Equity education expert Dr. Nooshin Valizadeh is facilitating The L.A. Trust’s equity, diversity and inclusion effort.
Officers, board members and staff of The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health unpacked issues of equity, diversity and inclusion at a special online meeting May 24.
Intersectionality expert, educator and “Artivist” Dr. Nooshin Valizadeh led the discussion, which was designed to foster thought exchange; define racism and understand its history and impact; and to name, challenge and change racial biases.
In one exercise, the 28 participants filled in the statement, “As a [blank person] I do not know what it is to navigate our society as [a minoritized identity].” The workshop explained the difference between equality (everyone getting the same thing) and equity (everyone getting what they need to reach fair outcomes and opportunities).
Dr. Valizadeh shared a chart demonstrating that overt white supremacy like hate crimes is only the tip of a large foundation of more subtle forms of racism, from cultural appropriation to so-called color-blindness.
The roots of racism
The participants filled in a “racism tree” that showed the seeds and roots of racism (slavery, colonialism and biased laws, policies and practices) to the sustaining trunk of racism (from the criminal justice system to underfunded schools and healthcare).
Participants then named the branches (results) that have grown from the tree that’s been sustained over hundreds of years, including shorter life spans, mass incarceration and disparities in healthcare and education. Dr. Valizadeh cited Ibram Kendi’s book, Stamped from the Beginning, to share that the actual foundation of racism was self-interest.
Several participants said they left the two-hour event feeling both inspired and challenged. The session was part of a larger equity exploration by The L.A. Trust, included a series of staff trainings.
Dr. Valizadeh has a background in equity and education, and has been teaching race and gender equity courses for USC and UCLA since 2015. She works with local schools and districts to facilitate professional development and address structural barriers that disproportionately impact students of color and their success.
She also helps school leaders impact change through her innovative and trauma-informed approaches to restorative justice and serves on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for the Long Beach PTA Council and is the DEI Chair at Fremont Elementary School.