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21 Day Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge Spring 2020: Home

Spring 2020 | Cuesta College

The recent tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others have highlighted the systemic racism that exists towards Black people and other communities of color. As we stand in solidarity with those fighting for justice, we invite you to engage in the 21 Day Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge as a significant action every individual can take to make a difference. We think the Challenge is one of the most powerful interventions an organization can do to build community and create an inclusive culture. While we modeled this program on those done in other areas, this one is unique to our campus and community, highlighting local issues to help us all better understand how we can take meaningful action.

Have you ever made a successful change in your life? Perhaps you wanted to exercise more, eat less, or change jobs? Think about the time and attention you dedicated to the process. A lot, right? Change is hard. Creating effective social justice habits, particularly those dealing with issues of power, privilege and leadership is like any lifestyle change. Setting our intentions and adjusting what we spend our time doing is essential. It’s all about building new habits. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. The good news is, there’s an abundance of resources just waiting to empower you to be a more effective player in the quest for justice.

The Challenge can lead to transformative results, including:

  • Building new, positive habits that can change ourselves, our teams, our organizations and our communitites
  • Taking small actions alongside one another to create momentum and a sense of teamwork
  • Creating a profound, elevating experience to increase the likelihood that participants will take action
  • Participating in meaningful conversations about racism and social justice

Cuesta College ran the Challenge as a community project with daily email encouragements and in-person discussions in Spring 2020. We are currently updating the materials and planning for another launch in Fall 2020 with new resources and activities.

While you wait for the Fall Challenge, here are a few ways to engage with the materials:

  • At your own pace, do the 21-Day Challenge solo, or with friends and colleagues (see below for instructions)If your time is limited, we recommend engaging in Day 7, focused on African Americans as well as Day 19 on how to be an ally for social justice
  • Suggest new subjects or materials for inclusion in upcoming Challenges. These may include racial equity and social justice readings, video, audio, or activities. Anything you think would benefit our community. Please add suggestions HERE
  • Volunteer to host a discussion or event about one of the subjects covered in the Challenge. Please indicate your interest HERE
  • Sign up to participate in the Fall Challenge HERE -- we will send you emails when the challenge starts.

We look forward to you joining us in this commitment towards racial equity and social justice. Systemic change starts with each of us individually, and together we learn and grow.

Please reach out to for additional questions




Sign up for Challenge Emails 


Disclaimer: Cuesta College is not responsible for content created by outside parties including external links and PDFs. The organizers have made as much effort as possible to provide accessible links and resources. All advertisements related to any video, website, or article are not endorsed by the College.


Week 1

Before you get started, if you haven’t done so already, please fill out the pre-survey  to set your intentions and share your goals for the challenge with us. We also encourage you to download your Challenge Reflection Log – a tool to ensure you are taking full advantage of what the challenge has to offer. 


We want to thank YWCA Cleveland for their materials and resources as well as Dr. Eddie Moore and Debby Irving who first started the 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge.

Three students are walking and talking together on the Cuesta College campus




Racism is deeply embedded into the culture and history of the United States – so deeply embedded, in fact, that it can be hard to identify in ourselves. It goes beyond the individual acts of cruelty and violence often associated with ‘hate groups’ to perpetuate power structures that continue to privilege white people. These structures have overwhelmingly been built on the labor and unnamed contributions of people of color.

The activities in this program will challenge what you ‘know’ about race and social justice. It is likely you will be frustrated or even angry as you uncover truths along the way. We encourage you to utilize this discomfort as a way of shaking loose from old ways of thinking and doing and consider how you can be part of building a more respectful and collaborative community here at Cuesta.



  • Option 1: Unconscious Bias. Go deeper and take Project Implicit’s Hidden Bias tests, created by psychologists at top universities, to uncover some of your own unconscious biases. Remember, having biases doesn’t make you a bad person—it only makes you human. TIP: Proceed as a guest to access their library of tests and find out your implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation, skin tone, and other topics. We recommend you take the Race IAT. This is a free assessment and provided by Project Implicit, a network of scholars and researchers dedicated to collaborating with organizations and individuals interested in learning about the science behind and the impact of implicit bias.
  • Option 2: Speak Up. Read one or more of the compelling personal stories featured in the Speak Up Handbook by the Southern Poverty Law Center. We would like to point you to page 19, titled "What Can I do About My Own Bias?" but feel free to use the table of contents on page 2 to explore other topics that interest you. 


Privilege is the unearned social, political, economic, and psychological benefits of membership in a group that has institutional and structural power. How do you relate to these common examples of privilege in the USA?

Having privilege can give you advantages in life, but having privilege is not a guarantee of success. Privilege does not mean economic advantage, instead it is the ability to freely navigate the world in a way that is not available to people who are not white, able-bodied, cisgender, etc.

As the Challenge continues, we encourage you to use the reflection log to write down your thoughts. If you would like to share your reflections, join the online discussion! Click here to join the 21-Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge Canvas course where you can share your action plan with other members of the community.


Have you heard of the term “White Fragility?” For White people, “White Fragility” refers to their discomfort and avoidance of racially charged stress, which perpetuates racial inequity.  Many people of color, multiracial, and Indigenous peoples are familiar with this concept, but may not be familiar with the term.

Dr. Robin DiAngelo describes white fragility as a state of being for White people in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves can include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors shut down conversations, and inhibit actions which, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.

As our first week comes to an end, we hope you have taken the opportunity to look inside yourself and expand your mind through the different challenges offered. As we move into week two, prepare to shift your focus from the personal reflection that we have been exploring to a broader view of racial equity and social justice.


  • Option 1: "I'm Not Racist."  Watch Dr. DiAngelo's "Why 'I'm Not Racist' is Only Half the Story" video. Once finished, take a quick quiz from the publisher of "White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism," to see if you exhibit "White Fragility" traits.
  • Option 2: Reproducing Racism. Read a short article by Dr. DiAngelo that unpacks how we continue to reproduce racist outcomes and live segregated lives. TIP: We highly recommend reading Dr. DiAngelo's entire book. Better yet, read it with your book club and use this free reader's guide to discuss with your colleagues. 
  • Option 3: Common Racist Attitudes. Review this list of 28 common racist attitudes and behaviors that indicate a detour or wrong turn into white guilt, denial, or defensiveness. 


Week 2

On March 5, 2019, the California Attorney General announced that the police officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark (age 22) in March 2018— will not face chargesThe two officers fired on Clark, an unarmed African-American man, after a foot chase that ended in his grandmother’s backyard. The officers shot Clark seven times, including three times in the back, the official autopsy found.

Whether you agree or disagree with the decision of the California Attorney General, news like this is traumatizing and re-traumatizing to people of color. It is like a wound that never heals.

Research has linked racism to psychological distress, physical health problems, depression, anxiety, and trauma. The internalization of bias and oppression can cause great distress to minds, bodies, and spirits.

As Dr. Monnica Williams of the University of Connecticut has written: “What we really need is a large-scale shift in our social consciousness to understand the toll this takes on the psyche of victims so that even small acts of racism become unacceptable. We need those who witness racism to speak out and victims to be believed.”



Are you seeing and addressing how racism operates at different levels? Dr. Camara Jones, Senior Fellow at the Morehouse School of Medicine, says that in order to address racism effectively, we have to understand how it operates at multiple levels. Often what people think of first and foremost is interpersonal racism. Only seeing this level means that we fail to see the full picture that keeps the system of racism in place.



  • Option 1: Allegories on Race. Watch Dr. Jones' TED talk on the "Allegories on Race and Racism" where she shares four short stories to help us understand privilege and racism
  • Option 2: Systemic Racism. Check out this short video from Race Forward about the levels and the importance of looking at systemic, not simply individual, racism
  • Option 3: Racist or Antiracist. Listen to Ibram X. Kendi's interview with CBC Radio-Canada on his view on how we are either being racist or antiracist, there is no middle ground. Listen to the whole interview (51mins19s) or the portion on his understanding of race, harboring racist ideas and challenging racist assumptions (20mins34s).

Racism in America is systemic, and its legacy is woven so deeply into the fabric of this country that it permeates our communities in many forms today. To say that we live in a ‘post-racial’ society because we’ve elected a Black President, or see successful Black businesspeople ignores the daily racism people of color encounter in this country. Racism is not something we can end by decree, and Black people today are disproportionately impacted by poverty, incarceration, and housing insecurity.   

As you complete this activity, reflect on the ways you notice the legacy of slavery in our daily lives in 2020.

A quick read for context can be found here: From 1619 – 2019 From Slavery to Mass Incarceration.



Do you know the difference between Latinx and Hispanic? The words “Hispanic,” “Latino”, and “Spanish” all have different meanings - watch Kat Lazo’s video to clear it up (4mins29s).

Three women smiling and working together at a Dia de los Muertos booth


  • Option 1: El Detour. This challenge is also about celebrating diverse identities and cultures. Please take this day and expand your music list and listen to “El Detour” Radio on your Pandora station during your drive to/from work, in the office, or during lunch. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Pandora launched a new Latinx music station called El Detour in October 2019. El Detour highlights the genres and artists that can’t be put in a box and are challenging the definitions of what it means to be a Latinx artist. For those who do not listen to Pandora- no worries! Please move on to option 2 or 3.
  • Option 2: Nine Latinas. Read about “9 Latinas you should be learning about in history class.” For all the women who deserve a place in our textbooks and for the women whose voices should echo- this is for them. Though not at all exhaustive, this list includes some of the Hispanic/Latinas who made their mark on history.
  • Option 3: State of Higher Ed for Latinx. Over 50% of California's K-12 students are Latinx and while high school graduation rates have grown significantly in the past 15 years, many of these students are more likely to attend high schools that do not provide equitable opportunities to be competitive in college admissions. While about 54% of white community college students complete a certificate, only about 42% of Latinx students do so. In addition, the gap between Latinx and white student graduation rates has actually increased by 8 points at the CSU. In 2016 18% of Latinx adults ages 25-64 had earned an associate or bachelor’s degree, yet there are big gaps compared to Asian adults at 62%, whites at 52% and blacks at 34% (see the report here)There are multiple factors that have created this situation, including historical, systemic barriers such as remedial placement, where Latinx students have been placed into remedial courses at higher rates, yet the placement test is not an accurate predictor of college success. Take some time to read the Campaign for College Opportunity’s 2018 report on the State of Higher Education for Latinx in California.

Week 3

Asian American, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing racial/ethnic groups in the United States. These communities represent incredible diversity, spanning nearly one hundred different ethnic groups and speaking over 250 languages and dialects. This creates challenges to understanding the unique needs of individual groups and the dangers of believing the “model minority” myth.



  • Option 1: The Model Minority. Watch “The Twisted Truth Behind the 'Model Minority' Stereotype" (5mins27s) from Adam Ruins Everything for a history lesson on how this stereotype started. Then watch Ken Tanaka’s  video on one of the most common questions Asian Americans are asked: “What Kind of Asian Are You?” (2mins19s)

  • Option 2: Fair Admissions. You may have heard about the recent federal case of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, a lawsuit filed against Harvard’s Affirmative Action policy, which SFFA says discriminates against Asian American candidates by holding them to a higher standard. Regardless of the outcome, the case has highlighted the Asian American community and the inherent problem of considering the group as monolithic. It also calls attention to the “model minority” stereotype that portrays Asian Americans as economically successful, smart, hard-working and modest. Read Looking Beyond the “model minority”: Achievement gaps among Asian American Students

  • Option 3: Protecting Indigenous Land. The fight to preserve and protect indigenous land continues to be a struggle. Learn about the summer 2019 Mauna Kea telescope protests led by Native Hawaiian efforts to protect the mountain. 


California ranks 14th in the nation in gender equity. While this puts our state in the top third, it shows we still have a long way to go before women and girls are afforded privilege similar to their male counterparts. Gender inequality affects women beyond the well-publicized pay gap (women, on average, earn just 79 cents – the number is smaller for women of color). According to the World Health Organization, it contributes to damaging their physical and mental health, and also of boys and men despite the many tangible benefits it gives men through resources, power, authority and control. 

Smiling women sit in the front row of an audience


  • Option 1: The Visionaries. Pick a Visionary from How We'll Win: The Visionaries and read her story. Then, do the following activity:
    • Make a list of your women colleagues
    • Think of one thing you can do to increase the recognition for her contributions, and write it down
    • Then go through the list and do those things 

“Invisibility and erasure undermine current efforts of over 570 separate, sovereign, and modern tribal nations – each with our own languages, culture, and ways of life. Native Americans comprise just 1.5% of the population nationally. It is exceedingly difficult to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes when the average person is unlikely to interact with Native American people day-to-day.” 

Cynthia Connolly, Lake Erie Native American Council Board Member


The Northern Chumash are the first people to inhabit the land we now call San Luis Obispo. There are many bands that make up the Chumash people, including the federally recognized Santa Ynez band to our south. Though small in number, the Chumash people remain an important part of the fabric of this area. They are students, teachers, lawyers, mechanics, artists and builders. If you want to know more about the Northern Chumash, you can check out their website at:




You may be wondering what homelessness has to do with racial equity. The reality is that homelessness is largely caused by our country’s history of racism, and San Luis Obispo County is no exception.

We tend to think that homelessness and housing insecurity are simply caused by poverty, that they are simply due to a person’s inability to pay rent. But there is more to it than that. In San Luis Obispo County, the number of White people who are homeless are falling, but the number of people of color who are homeless have been steadily climbing for the past five years. 




Week 4

For students identifying as LGBTQIA, higher education may not an easy place to be. Research (GLSEN 2009) has shown that not only are these students often the focus of bullying and harassment by their peers, but also often by faculty and staff. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force discovered that fully one-fifth of all reported incidents of harassment and violence directed against LGBTQ people in the United States occurred on college and university campuses (NGLTF 1992). 

These students often take action to avoid the unwelcoming environment, which leads to a cycle of higher absenteeism, poor academic performance, and possibly dropping out. These students are often more vulnerable to mental health challenges ranging from depression and anxiety to PTSD and suicidal behavior.  

Students who identify as LGBTQIA benefit from basic kindness (as does everyone) and can truly use allies on our campus. We can do a lot to build an inclusive community by learning the importance of pronouns, respecting these students’ and staff members’ identity, and providing space for them to be valued. Please check out Cuesta College's LGBTQIAP+ Resource page for campus and community resources for our students. 


Blumenfeld, W. J. (2012) LGBTQ Campus climate: The good and the still very bad. Association of American Colleges & Universities. 15(1).




Did you know the Cuesta College Monarch Centers opened last year and just received a grant to provide free immigrant legal services to our students, faculty, and staff? Check it out! This is a day to celebrate our Dreamers!




Did you know that the U.S. Department of Education selected Cuesta College as one of five California colleges to participate in a pilot program with the goal of reducing recidivism for inmates through education? As part of the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, selected CMC inmates receive Pell Grant funds to cover the cost of Cuesta College courses, books and supplies.  In Spring 2020, Cuesta is offering 35 classes representing 29 courses and 26 instructors teaching over 400 enrolled students. There will be 28 students this Spring graduating with AA degrees in Liberal Arts!

Why prison education? Check out the Prison Studies Project.



  • Option 1: History of Prison Education. Watch Beyond the Gates, exploring the history of prison education by Harvard University (18mins34s)
  • Option 2: College Behind Bars. Watch PBS’ new “College Behind Bars Series, Part 1: No One Ever Taught Me Any of That” (57mins53sec). This four-part series explores the transformative power of education through the eyes of a dozen incarcerated men and women trying to earn college degrees- and a chance at new beginnings- from one of the country’s most rigorous prison education programs. 


One type of privilege often dismissed is the ability to navigate our physical surroundings and to participate in school and work without assistance. For 20% of Americans with physical and/or intellectual ‘disabilities’, this is not the case. This includes everyone from folks who need to use a wheelchair, are unable to walk long distances because of chronic health conditions, or wear hearing aids to people who need assistance with understanding a lecture or need a quiet space to take a test. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ableism is, “discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.”  


Week 5

The Oxford Dictionary of the Social Sciences defines ‘multiculturalism’ as “the coexistence of people with many cultural identities in a common state, society, or community” (Oxford University Press, 2002). A Culturally Relevant community goes beyond the basic gathering of cultures and looks for ways to create opportunities for people of different backgrounds to learn about and celebrate each other's traditions. 

Today’s options challenge you to invite more voices into the conversation – whether in the classroom or at the coffee house – and to reflect on how you can more fully participate in a culturally inclusive community. 

Three Mexican dancers perform in colorful dresses


  • Option 1: Culturally Responsive. Consider how we can progress from Multicultural to Culturally Responsive teaching and learning by reflecting on this graphic. If you are a teacher, how can you invite this into your courses? If you are a student, how can you bring your story into the community?
  • Option 2: Cultural Competence.  Dive a little deeper with this article and consider the same questions posed in Challenge 1

Building a stronger community takes time and intention – it also takes dismantling the obstacles meant to exclude. It requires being proactive and interrupting the status quo by stepping away from the way we’ve always done things and being open to more diverse insights.  

Today’s challenge is to reflect on a visual representation of the difference between ‘equity’ and ‘equality’ and to ponder how we create the opportunity for everyone to thrive. 



  • Option 1: Equity vs. Equality. Read this article: The Problem with that Equity vs. Equality Graphic. After reading the article, consider this question: In what ways can we begin to take down the ‘fences’ that create barriers to inclusion and equity at Cuesta?

No matter who you are, you can be an ally or accomplice to someone with a different life experience. Allies are folks who stand with someone who is confronting an obstacle – accomplices help people tear down the obstacles. As allies/accomplices, it’s important to take the lead from the person or group we are trying to assist, and to be ready to step in when they need us. 

Much of the work in this area is centered on advice to White people, though it is relevant to anyone finding themselves in a majority position whether it be race, gender identity, physical or intellectual ability, etc. 

Three students smile and pose together


  • Option 1: How to be an Ally. Watch this video: 5 Tips For Being An Ally (3mins31s) 
  • Option 2: Privileged in the NBA.  Read Kyle Korver from the Milwaukee Buck’s article titled Privileged


Congratulations Challengers! We know these topics can be uncomfortable and you have committed your time and energy for the last 20 days. In difficult conversations, knowledge can lead to real change. We know these discussions can be difficult and can bring up powerful emotions, but your commitment to increasing your awareness is what will help move our community forward. Real change will not happen overnight, but it starts with each of us individually. Thank you for embarking on this journey with us; I have nothing but hope and excitement for our future -  a future of racial equity and social justice for all. Knowledge is power - be powerful!


A man serves food at an event


  • Option 1: Your Next 21 Days. Using the resource lists from the last 21 days, make your own challenge, start a discussion group, book club, or commit to one on-going action you will do to continue to learn about racial equity and social justice.
  • Option 2: Reflection. Download and print a social justice coloring page and spend 10 minutes reflecting on what you’ve learned during the challenge. What is one thing you would want to share with a friend, family member, or colleague? Take one minute and write it down. Research shows that when you write down your goals, you are more likely to commit to them and achieve them.
On behalf of the Equity and Student Success Committee, congratulations on completing the first ever Cuesta College 21 Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge! We're so glad you joined us on this journey and we thank you for your continuous engagement. The Challenge is one way to build collective action toward creating an equity-enriched community. We hope you continue this commitment and meaningful work.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to hold a celebratory end-of-Challenge gathering as we had originally hoped. However, your reflections on your experience are important to us and we'd love to hear your feedback. Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey. All responses are anonymous.
Furthermore, the Cuesta College Foundation is actively working to support the essential needs of our students. We know that this is a rapidly evolving situation, but we are looking for help from those who can to support the Cuesta Assistance for Student Emergency Fund, which benefits students with financial need to help cover their basic needs during this developing time. In the spirit of allyship represented by the 21 Day Challenge, we ask that you consider donating today to this worthy cause.