Musings of a Consultant Committed to Equity and Justice

Marcus Littles is our June Be Lumin-Us guest editor. You can read his Q&A with Luminare Group here.

By: Marcus Littles

I have been reflective about a recent occasion where I got to ‘play blocks’ with my 3-year-old best friend - and son. He asked me to play blocks, and so I excitedly obliged, but noticed that he was distracted and bored as I meticulously constructed what I felt was going to be the most incredible castle in the whole wide world.

In my mind (and heart) I was frustrated (and maybe a little hurt) because I wanted him to WANT to play blocks with me! So I asked him what was wrong, and he replied, "Dada... you like to build stuff, but what I love is to tear it all down!" 

He smiled. I stared at him. I finished my masterpiece castle. And my son walked about 10 feet away and then ran full speed and jumped on top of my castle, flattening it. And he beamed with so much pride and said, "See Dada! That was SO. MUCH. FUN! Can we do it again?!?!"

One of the ways that my colleagues at Frontline and I support organizations is by helping institutions to center their organizational culture and work in equity and justice. 

Our work with organizations aims to:

  • Assess their current culture and practices

  • Provide space for staff to develop a collective vision for an equity and justice-centered culture

  • Introduce tools, research and case studies to help organizations to operationalize this culture. 

There is a tendency in many organizations, to move past the most painful stuff as quickly as possible. Naturally, it is a tough process for organizations to authentically acknowledge how deeply white supremacy and patriarchy is ingrained in their institutional structures and in an individual’s mental models.

Often, we are asked to help institutions lift up ideas for the culture they aspire to. Others request that Frontline develop a blueprint - a step-by-step guide of ‘best practices’ that will help the organization to build an equity and justice-centered culture. 

I believe it is important - and I genuinely enjoy - creating space for groups of people (organizations, teams, families) to collectively imagine and build out their vision for a culture that embodies equity and justice. But, there is a biblical story that uses the illustration of seeds planted on rocky ground that ‘withered because they had no moisture,’ to make the point that in order for new life to take root it requires removing the barriers or ‘rocks’ from your foundation.

It occurs to me that on one hand, maybe my son is wise in building out his competency of tearing blocks down. That is indeed the work that, in my estimation, we all must get better at doing.

But, on the other hand, I want to do a better job of tearing down the blocks of white supremacy and patriarchy so my son doesn’t have to be good at it. I want him to be free to imagine and dream and build his blocks to be whatever he wants them to be.

In either case, I wonder...

→ What if our aspirations for new ways of being, that are grounded in equity and justice, are impeded because we haven’t torn down the long and deep roots that our country (and our organizations) were built on?

→ What if our efforts to center racial equity; diversity, equity, and inclusion; equity and justice - amount to shifting colonial structures instead of dismantling these structures?

 What if our focused pursuits of building new structures with our blocks are misplaced efforts that should be replaced by taking a sledgehammer to the calcified blocks of white supremacy and patriarchy?

I wonder. 

Marcus Littles is the Founder of Frontline Solutions.
Contact →
→ @mlittles