The Profound Impact of the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge©

5 Min Read By: Samantha C. Grant, Vanessa Kelly

In 2014, Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. developed a revolutionary change to the typical “one and done” or annual one-to-two-hour training on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dr. Moore’s system, the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge©, is appealing as it flows from the thought that it takes 21 days to develop lasting habits. For those who like challenges, especially self-challenges, Dr. Moore’s system intrigues. The purpose of the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge© is to advance deeper understanding of the intersections of race, power, privilege, supremacy, and oppression. Participants in a Challenge complete a syllabus of 21 relatively short “assignments” (typically taking 15–30 minutes) over 21 consecutive days, that includes reading articles, poems, and other written material; watching videos; and listening to podcasts. The Challenge is enhanced when self-reflection is paired with participants sharing their observations and experiences.

In June 2020, the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law stepped up to inspire meaningful and lasting action, given the global reckoning on racial equity prompted by the murder of George Floyd, and created a syllabus for a Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge, adopting Dr. Moore’s approach. The Challenge focused on racism toward and the experience of the Black community. It was intended to be responsive to the need for allies to learn about racism in all its forms and develop the tools to be anti-racist without further burdening those who have been subject to such inequities by having them relive or explain the devastating impact of racial injustice. Though the Black community is not monolithic and the Challenge could not possibly highlight all of the diversity of experiences and opinions within a particular race, much less substitute for learning about the experiences of any other race, the syllabus served as an introduction for those seeking to learn more and to attempt to be effective anti-racist allies. The goal was to provide participants with the knowledge and tools to look at their and their organizations and communities’ actions through a racial equity lens and make meaningful change to address the inequities that exist in our organizations and society as a whole.

With a similar goal, and after receiving positive and supportive feedback from those participating in the original Challenge, the ABA Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council created a 21-Day Challenge Committee to create more Challenges and expand the reach of anti-racist education. The Council decided to create new Challenges to coincide with the commemoration of several heritage months and, with the support of ABA volunteer attorneys and staff, created syllabi in honor of Black History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Native American Heritage Month, which also highlighted intersectionality. The Council also sought to expand the Equity Habit-Building Challenges beyond race and ethnicity and, working with the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, created a Challenge in honor of LGBT Pride Month as well. It is currently collaborating with the ABA Commission on Disability Rights on a Challenge in honor of Disability Pride Month in July.

Many individuals and organizations have contacted the ABA to express their gratitude to us for creating syllabi for and promoting the Equity Habit-Building Challenges. Indeed, law firms, companies, courts, bar associations, universities, hospitals, and the like have all written to the ABA to let us know that they are participating in the Challenges and how profoundly impacted they have been by the assignments of the Challenge. The response from the legal and other communities has been gratifying to us as members of leadership in the ABA. Dr. Moore has also been thrilled with the increased focus the ABA has brought to his 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge concept and our expansion of the Challenges beyond racial equity.

The ABA serves to advance the interests of justice and to provide examples of practicing law with integrity. Attorneys, in particular, can be forceful and mindful agents for change within our organizations, the broader legal community, and society in general. As employment attorneys who advise clients on diversity, equity, and inclusion and seek to promote DEI in our profession and communities, we recognize that we will all still make mistakes in our interactions, but we strive for greater understanding. Participants in the Challenge have told us that they feel more mindful, and more equipped to be supportive allies and have much needed, though sometimes difficult, conversations in the workplace and our broader communities.

Because the Challenge is intended to be adapted for specific audiences, it is an ideal project to be implemented in organizations of any size. Given we are in the middle of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we want to encourage you to consider participating in the Challenge focused on the AAPI communities, available at this link: May ABA-Wide 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge © AAPI Heritage Month. The Challenges do not solve the systemic problem of racism and other “isms” in our society. In becoming more educated and mindful, however, we sincerely believe that the Challenge can affect meaningful and long-term change in minds, if not hearts, too.

The 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge© is the registered copyright of America & Moore, LLC, 2014.

Samantha C. Grant is a partner of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP in the Labor and Employment Practice Group. She is Chair of the ABA Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council’s 21-Day Challenge Committee and Immediate Past Chair of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law. She also serves as Vice-Chair of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Advisory Board.

Vanessa Kelly is a partner of Clark Hill in the Labor and Employment Practice Group. She is Co-Chair of the Women’s Affinity Group of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and past Chair of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law’s Annual Legal Conference.

By: Samantha C. Grant, Vanessa Kelly

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