Unconscious Racism

It’s taken me two weeks to find the words to write this post because I learned unconscious racism exists in my very own family. I’ve witnessed overt racism in social media, the news, and from our very own President but to see it show up unconsciously for the first time so close to home hit me hard. Unfortunately, I have some family members who have shown up overtly racist due to their upbringing and the beliefs that were instilled in them. I do not bring this up as an excuse but to paint a picture that it’s one thing to stand up for a belief and a whole other issue to defend a belief that you think you know a lot about but in reality, you’re just poorly educated.

I realized unconscious racism can be so much more harmful than overt racism; you think you’re doing the right thing and you don’t hear how you’re hurting people due to that belief that you’re doing good. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to watch and see where one can help. This is why I continue to write these posts; I hope I can at least help one person re-educate themselves and rewire the learnings they’ve been taught as truth.

To help further my learning, I’m now reading “The Color of Law” to better  understand how racism was perpetuated in the United States and supported by our own Supreme Court. I also hope I may build more empathy for those who are still unconscious to the privilege they have and so that I can find the right way to reframe their unconscious behavior to show the harm they are causing with their racist actions. 

Week Three

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Introduction to Being an Antiracist with Kim Crayton

Throughout the event, Kim asked a few times why we white folks are just waking up now? This isn’t new. Where have we been?

For me, I’m not sure why. How could I have not seen what was going on or asked more questions when big pieces of American history was glossed over like a bad day? 

By no means is this an excuse but more of a reason for my blindness from the truth. In my family, we were taught racism was overtly prejudicial behavior such as KKK cross burnings or using racial slurs in conversation. But I now understand that racism is not only defined by discriminatory action but also being part of a group with institutional power, a definition recently updated by Merriam-Webster.

This means that because I am white, I am racist. But I can work towards becoming an antiracist by listening, donating to Black Rights Activists groups, and lending my network to Black people to share their voice. But the number one priority is to listen because I know I’ve been causing harm and I need to learn how to help.

Week Two

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A New Noodling Experiment

Racism.

I’ve been learning a lot about it lately and unfortunately, my eyes have been opened to the racism directly around me. But I’m trying to get better at not dwelling and instead, doing something.

On that note, I’ve decided to write more targeted blog posts. In fact, I’m beginning an experiment of documenting everything I learn each week about racism and sharing how it’s impacted me.

Week One

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The Power of Voice

I’d like to start this week’s post with a story from my father (it is Father’s Day Weekend):

There was this famous Opera singer, who during an interview was once asked who she thought was the most beautiful singer. She replied new born babies. They have perfect pitch. Sadly, throughout their early lives they are constantly told “Shh…” and soon, they lose that voice. Only a small few continue to use their voice and keep that pitch.

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Speaking Up Against Injustice with Intention

This past week I’ve felt angry, saddened, and frustrated. The recent murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, piss me off while at the same time make me deeply saddened for their families that are left behind. But the frustration I was feeling was with myself. How could I have sat here all these years watching racism happen before my very eyes and not have been part of the solution? Silence is not action! But I know dwelling on the past isn’t going to solve anything. I need to start with better educating myself on the injustice that exists in our society and look at what steps I can take to promote change. Change with intention. 

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When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade with a Friend

It was a tough week. Someone very important to our organization made the hard decision to leave the company. He was our upstander, guiding light, and coach. It was a hard and sudden loss to digest that put our team principles to the test (as if COVID-19 hasn’t already). When life hands you lemons, sometimes making lemonade just isn’t enough.

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Learning While Leading

Last week I spoke about my ongoing career journey and my most recent turn into the Chief of Staff role. I expected there to be one steep learning curve but what I hadn’t considered was the fact that I was also stepping into leading a distributed team. At times, it’s felt like I’ve been learning how to build a ship while also steering it at the same time (I borrowed this analogy from a fellow team mate). It’s been one of the biggest career challenges I’ve taken on thus far but I’ve begun to experiment with some approaches that I hope others find useful.

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People Move Positive Change Forward, Not Politics

The “Me Too” movement helped bring attention to systemic challenges women face everyday and held people, in many cases men, accountable for their actions. Women now have more permission to be an upstander and support people whose voice was not heard or not believed. But there is still work to do, especially in corporate America where it’s easier to put on a facade of change under a sheath of employee resource groups and diversity quotas. Until there is inherent change in how we show up to each other and cut out the bullshit to focus on what really matters at the heart of these changes, long-term, positive change will not be sustainable. 

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