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"Change" and the Journey of Achieving Equity and Social Justice

Updated: Feb 14

Photo by Kelly from Pexels


Having followed the research on 'change' over the last 20 years, I notice that the reasons for resisting change have remained constant. Two reasons are at the heart of this country's struggle for Equity and Social Justice.

Comfort with the status quo is a driver of resistance. White people have been at the top of the racial hierarchy since this country was formed. As a result, institutions were built by whites for whites. Thus, if one is born white, one is automatically supported by those institutions. As a white person, I took for granted the easy access I had to employment, education, and ease of movement in, out, and within all aspects of our society. This institutional privilege represents the status quo.

For 'change' to occur, the status quo needs to be challenged which is what the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s-60s was about and continues today with the Black Lives Matter Movement. The push back these movements experienced and are experiencing is related to the second important reason for change resistance: the fear of losing control and authority.

This fear has been propagated over the years leading to increased violence toward people of color. By encouraging this behavior, the previous administration lent the perpetrators legitimacy and elevated their sense of control and authority.

This fear can also be found in the recent comments by Arkansas's newly elected governor. Her recently signed executive order bans the teaching of critical race theory because, in her words, "We need to protect our children." 'Protecting' them from learning the truth about this country's racial history clearly exemplifies both ignorance and the fear of losing control and authority endemic to the dominant white hierarchy.

The antidote for dissolving resistance to change starts with a broader understanding of how we react to change. Over the years, my organizational work has focused on helping my clients understand and manage rapid change. While doing this work, I discovered when a major change was announced, the employees reacted in one of three ways. First, there was a small percentage who were on board immediately, They were identified as the 'early adopters' of the change. I found that the majority of employees were neither for nor against the change. These individuals fell into the 'gonna wait and see' category. Lastly, there was a small percentage of employees who totally resisted the change. They fell into the category of the 'cuddly curmudgeon'. I found that focusing on cultivating the 'early adopters' and those who were 'gonna wait and see' was the best strategy for moving a change forward. I discovered that in time, some of the 'cuddly curmudgeons' would eventually join ranks.

I believe this understanding is important as I pursue social justice work. ProPOC Consulting wants to invite those individuals who are already committed to the social justice and equity movement, the 'early adopters', to join us in learning how to become dedicated ProPOC allies.

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