Blog

Embracing Difference with the Children’s Bureau

oppressivemoments1In August, LDIR had the opportunity to work with supervisors at the Children’s Bureau to support them in exploring how diverse identities within an organization influence approaches to difference and the impacts that has on an organization’s culture. We spent the day engaging in challenging but fruitful dialogue. One participant reflected, “It was the moments of discomfort that actually moved me the most.”

Participants were especially impacted by the introduction to cultural humility. The practice of cultural humility encourages people to be aware of and acknowledge their own barriers to understanding another’s culture. It helps to mitigate the distinctions between learning about another culture, relating to that culture or being a part of that culture. As the Children’s Bureau team discovered, this approach to navigating diversity is one that can create a culture of embracing difference.

What if Donald Sterling were a LDIR?

By Povi-Tamu Bryant, LDIR Program Coordinator

MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP FILE PHOTO

MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP FILE PHOTO

If Donald Sterling had the opportunity to become a LDIR, what would be different? LDIR participants learn to understand the way their positions in society shape how they interact with others and, in turn, how others interact with them. As a LDIR, Sterling would have had a chance to think about, discuss and understand the way his life was shaped by being able to afford to own a NBA team, being able to walk through the world without being negatively impacted by his race, and being able to benefit from his gender. This type of deeply personal reflection could have opened Sterling up to understanding the ways our different experiences–and intersecting identities–impact us. Sterling could have reflected on and changed his interactions with friends, colleagues, and the Clippers team with a critical awareness of how he has had a different level of access to resources.

Besides growing awareness, LDIR would have helped Sterling to build the skills needed to create equitable professional and social environments for those around him. LDIR would have helped Sterling understand that action is necessary for change. Sterling could have been a powerful ally, advocating for change that was informed by Clippers team members, women colleagues, LGBTQ peers and more. If Sterling were a LDIR, we would have a different NBA.

If every team owner in the NBA were to become a LDIR, the league would be stronger. When you understand that leadership requires self-awareness, you are positioned to create major shifts. Employees, players, and fans could have stronger investments in teams and the league, knowing that the leaders in the NBA understand the impacts of their power and are invested in building strong teams and relationships across difference. There is so much to be gained from having LDIRs at all levels, not the least of which is healthier work places and personal relationships. If all team owners were LDIRs, maybe no team would ever feel compelled to warm up hiding their logo.

A New Name, A New Approach

After 23 years, the LDIR program is changing its name! Yes, we are. We’re changing our name from Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations to Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations. A subtle change, we know, but intergroup better emphasizes our commitment to working on issues beyond race and ethnicity. We are committed to an approach that values addressing the many ways that people identify as human beings – and have experienced injustice. Addressing intergroup relations also allows us to better express the way that collaboration actually happens in our communities. The “I” in LDIR may have changed, but our mission to equip individuals and organizations with awareness, skills, and the action steps necessary to foster inclusion and equity, remains the same.

In addition to our name change, we have also changed the way we do our work. Many of you know that for over 20 years we have been known for our signature six-month training programs. They were intensive, requiring a commitment of time that was not always feasible for those who wanted the skills and learning experiences that we offer. After much thought and a year of field testing, we are embracing a new training format and taking a new approach. We now have a public calendar, accessible to all on our website, that allows for easy registration for our one-day and half-day sessions. We have taken the themes and issues that have been at the core of our training and have made them more accessible for an expanding audience.

Lastly, if you haven’t noticed, we have refreshed the look and feel of our website. Check us out. So, in 2014 LDIR has a new name, a new approach, but our same commitment and values. Spread the word!

Jane Elliott on Racism

By Jenny Chhea, LDIR Intern
Watching Oprah Winfrey’s show from 1992 that had a segment of Jane Elliot talking about race in America made me look at race at a whole new perspective again.
In this video, Jane Elliott – a white women – claims that she herself is racist because she was born and raised in a racial society. Explaining her experiment as a teacher to her students, she explains how in her blue-eye/brown-eye experiment to teach diversity training, brown eyed people are separated from blue eyed people and are treated as people of color. But treated in this perspective – unable to speak to the blue-eyed folks, unable to question any authority, and not allowed to play on the playground  – her students become angry, feeling shocked and oppressed by the experiment.
Jane Elliott further goes on to reveal to the audience other forms of how racism is institutionalized in our society. It is institutionalized in our education. “Brown eyed” people contribute to our society, but only in the education system are we taught about white contributions. Racism exists in the form of cartography – where in social science maps, the United States is in the center and Greenland is shown as a large island even bigger than South America. Band-Aid colors are based on the color of white flesh – not people of color. Peach color pantyhoes are sold as “nude” to represent the nude color of whites, not people of color. When in elementary school we try to color our skin in our drawings – we use a peach color to color our faces – not yellow, brown, or black.
By the fact that this is from 1992 shows that our struggles are still continuing. It is now 2013 and today we still face these problems of racism – even when people claim that our society is post racial. Even though we are in the post civil rights movement and no explicit segregation exists today, people of color still face different forms of oppression. Institutionally, our education and history textbooks still fail to talk about the contributions of people of color and mention their history in the United States. Systematically, our justice system fails to address the fact that people of color are the most criminalized – and police brutality is sometimes targeted at people of color. Interpersonally, people still make racist comments towards each other. But not just about race; micro aggressions even exist in gender and sexuality. With the age of technology and internet, oppression takes on a new outlet through cyberspace – allowing not only discriminatory opinions to be shared online but providing a question as to who has access to this medium. These forms of oppression show the immensity that institutionalized and interpersonal racism still exists in our society and how we as people of color, or allies of color, need self-advocacy to fight for justice.
Today, we need to become social change leaders and proactive allies. Becoming a social change leader means being committed to social justice and equality and believing in the empowerment of underprivileged communities. It means being critically conscious of the power dynamics of our society and the different levels of oppression – but also using this understanding to create dialogue among others. It means bridging the gap between different race, gender, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation to create interpersonal and intergroup relationships to fight for common social justice. Being a proactive ally means also understanding this power dynamic and using whatever privilege possessed to help fight for that common social justice. Today, we need these types of leaders who understand the continued oppression and who understand the need to create intergroup alliances to fight for change. Leadership Development for Interethnic Relations, created after the 1992 Los Angeles riots that rather pit different racial groups against each other, actually facilitates these types of workshops in its trainings. LDIR develops these leaders that we need in society today.
Like what Jane Elliott said – “we don’t need love. We need justice.” it’s not just love that we need for each other – we need a love for justice.

 

 

Here is the video:

Restorative justice at the CAHRO Conference

By Karen Driscoll, LDIR intern

CAHRO ConferenceOn April 2, 2013, the California Association of Human Relations Organizations (CAHRO) held a daylong conference, “Overcoming Violence & Injustice: The Humans Relations Approach.” The conference featured a panel discussion on how Restorative Justice is helping to transform and heal communities. Rooted in an indigenous practice, Restorative Justice (RJ) aims to proactively address conflict and build community simultaneously. Through the use of “in-circle”, participants (made up of community members, the perpetrator, and victim) are able to discuss the harm that has taken place and decide how to best resolve this harm. As panelists discussed, this practice is successfully being used in schools and juvenile justices systems as an alternative to suspensions and incarceration.

What struck me as most profound about Restorative Justice is that first, perpetrators must be willing to accept responsibility for the harm committed and second, victims get the opportunity to resolve unanswered questions. By allowing both parties to lend their voices and perspectives, a deeper human bond is formed and relationships are transformed. And as this takes place, other members of the community are helping to support the process by providing insights that the victim and perpetrators might not otherwise be able to hear and receive. Here’s an example: Two students are in a conflict with each other, their peers note it and call for a circle. The circle could include the students in conflict, the parents of the students in conflict, peer support for each of the students in conflict. As the harms are being named and discussed, parents can offer support to each other and problem solve together, while the students are given space to be heard and recognize the fuller ramifications of their actions on the community as a whole. The students are provided an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions in a way that does not create further harm, i.e. suspension, missed education, etc.

With such meaningful outcomes, Restorative Justice is a dynamic practice to bring into community work and allows communities to not only address but heal from the trauma associated with issues of race, justice, and equality.

Here’s the panel description, including a list of speakers:

“Restorative Justice: A healing alternative for systems, schools and communities.” Panelists Alicia Virani, equal justice fellow and restorative justice specialist with The California Conference for Equality and Justice; Denise Curtis, program manager for restorative community conferencing for Community Works West; and Edgar Dormitorio, assistant dean of students at UC Irvine will discuss the implementation of restorative justice practices and principles in secondary schools, the community and as an alternative to the juvenile justice system

LLC on LDIR and Tools for Social and Racial Justice

Many thanks to Deborah Meehan and Leadership Learning Community for this shout out to LDIR!

Several years ago I had the opportunity to participate in StarPower a game simulation that was conducted by Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations (LDIR). Without giving anything away I think that I can safely say that most of us thought it was a powerful and illuminating experience. LDIR hosted the session for leadership development programs so that we could learn from and about StarPower as an important tool for leadership programs that want to help participants understand how oppressive systems work and are perpetuated. I bring this up because Dave Nakashima has generously offered to conduct a session for leadership development folks in the Bay Area. You may wonder which leadership programs that would be most beneficial to. I would say all. Why?

In 2010 the Leadership Learning Community in collaboration with a number of people and organizations working on racial justice, came together to write and publish, “Leadership and Race” in an effort to encourage leadership programs to bring a more race conscious lens to their work. We encourage you to read the report if you haven’t yet. We hope to create more awareness that many models of leadership development are culturally biased and that the best intended leaders will not be able to address disparities that exist throughout society without understand the systems that produce them. One of the things we learned in the process of producing the report from a survey conducted by Sally Leiderman, who has done a lot of work and is developing curriculum for transforming white privilege, is that less than half of the leadership programs that responded to the survey had curriculum for introducing structural racism or white privilege. While StarPower focuses more in economics, there is a clear intersection between class and race and the systems that continue to perpetuate advantage and life opportunities that are often influenced by race and ethnicity.

We recognize that it’s not just enough to call leadership programs to bring a new awareness and tools without providing more resources.  In that vein we want to thank Renato Almazor, Director of Programs at LeaderSpring for his recent webinar, Transforming Privilege and Power now available for viewing.  Stay tuned for StarPower coming to the Bay Area Leadership Learning Community Circle this spring.

Click here to read the post on LLC’s site.

Facilitating Someone Else’s Process: Helpful Guideposts

By Carmen Morgan, LDIR Program Director

Setting the Tone
We cannot force someone to become enlightened, transformed, or aware. Our only role is to create the path by which someone can walk towards their own self- awareness. As we create that path, we should acknowledge and be aware that we are also walking that path ourselves. Our own journey continues. Our own awareness process is not over.

If we come to this work with an attitude of one-ups-manship, or as the “enlightened teacher” we will not be truly effective. If we come to this work with the humility and grace that was afforded to us as we learned about ourselves, as it is afforded to us even now as we continue to learn about ourselves, then we can do some good.

Having an Open Heart
Many of us believe strongly that the nature of our work is on the side of justice. Because we are committed to values of truth, equity, and fairness, it is easy for us as activists to become headstrong and self-righteous. It is no wonder we often do not model the values that we profess. We are angry, justified, indignant, and often burned out. And this cycle continues. The truth is that a self-righteous activist is not helpful. A self-righteous community worker is not helpful. A self-righteous, angry facilitator is not helpful.

Nor is it helpful that we position ourselves as martyrs who will burn out without self-care. And while our anger towards injustice is justified, it can often get in the way of building relationships with people. When did the issue become the person? How can we work against injustice without working against each other and ourselves? This is our greatest task.

Showing up with Grace
So then, how do we show up? We show up as a part of the process we are guiding. We are not separate from or above, merely guides. We show up with compassion and with a commitment to honor the individual, the process, and the group. All three are intertwined and invaluable. What is not valuable is our own ego or desire to control the process or an individual’s journey. “Why don’t they get it?” we might inquire. Well, why don’t we get it?

We show up with a listening ear. It’s really not our airtime or grand opportunity to expound on our wisdom. Let your wisdom shine quietly. As facilitators we can create dynamic processes and hold up powerful questions for reflection, and then step back. It’s helpful for us to keep asking ourselves, Why am I still speaking? Did I really hear what was shared? Active listening takes a tremendous amount of energy – more energy than it takes to speak. When in doubt, err on the side of listening.

Lastly, and most importantly, show up with a commitment for self-care. We must commit to continuing our own learning and healing. We need to be clear about our own limitations and when we need support. It does not mean that we become selfish, but that we remain self-aware and remember that our own journey is unfolding. We are not martyrs.