Today, I want to talk about race.
Last week, like any other week, I was on many Zoom and phone calls with clients, colleagues, and friends. Last week was different because at least once each day the conversation turned to race. It started on Monday when I was talking with a client about transitioning an in-person creativity training for their leadership team to an online session. We got the details worked out in 15 minutes then spent 30 minutes talking about race. Like me, she is a white woman living in Western North Carolina. We talked about how we learned racism in our childhoods and how it has shown up in our adult lives. We talked about how we are dismantling racism in ourselves and talking about it at home. I smiled and nodded to myself as I hung up. It was refreshing. It was refreshing because it was real. I felt a deeper connection with her and more excited for our work ahead. I also felt a glimmer of hope.
Thank you Jennifer for the real conversation and thank you for what you are doing to lead change in your organization. We need more leaders like you!
As the week went on, the conversations continued. I realized I wanted to send an email out about race and the racial injustices in the U.S. (and around the world). I’m not a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) trainer, but if we rely on them to do all the work we’ll never get anywhere. We need DEI trainers, but we also need to educate ourselves and take action.
If you don’t know where to start, here are a few actions that I’m taking. It may spark ideas for you. I’m particularly talking to my white brothers and sisters, but this list may help anyone.
- Educate yourself. If you are new to understanding racism, systemic oppression, and how white people perpetuate racism, please educate yourself about these issues and concepts. Do not ask people of color what you can do. Do not burden them with teaching you. There are endless resources available for us to educate ourselves. My friend Aisha Adams recorded a great message on Facebook Live with several ideas for how white people can support Black Lives Matter. I highly recommend watching it.A few additional resources that I’ve found helpful:
- The Deliberate Creative Podcast interview with Dr. Tanya Williams about how diversity in teams can increase creativity. (If you need a DEI trainer, she’s great)
- White Fragility by Robin Diangelo – an excellent book that has sparked meaningful conversation in our house
- Follow people and organizations who are doing anti-racism work, local and nationally.
- Attend trainings about understanding white privilege and how to dismantle racism.
- Vote with your wallet. When I was getting my Master’s degree, I had a very wise professor Dan Garvey. He taught me the concept that people vote with their feet. If people don’t like something or don’t want to do something, they’ll leave. This is why we leave bad bosses, don’t go back to the restaurant with bad service, and leave bad webinars mid-way through. We also vote with our money. When it comes to racism, there are organizations that have been fighting this for decades. Select local or national black-led organizations and if you are able to donate to them, do it. Same goes for companies led by People of Color. Whether we like it or not, money matters and money talks. Vote with your wallet.
- Talk and listen. Engage in conversation with your kids, your family, your colleagues, and your friends about race and racism. Share your frustrations, your fears, your hopes, your actions. Here are some questions I’ve used to prompt conversations (thank you to my wife Julie Koenke and many others for sharing these questions with me over the years):
- How old where you when you first recognized race?
- Where did you learn your racial biases? What messages did you learn?
- How have you stopped or interrupted your own racial biases?
- How might you continue to stop or interrupt your own racial biases?
We all have a lot of work to do to end racial injustices. It starts from within. I hope this gives you some new ideas for how you can take action to help create a more equitable world.
Please reach out if I can help you or your team in any way.