Educational Equity Newsletter – October 15, 2020
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Calling in your peers when they’re causing harm
With the school year well underway, we’re hearing about an increase of people-drama ranging from stepped on toes and unclear swim-lanes to outright harm to BIPOC colleagues, students, and families due to implicit bias, microaggressions, or worse. Some of the missteps that happened during the pandemic still linger, and others are getting repeated. With our teams already under so much stress, the feedback that needs to happen is either being buried or given recklessly, resulting in more broken trust.
Across lines of power, giving this feedback is even more difficult. Our sector typically protects and insulates leaders from their negative impact until it’s too late. We also tend to write off individuals giving feedback up the chain of command as rabble-rousers and curmudgeons. As a result, people with the most power in organizations continue to cause harm and the revolving door of talented BIPOC staff and others at the margins keeps churning.
As a leader—especially an executive leader—that values racial justice, equity, inclusion, and belonging in your organization, you are responsible for the experience of BIPOC staff and others at the margins in your organization. If you see a pattern of harm with racialized or gendered dimensions, you have the power and responsibility to (attempt to) do something about it—whether or not there’s a social cost to doing so.
Here are some principles we use to bring course-correcting feedback when we see leaders causing harm across lines of race, gender, tenure, or power difference (for tactics to address systemic or structural issues, hold tight for next week’s newsletter!). Our invitation is to use these tips to build skills on your leadership team for practicing allyship and calling each other in when you make missteps that have disparate impact on BIPOC staff.
Whenever possible, work in allyship in real time.
If a statement or conversation causes harm to someone else, be an ally in real time by naming what you see and redirecting it—with a focus on learning, not blame. Circling back after with the person harmed and apologizing for the behavior isn’t good enough and can communicate inauthentic allyship. To many at the margins, having a colleague show up as an ally means using your power to solve the problem in the moment, if you can—even if it’s uncomfortable.
Public redirects. One mechanism at your disposal is the ability to redirect the group if you notice problematic behavior. For example, if you notice that your colleague, Julie, frequently gets cut off or interrupted, you can say: “Julie, can you repeat what you said? I missed the last part and it sounded important” or “Hey y’all, Julie has a really good point here and we keep cutting her off. Julie, please continue.” Neither of these actions isolate the person cutting her off, but they make clear that this behavior isn’t working.
Don’t shame or blame publicly, but do give the feedback.
If you notice a pattern of harmful behavior around issues of racial equity, inclusion, or belonging, giving feedback privately and synchronously (in person, over phone, or via video call) is best practice. This type of feedback is almost never effective over email, text, or Slack unless you already have a high degree of trust with the person. The more serious the feedback, the more important it is that these convos are planned well and given sufficient time (e.g. not a “quick call” between meetings). We recommend using our CSAW framework as one way to structure your feedback. And remember—feedback isn’t separate from or a disruption to building the relationship—it’s a vital step to making it stronger.
Have concrete alternatives or requests.
Sometimes people continue patterns because they don’t know an alternate way to get to the desired outcome. By offering alternatives or specific requests to change behavior as an ally, you give the person something to negotiate with or adopt immediately. You also take the pressure off of those most marginalized to speak up in an already harmful situation. If appropriate, you can even consult those impacted to better understand what they want to see change.
For example: “Bill, I notice a pattern of you immediately dismissing ideas from women of color on our team in meetings. I bet that’s not on purpose, but the impact is that it seems you don’t respect these ideas as much as those from me or others on our team. My request is, particularly when women of color on our team raise ideas, you slow down and listen before offering a counterpoint.”
Press reset if you need to.
Sometimes, we sense that a conversation calling in a harmful or racist comment or behavior(s) isn’t working. When that happens, pausing the conversation to take a deep breath, resetting around shared goals, intentions, or commitments to racial equity, and picking it up after having time to process can help.
Upcoming Working Session
How to Call In Racist or Inequitable Behavior at Work
Thursday, November 5 at 4pm ET
This training will be a working session with a focus on application and practice of tools from our October newsletters. Register here.
People of Color & Indigenous Cohorts
Managers and staff who are people of color and/or indigenous often face unique issues within their organizations while navigating the intersections of race, class, gender, and other identities. These cohorts create space to discuss and offer support around the challenges of being folks of color in progressive and social justice organizations, and to share practices that can help folks of color thrive. We still have space in one more cohort this year:
- Monday, December 9th (11:00-5:00 PM ET)
- Tuesday, December 10th (11:00-5:00 PM ET)
- Tuesday, December 17th (4:00-5:00 PM ET)
We also have TMC scholarships for our POCI Cohorts available upon request that can partially or fully cover the cost of the training if needed. You can request a scholarship by emailing our POCI Cohort Coordinator, Ebony, at email@example.com.
Need more support?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask about our coaching and training services for leaders in the education sector. We look forward to hearing from you!