Race Equity Statement
Tawonga is a multigenerational Jewish community that seeks to connect people to Jewish roots and traditions, uplift people’s humanity, encourage a communal mindset and enliven and restore connections to nature. At odds with this vision is the fact that Tawonga exists within the larger camping industry, heavily utilizes a national park system and sits within an ecosystem of Jewish communal institutions, all which have systematically perpetuated and upheld systems of white privilege and white dominance, contributing to the exclusion and oppression of People of Color and displacement and erasure of indigenous peoples. We begin this work by reckoning with the fact that our Yosemite location sits on the ancestral and unceded territories of indigenous peoples, most notably the Central Sierra Miwok, and our community benefits from a settler colonial project that has wreaked violence on indigenous communities.
Tawonga as an organization recognizes that, particularly as the Jewish people have always been and continue to be multiracial, we cannot in fact achieve our purpose without centering racial justice and equity building efforts. We recognize that Jews of Color experience the compounded oppression of anti-semitism and racism; therefore it is incumbent upon Tawonga and our community to work toward ending racism – in ourselves, in our community and in the world. Historically, Tawonga has failed to center these efforts and knows that our failures have perpetuated harm for people within and outside our community. Specifically, neglecting to develop a race equity lens at Tawonga has resulted in staff members of Color and campers of Color experiencing various instances of harm, ranging from microaggressions to more overt racism during our programming. Our leadership is deeply sorry for this harm Tawonga has caused. Moving forward, we seek to continue developing and refining a race equity lens to bring to all aspects of our work.
We seek to do this in a way that honors our interconnectedness with our entire community, external partners, the land and our history. We know that racial equity building work is lifelong and never ending. We hold in mind the teaching from Pirkei Avot that, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” We move forward with humility, accountability, a willingness to learn, to make amends where necessary, to be creative and to try things we’ve never done. We know that pursuing our goals of racial equity and justice will be an iterative and nonlinear process, and that we will likely make mistakes along the way. We are committed to listening and doing the work to take accountability for and repair harms (and the learning necessary to do better moving forward). We seek to empower BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) in our community to be decision makers and collaborators as we set our direction in this work, and we ask that our community and partners hold us accountable.
- Listening to and empowering BIPOC community members: Tawonga seeks to center and uplift the voices of BIPOC in our community. We are committed to listening and repairing past and current harms. We seek to ensure that BIPOC have decision-making power and are part of setting the direction for our anti-racist efforts and for the community as a whole as we evolve and grow.
- Indigenous Solidarity: We seek to build relationships with indigenous people, to learn from and with them and to educate our community about the native people, and their practices, whose unceded territories Tawonga’s Sierra location occupies.
- Learning: We are committed to ongoing learning at the camper, family, staff and board levels of the community.
- Increasing the racial diversity of our staff and board: We know that our community underrepresents the racial diversity of the broader Jewish community, and we are committed to changing this through more thoughtful and thorough efforts to recruit and retain more racially diverse leaders. We understand the power for all children, and uniquely children of Color, to have confident, caring and multi-faceted BIPOC role models. Our community is incomplete when BIPOC folks are not part of all levels of the organization.
- Updating policies, procedures and processes to promote a race equity culture: With support from outside experts and through ongoing reflection and evaluation, we are committed to ongoing revisions of policies, procedures and processes to more effectively support a race equity culture.
We see this statement as a living document that will evolve, as we recognize that this work is iterative as our understanding deepens. We look forward to being in conversation with our community regarding this work and keeping the community abreast of our ongoing progress, challenges and efforts to advance and center Tawonga’s racial justice and equity building work. In order to realize our full vision to uplift humanity and repair the world, it’s essential that this work is communal and collective. To our entire Tawonga community: Thank you in advance for holding us accountable and for your support to move the needle of our organization closer to justice, together.
Race: “Race – The categorizing of humans into different groups based on perceived physical differences. There is no biological foundation to “race”… Although race is not biologically grounded or natural, it has very real implications regarding the current and historical marginalization of Black and Brown communities because of institutional racism. Race is not to be confused with ethnicity; your race is determined by how you look, while your ethnicity is determined based on the social and cultural groups you belong to (Fanon, 1952). The fundamental difference is that race is socially imposed, hierarchical, and inequitable (Conely).” – the Conscious Kid “Race designations have changed over time. Some groups that are considered “white” in the United States today were considered “non-white” in previous eras, in U.S. Census data and in mass media and popular culture (for example, Irish, Italian, and Jewish people).
– Race Equity Tools
Racism: “Racism is a system of advantage based on race (Tatum, 2017). It includes laws, institutions, cultural messages, and policies working in tandem with individual and group level behaviors to reproduce white supremacy and racial inequity (Claire & Dennis, 2015). A simple way of defining racism is prejudice plus power. There are different types of racism, including individual, systemic, institutional, and internalized.”
– The Conscious Kid
Race Equity Culture: “A race equity culture is one where: One that is focused on proactively counteracting race inequities inside and outside an organization (from Equity in the Center). It requires an adaptive and transformational approach that impacts behaviors and mindsets as well as practices, programs, and processes.”
– Equity in the Center
White Privilege: “White privilege refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white (Racial Equity Tools, 2013; McIntosh, 1989). Generally, white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it. White privilege is not the suggestion that white people have never struggled or had it hard, but that race/skin color is not one of the things making it harder.”
– The Conscious Kid
Microaggressions: “Racial microaggressions are described as “subtle insults (verbal, nonverbal, and/or visual) directed toward racial minorities, often automatically or unconsciously” (Solorzano et al. 2000). They are hidden in everyday interactions and the undetectable tendency helps to widen the gap of racial realities. Most White Americans experience themselves as decent human beings who believe in equality, and thus find it difficult to believe they harbor biased racial attitudes and express discriminatory behaviors. The cumulative nature of these innocuous expressions is detrimental to racial minorities because they sap the energy of recipients which impairs performance in multitude of settings (Omi and Winant 1994; Sue et al. 2007a, b)
Thank you to the following individuals who participated in Tawonga’s working group (facilitated by Rena Payan, Justice Outside) to develop our Race Equity Statement: Alexis Lezin, Frannie Mejia, Mae Sarah, Casey Cohen, Kiyomi Gelber and Jamie Simon.