Racial equity fatigue is the fatigue of those who feel that progress toward racial equity is frustratingly slow or even stalled, and of those who are disgusted by the political backlash against reform. This is the fatigue of those who feel that the charges of systemic racism being made are not always fair, who resist change, or for whom the changes are happening too fast. This is the fatigue of organizations that have been spending time and money for a year and a half with little visible improvement in team cohesion and effectiveness.

Here are some recommendations. They are inspired by several sources: my personal experience as a child of Moroccan immigrants to France, an immigrant to the US myself, and over 20 years of anti-racism work across sectors; the successful experiences of resilient post-conflict communities around the world, from Rwanda to the Middle East, from genocide survivors to refugees; and an innovative six-month, 50-interview research study conducted by my organization, Toward Antiracism Now, on anti-racism challenges and best practices for foundations.

  • If you experience racial equity fatigue because you feel progress is frustratingly slow: First, decenter yourself. Remember that you are taking part in a centuries-old struggle that has involved countless individuals, from Native Americans resisting extermination to enslaved Africans revolting for freedom, hundreds of thousands of people who marched in the civil rights movement, and today’s social justice activists. The efforts to dismantle racism have started well before you, and will continue well after you.
  • If you experience racial equity fatigue because you feel that the anti-racism change underway is not always fair, or happening too fast: you may be right. I have also witnessed instances of injustice in the name of racial justice: people silenced because of misinterpreted words or bad intentions assumed, anti-racism language used not to dismantle domination but to impose domination over others, or communities being kept in blind spots.
  • If your organization experiences racial equity fatigue because of little improvement despite spending resources: Ask yourself, “little improvement” compared to what? No short-term results will ever satisfy the most passionate activists, so build metrics that are specific to your organization and industry.

Read the full article about racial equity fatigue by Benjamin Abtan at Stanford Social Innovation Review.