The distinction between a tool and practice is subtle and almost not worth the distinction. However, we’ve found that for adult learners, creating this distinction is useful to distinguish between what must always be present in dialogues about race (tools) and what is context- and goal-based (anti-racist practices). A tool must be on-going and ever-present in communities that are committed to anti-racism. An anti-racist practice, by contrast, is what is made possible in a community committed to using the tools.
The Power Flower practice is a community organizing exercise with a long history. Shared in the text Educating for a Change and updated by many, the power flower is a visual and artistic way to explore our multiple social identities and our positionality (where we’re located in the power structure due to the collection and intersection of our multiple social identities).
Below are examples of Power Flowers completed by Rise facilitators:
Race is by far the identity that I think about most. I decided to make four different sections and shade in one of the outer layers, but not the outermost layer. I identify as Black, but know that I benefit from colorism as a light-skinned person. Over the years disability has grown larger for me every time I do this activity. I use disability instead of ability because I strongly identify as disabled. It impacts every part of my being and how I participate in life. This is another one where I chose the middle layer because although I do have disabilities, they go largely unnoticed by others. The institutional barriers I face with access are still salient so it felt important to emphasize disability. I identify as nonbinary in my gender and many times strangers find it hard to place me in a gender (based on the questions they ask me!). I shaded in the outside petal. I think about class a lot as it relates to student debt and other expenses moving to a new city. I made the petals so that there was a tiny chunk of space between middle and the heart of the section. I firmly identify as middle class because I have the privilege of not worrying about necessities. I shaded in the outer petals for religion and sexual orientation because I identify with non-dominant identities in those categories. Citizenship has the smallest section of my flower because I never think about it or fear any consequences based on my identity.
I think about religion a lot. As a practicing Muslim, I think about how to best practice my religion in a Christian-centric society. December is a month like any other month for me, there is no holiday that I celebrate; with having time off then I work harder to create a teaching syllabus that works around my own holidays, which I need to get approved from my department head so I don’t hold class. I think about how to balance the demand of work and expectation of productivity alongside the deep spiritual observance of Ramadan; I think a lot about how to communicate my preference for not working on Fridays or at the very least not schedule anything mandatory around Friday prayers. I examine ingredients in stores, request special foods at events, and ask about menu items at restaurants to make sure I uphold my dietary practice. I am always looking for places to pray if I am not home, or try to plan meetings around prayer times. These are just some examples of the practicing part.
I think about religion a lot because of how I am racialized as a Muslim, and the systematic polices that disadvantage Muslims—like, at airports and how my husband and I are consistently chosen for “random searches.” I think about how to support my children in this identity because of anti-Muslim rhetoric, especially in schools.
I also think about my racial identity and ethnic background a lot. I am racialized as an Arab, as a child of immigrants. This shows up in my brown skin even if I am lighter than my family members. It shows up in my name, and it shows up in how I talk to my daughters. I’ve noticed that I do not speak in Arabic to them in public like I do at home.
I rarely think about my gender as a cisgendered woman. Sometimes I do when I am the only woman in a room, but that happens less then being the only Muslim, or the only Arab, in the room.
I do not think about my citizenship. I am a U.S citizen, it is a powerful passport, I have travelled internationally with it and received access to certain things because I hold this passport.
I do not think about ability; I can do what I need to do and I can get to where I need to get.
I do not think about my age.
I currently do not think about my class status.
When I was younger, "race" would have taken up much less space on my Power Flower. I think a lot about race now because I've spent time intentionally building my awareness of it.
As a Jewish person, I am targeted by the oppression of Christian Hegemony. Within Jewish community, though, Ashkenazi culture is centered and privileged at the expense of other Jewish ethnicities. I separated "religion" and "ethnicity" with a dotted line, because I experience them as deeply intertwined, but with important distinctions.
Some of the wedges on the Power Flower are smaller or larger than they otherwise would be because I have surrounded myself with queer, nonbinary, and femme community where my experiences of these identities are eased, mirrored, and supported.