By MindOpen Team
Having a common framework to understand, discuss, and act on inequality is essential to undo racism across systems. Recently, MindOpen had the pleasure of meeting Natalie Gillard, creator of the experiential Factuality board game. Natalie pivoted in response to COVID-time demand to create 'Just the FACTs, a virtual "90-minute crash course on structural inequality in America"-- and we could not wait to bring it to our clients and colleagues.
We invited members of the Greater New York Metropolitan Non-Profit and Social Impact sectors to participate. Over 100 individuals representing all organizational levels joined us for the MindOpen-sponsored NYC-area debut of Just the FACTS by Factuality.
Here is one participant's account:
I am a cisgender biracial White and Asian woman. Laila is a Black woman who is different from me in a range of social identities. On July 9, I stepped into the shoes of Laila's character as a participant in Just the FACTS by Factuality.
Factuality is a facilitated dialogue, crash course, and interactive experience that simulates structural inequality in America. Participants assume the identities of one of the eight characters in the game, encountering a series of fact-based advantages and limitations based on the intersection of their race, class, gender, faith, sexual orientation, age, and ability.
In America, we have incredible diversity along all of these spectrums. These spectrums intersect in ways that impact each of our daily lives and our futures.
Often, when we think of racism, sexism, ageism, or any other form of oppression, we focus on the interpersonal. How is that person spoken to at the grocery store? Treated at the doctor's office? Looked at when they hail a cab?
But the reality of these oppressions is that they are much bigger than individual intention or impact. Oppression in America is rooted in institutions and policies that have privileged the needs of some and marginalized others' needs.
"It was startling to learn about the enduring effects of structural racism across generations and how policies from the past have shaped the world we live in today," said a participant.
We see this structural racism in how COVID-19 has struck Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities much harder than other communities. This outcome has everything to do with structural marginalization from safe housing, quality healthcare access, and educational and employment opportunities.
In the Queens neighborhood where I live, comprised primarily of people of color from low-income backgrounds, I've had to wait two to three hours standing in line in the hot sun for COVID-19 tests. In neighborhoods where some of my friends live, primarily White and upper-middle-class, there is little to no wait. This is structural, a reflection of unequal resource distribution just miles apart.
One White female participant commented, "[Factuality] makes me wonder what particular policies related to things such as housing or jobs have created generations of privilege benefitting my family and me."
As I consider that same question for myself, I think about Laila and the generations of inequity that shape her daily life. Could she have gotten a COVID-19 test at all? What is her access to healthcare like in general? What would her job be? Would she even be considered for some positions that I have had?
Factuality does something that no other workshop I've attended has ever done - it asks us to look both inward and outward, into history and into the future, at ourselves and our institutions, all at once. In doing so, we are moved to change the world around us. We are grounded in facts about what that change should look like.
MindOpen is committed to supporting organizations in the work of moving from awareness to meaningful change towards racial equity and social justice. Following the NYC Just the FACTS facilitation, we convened a follow-up virtual Accountability Session where participants shared challenges and collectively strategized on action steps, strengthening new connections across organizations. Our Founder, Elizabeth Speck, offered one-on-one consultations at no charge for participants' change efforts in their agencies.
To learn more about how MindOpen builds on equity, diversity, and inclusion training to ensure that learning leads to real change, sign up for our newsletter, or schedule an Equity Action conversation with Elizabeth.