that we can communicate those needs more clearly to Membership and bring in diverse leaders and voices.
We agree that WFTDA competitive pathways also need to be on the table to hold leagues accountable. In particular, the WFTDA would like to work on addressing leagues who are experiencing ongoing compliance issues with the WFTDA Code of Conduct, and also have an ongoing dialogue with membership around each individual league’s code of conduct.
For the initial Nominating Committee activity, the current Board of Directors completed an in-depth review of skills, demographics, and professional experience. Race and ethnicity were presented as follows:
White: 5, Black: 1, Latinx: 1, Greek/Jewish: 1. European Black Native American: 1.
Nationality was presented as follows: 7 Board members are American, 1 dual Columbian/American, and 1 Welsh.
The next steps are to pull this information together for all staff and leadership across the organization.