Scouting a Path Towards Social Justice
Recently, I had the pleasure and honor of supporting a Boys Scouts of America troop in the process of earning a newly created Eagle Scout requirement merit badge: the Citizenship in Society merit badge
The focus of the Citizenship in Society merit badge is to provide you with information
on diversity, equity, inclusion, and ethical leadership. You’ll learn why these qualities
are important in society and in Scouting, as well as how to help other people at all
times and serve as a leader and an upstander.
The Boy Scouts of America continues to be committed to developing a culture in
which every youth, volunteer, and employee feels included and welcomed — and to
building communities where every person feels respected and valued.
We welcome families and individuals of all backgrounds and identities to help prepare young people to serve as successful members and leaders of our nation’s increasingly diverse communities.
We are committed to creating inclusive environments and promoting a culture of respect and belonging for all.
We expect all members to be guided by the Scout Oath and Scout Law. As found in the definition of “reverent” in the Scout Law, we expect our Scouts to “respect the beliefs of others,” both within and outside of Scouting.
We want everyone who follows the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law to feel welcomed and able to take advantage of the many opportunities Scouting provides, and we want every Scout to feel a sense of acceptance and inclusion in their unit and in Scouting.
We expect and appreciate that our Scouts do their best to make all feel welcomed.
Learning about and understanding different identities and abilities will help each Scout understand what to do to help make other Scouts feel welcomed and find a sense of belonging in Scouting. ©2021 Boy Scouts of America
I must confess that I was apprehensive about working with the BSA given its very serious failings as an institution. It is sadly the case that institutional failings when it comes to social justice are too too common in this country. While I practice great care and discretion in deciding what kinds of organization I'll try to support, the fact is that DEI work is almost unavoidably about working with deeply flawed structures, systems, and institutions.
Institutions consist of individuals and individuals interact with institutions. About a million years ago, I was a young individual who interacted with peers and adults who interacted with the BSA. Here's my scout handbook - eighth edition, 1972, $1.60:
I'm grateful to have experienced only good things during my time as a member of the Beaver Patrol in Dorchester, MA way back in the day. Like many people who have experienced Scouting, I am aware of its flaws and its virtues.
With all of this in mind when my neighbor asked if I'd consider engaging with his son's troop to help them earn the new Citizens in Society Merit Badge (a requirement of which is to talk directly with someone who works in the DEI field), I said yes. After all, the sixty or so kids in the troop and their families are not to blame for the failures of the BSA as an institution. Instead, they are seeking to realize the institution's virtuous aspiration to make social justice integral to its identity and practices. I was happy and honored to do what I could to support this forward movement. And I was impressed and delighted by how thoughtful, pleasant, candid, appreciative, and actively engaged the kids were during the program.
To prepare the kids for the program and orient them to my views on race, they were asked to watch my TEDx Talk: Charting a Course Beyond Racism and to submit questions and topics they wanted to cover during our discussion. I've included their questions and topics below. I placed them in the categories you'll see and used them as the roadmap for our discussion. After my time with the troop, they went into structured small-group discussions with their leaders, and I've been told by the neighbor who invited me that discussion of the program has continued in organic and expansive ways.
I entered the program with the troop wondering how receptive and engaged they'd be to my perspective and advocacy regarding what to do about racism. I left with evidence that if we can give kids a chance to be the pure and powerful philosophers, critical thinkers, and change agents they are quite capable of being, our flawed structures, systems, institutions, and nation might yet grow more and more inclusive, empathic, compassionate, and just despite their roots and current involvement in misguided and harmful practices.
The troop's questions
Dr. Hoyt's background
I would like to hear how racism has impacted his own life, including his experience in a mixed-race family.
How have you faced discrimination in your everyday life?
Have you had attacks about what people thought about your race, personally?
Who are your mentors or role models in this work? Did you ever feel that people would never break free of racialization?
Was there a specific reason or event that happened which led you to fight against racism?
Do you lead protests about racial inequality?
How did you un-train yourself from all those biases? Did you also initially have that bad roadmap?
How did you come up with the five steps in the jar activity? (Selecting, sorting, attributing, essentializing, and acting).
What are some examples in real life about racialization?
What’s the difference between race and being racialized?
How do you suggest that we stop racializing people, while not becoming colorblind at the same time?"
Does racialization affect all parts of our lives?
Do you believe that all "isms" such as sexism are parallel to racism?
Could you elaborate more on the four steps? how can you act on the four steps daily?
Why are we taught the things we are taught about the world and race?
Social Identity|Social Bias|Social Justice
What other analogies would you use other than roadmap? and What other example would you use to start a lesson other than the jars?
How do you work to educate more people about racialization, and actively looking past race?
Why do you feel that some people think that all people of color deserve to still be treated in a harsh manner?
How do we come up with these assumptions about people?
How did our brains get to thinking about the differences in skin color versus the similarities between people? Why does our brain focus on differences instead of similarities?
Why do you think racism is still part of society?
How much do you think racist people know they are being racist?
We all need to be aware of racism and we should accept the way we look at each other.
Are positive stereotypes (stereotypes that aren't insulting) about races harmful too?
How would you go about convincing someone to change their way of thinking?
What are some everyday examples of how we can use a different map to be an antiracialist?
Is it possible to become 100% not racist?
Because the phrase "black people" and "white people" were made by racists, would it be racist of me to use those phrases?