Los Cien panel takes on racial equity discussion

The event, “Standing Up for Racial Equity,” focused on dismantling the barriers that prevent people from speaking about racism, among other issues.|

As a child, Lisa Carreño did not know there were some topics that were just too taboo to discuss with her family.

She learned race was one of them when her questions about the subject were met with admonishments from some of her relatives, said Carreño, the CEO and president of United Way of the Wine Country.

Their response to her inquiries led Carreño to associate feelings of shame and fear around that topic, she said.

“I would feel afraid of asking those questions, afraid of lifting my voice,” Carreño said. “I felt exposed for doing it wrong, for not seeing the world, maybe, the way I should.”

On Thursday night, Sonoma County’s Latino leadership group, Los Cien, attempted to dismantle the barriers that prevent people from speaking about racism as part of a broader, virtual conversation titled “Standing Up for Racial Equity.”

Carreño, who serves as vice president of the leadership group, was one of four panelists who participated in the conversation.

Nikko Kimzin, the panel’s moderator and founder of the local arts and equity consulting firm, Kimzin Creative, likened the conversation to bringing up the topic of race with relatives, whether that be a “tío” or “tía” (uncle or aunt), around a dinner table.

“That’s what I love. We’re at this messy dinner table and tío might say something, or ‘Oh, oh, tía, what’d you say?’” Kimzin said. “But you’re still here and we’re still eating together. We’re still learning and growing together.”

Part of Thursday’s conversation focused on some of the reasons why people might feel uncomfortable talking about race.

Angie Dillon-Shore, the executive director of First 5 Sonoma County and one of Thursday’s panelists, said speaking directly about how race and white supremacy influences decision-making can come with risks, such as fracturing personal and professional relationships.

A fear of what one might learn about themselves when engaging in those discussions can be another barrier, she added.

“It’s shame of, ‘What is my connection to these oppressive systems?’” Dillon-Shore said. “But I think something that could really help to move a lot of this forward … (is) learning to separate how to critique and pull apart white oppressive systems without confusing them with individual people, including ourselves.”

Panelist Dr. Daniela Domínguez, a psychologist who founded a consulting, coaching and therapy business that works with marginalized communities, said part of what motivates her to have those conversations is her hope for a world where there’s “cross-racial solidarity and radical love.”

In order to make those hopes a reality, Domínguez said she regularly takes stock of her own actions, as well as the realities that exist today.

“The work starts with us and so for me, it’s about keeping it super real and honest and asking myself, ‘Dani, how have you perpetuated and been complicit in white supremacy?’” Domínguez said. “Because we’ve all been conditioned for white supremacy and white supremacy has harmed all of us.”

Panelist Oscar Pardo, a local attorney who serves on the Los Cien board, shared his personal experience with microaggressions, which are subtle acts of exclusion based on conscious and unconscious biases.

Pardo, who is Latino, recalled being asked to show proof of being an attorney at a courthouse in Mendocino County, though other white attorneys were not required to do the same.

Pardo added that the act of “breaking bread” with community members who come from different backgrounds than one’s own can help with recognizing when they experience microaggressions, and could potentially better prepare someone to step up and help.

“You have a deeper understanding and can say, ‘I’m here for you,’” Pardo said.

One of the final topics of discussion was around colorism in the Latino community. Colorism is discrimination against people with dark skin tones, usually within the same racial or ethnic group.

The discussion was followed by a question from an audience member, who asked the panel what considerations were given to inviting a Black-identifying panelist to the program given the day’s topic. None were present on Thursday.

Carreño acknowledged that the panel didn’t represent everyone, though she hoped there would be an opportunity to invite a more diverse set of voices in future Los Cien events related to the topic of race, she said.

“It’s imperfect,” Carreño said of the event. “It’s a starting place and not an ending place.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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