The “5 D’s” of Anti Racism

by Jenny Silbiger (Follow us on LinkedIn)

My approach to anti-racism is realizing that it is a marathon, not a sprint. And, while the road is long (and sometimes arduous), it does not mean it is not worthy to travel. Let’s get together and walk down this path a little bit.

Photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash

At the 2023 ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference, I was lucky enough to join one of the last sessions of the conference, “The 4Ds of Successful Workplace Anti-Racism Efforts (Hint: “Diversity is not one).”  The speakers were the amazing Whitney Knox Lee, from the Southern Center for Human Rights, and Milo Primeaux,  Just Roots Consulting LLC.

They shared that addressing anti-racism means analyzing power, understanding who has it, who needs it, and how to redistribute it in a fair and equitable way. They offered a connection of the “D”s as related to their anti-racism values, and guess what? Those values are based on something that makes sense to both our logical thinking as well as our hearts: Equity/Justice/Fairness, Courage/Curiosity/Trust, an Abundance mindset, Embracing imperfection (and you know I’m all about that from my previous posts here and here), along with Accountability as a generative act of love.

So without further ado, here are the 5 Ds (we got a bonus D, 5 not 4) that they shared, along with some of the questions that we can ask ourselves when we are in our workplaces:

Decentralize Decision Making:

  • Are all groups affected by the issue at the decision-making table?
  • Is this an opportunity to share decision-making across stakeholders?  (And if not, how can we ensure transparency and accountability?)
  • What fears arise at the idea of sharing decision-making?  And are they based in reality?

Decenter Whiteness:

  • How does the issue we’re dealing with embody or sustain white dominant/supremacist cultural norms?
  • Are we centering BIPOC voices and leadership on this issue?
  • How do BIPOC employees see themselves represented around this issue?

Deputize Authority:

  • Who is in the best situation to make decisions on this issue?  Why?
  • Where could gate-keeping or bottle-necking occur?  
  • What might be gained by individuals being their own authority in this situation?
  • Are we giving people all the resources they need to succeed?

Decolonized Accountability:

  • How do we define “accountability”?  How can we further reframe it to center abundance, generative love and inherent value in difference?
  • What would happen if we proactively embraced imperfection on this issue?
  • How can supportive, reparative accountability serve (calling “in” vs. calling out) to counterbalance risks we may be taking with this issue/project/plan?

Delegate Responsibility:

  • Have we clearly delineated the issue and desired outcomes?
  • What roles can people play to address the issue/are roles being assigned equitably?
  • Who might need to be involved (& balance burdening or over burdening), and are tasks and expectations clear for every role?

After the explanation of the 5Ds—which are, I hope, feeding your brain and heart as much as they are mine, we broke out into discussion groups on how we could apply the 5Ds in a workplace scenario. In our case, it was about how we address or don’t address the concept of telework for legal service providers. As you can imagine, you could bring that discussion into law libraries and our parent organizations, and while the brainstorming was wonderful, I couldn’t help but notice one important thing, also shared by our speakers.

The road to anti-racism is paved in meaningful connections. It is not about blaming who or what for past wrongs, but dismantling old stereotypes and generating new ways of thinking and coming together to create something new. Sometimes, that means setting aside our comfort and making room for sharing uncomfortable experiences—because that makes space for embracing empathy and for reparation. We cannot erase the past, nor should we. But by learning and embracing humility, explicitly centering values and norms that enrich BIPOC, we can come together around shared goals. We can meet people where we are at—and cultivate a new sense of ‘accountability,’ where we can not only coexist, but welcome each other as sacred. And in doing so, we can be supportive and generate a loving and kind way of being and doing. The idea that “we sink or swim together”—a place of “nothing for us without us.”

Let’s be an “us”. A diverse and imperfect “us”, always seeking to understand, always approaching with humble curiosity and genuine kindness to be better selves.


Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.