Racial Equity Challenge ‘builds understandings’

DOVER — The Racial Equity Challenge is well underway, and plenty of frank discussions during an active quest for introspective personal discovery remains.

The 21-day online event runs through Sept. 14 and is designed to “foster awareness, understanding and conversation to identify and eliminate the policies and practices that enable systemic racism in Delaware,” according to United Way of Delaware organizer Tierra Fair, who said there are almost 7,900 participants.

Members receive an email every weekday with a challenge to read a specific article, listen to a podcast or watch a video and then evaluate its relation to their own perspective on racial inequity and social justice conditions. A private Facebook group with more than 1,500 members allows conversation among participants on their personal findings and viewpoints coming from the exercises.

“The goal is to build new understandings and new connections and, in so doing, to begin dismantling systemic racism in Delaware,” according to a message on the event’s website at deracialequitychallenge.org.

“In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, America is engaged in a great national conversation regarding racial equity and social justice,” the site adds. “But sometimes, the hardest part of joining a conversation is knowing how to get started. The good news is, there are plenty of resources just waiting to empower you.”

For Alma Scott, 70, of Wilmington, the challenge has brought her in contact with a younger generation that’s examining perceptions of race and equality issues in the United States at a personal level. Ms. Scott, a Black female, said she’s been economically privileged while living in neighborhoods with mostly white residents for the past 40 years and described herself as someone who “somehow slipped through the cracks” regarding the prosperity she enjoys.

During Facebook conversations involving most, if not all, white participants, Ms. Scott took notice that the younger generation is most willing to engage and express their feelings.

“They are questioning the lies they believed about racial equality growing up, which began to be exposed as they moved on from college and into the work world,” Ms. Scott said. “They are more than willing to say they have regrets about seeing now what they did not see then. I have hope for younger people who are more willing to go on a search for truth the way older white people will not.

“White Americans do not talk about race anywhere, I don’t care where you find them,” she said. “So this is a good way to start the discussion.”

Maren Bertelsen, a white female from Middletown, said she’d spent her life living in “white spaces” before relocating to more diverse Delaware. Taking the challenge has helped expand her worldview from a racial sense, she said.

Among the discussion points are disparities in health and health care in terms of the pandemic and otherwise, disparities in education opportunities and perception and treatment by law enforcement, according to Ms. Bertelsen.

“For me, from the readings and videos and discussions, I’ve realized it’s important to hear from people of color and increase my education and knowledge of subject matter that I really knew little about and continue to learn,” she said.

“I began from a point of ignorance and was only hearing one side of everything based on where I grew up and lived (in the Chicago area),” she said. “There’s just so much you don’t know, and … this program perhaps goes a long way to fill that void.”

To join the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge, go to deracialequitychallenge.org. Materials are archived and can be accessed to join the discussion at any time.

The challenge is hosted by the United Way of Delaware and the YWCA Delaware.