On the topic of judging schools and organizations based on DEIJ and providing awards. To be
clear, we agree with developing and sharing good practice around a range of learning-focused
categories, one of which focuses on DEIJ.
We would like to understand the context of awards? How they come into existence? How are
panels organized? We would like to figure out why you think this work should be awarded.
For full transparency, we really struggle with folks trying to make justice & liberation work
competitive or even about recognition. We have observed that some of the systems outside of
us seem to create competition and ‘fights for recognition’ that, frankly, none of us are really
The idea of “winning” seems to run counter to what DEIJ work is about and also implies a finish
line when there is ALWAYS learning / work to be done. It also fails to recognize those who may
not meet the standards of dominant culture/institutions that truly aren’t invested in this work.
These institutions shouldn’t and don’t get to give a stamp of approval to work they truly aren’t
invested in. And if they truly were invested in it, they wouldn’t even think to give trophies out.
DEIJ work is a work of solidarity, community, and deep learning. Competition or
competitiveness are hallmarks of white supremacy, and almost always replicate oppressive
systems we aim to dismantle because they can be individualistic, binary, either you win or lose,
you get it or not. Award-giving like this opens the possibilities for school leaders to tick the box
without doing deep work. We have seen DEIJ becoming commodified, used as a marketing tool,
because of our rush to dole or perceive the need to dole out congratulatory cookies for doing
A few hand-selected lines from Michelle Mijung Kim, author of The Wake Up comes to mind
around ISC's ideas: “If the good we are seeking in this world is advancing social justice and
equity for all oppressed people, then we must measure our goodness by the outcomes desired
and impacts felt by those to whom justice and equity have not yet been granted. And only they
get to decide when something – our efforts, our impact, our apology, our outcomes – is good
Kim added, “Too many still approach social justice work like community service, as if we’re
doing a favor for marginalized identities, as if we’re spending our time and resources to be
selfless and as if we are deserving of grace, because “at least we are trying”. This attitude is
problematic as it centers us as martyrs while mischaracterizing the necessary work of
addressing centuries of systemic oppression as charity work.”
Considering our thought processes, what do you think schools who are actually doing this
important work would feel to receive this award? What does it say about a school who is
honored to receive such an award?
In addition to the white centering, competition, commodification; and who gets the authority
to confer approval of what constitutes equity and justice, and other reasons – all these make us
say no, not for us.
To be clear, we agree with “developing and sharing good practice around a range of learning-
focused categories, one of which focuses on DEIJ.” We believe that the categories should have
principles and practices of DEIJ and anti-racism undergirding all of these categories; and for
schools and institutions to ensure they are continuously and cyclically taking actions,
monitoring progress towards equity and justice. Receiving affirmation and recognition is
valuable but it would be much more meaningful and authentic if it came from within the
community and students. In fact, the only people judging DEIJ work in schools should be the
students from a school. How would anyone else know how the school is doing with serving the
very folks they are meant to serve?
Thank your time and for considering these matters. We hope you will take this email as
intended – with humility and as an opportunity for collaborative growth. We look forward to
The AIELOC Community