Over the last month, I joined many of you and other community members at sessions hosted by the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University as part of their Traveling While Black experience. These sessions were powerful and moving. The conversations made visible the often-hidden experiences of people in our workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools who, as author Ruchika Tulshyan of Inclusion on Purpose notes, “constantly toe the line between speaking up and staying silent against bias and racism to assimilate within or protect their jobs.” We heard stories of how racism, sexism, and bigotry show up in the present, as well as the past. I walked away with a renewed sense that we have much more work to do and with a sense of gratitude for the beautiful community we get to work alongside.
So how can we as leaders (we are all leaders) deepen our understanding and build our collective muscle to disrupt and interrupt all the -isms we observe and experience in our workplaces and communities?
This past month, I’ve reflected on actions that have helped me along my journey toward fostering a more equitable and just world. And while I recognize my experience is just one of an infinite number of possibilities, I hope these ideas can light a spark for you.
1) Find people to have authentic dialogue with about issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Having a space to talk about race, gender, class, ability and other identities in the present is helpful. These can be safe places to learn about and discuss the history of racism and oppression and how they manifest today.
- Some ideas: Join your company’s employee resource group (or equivalent), take a course or class focused on anti-racism or DEI/DEIB (b=belonging), start a monthly meet-up group.
2) Read, listen to, and watch stories that center the experience of a group that you are looking to build empathy for and intentionally include (different faith/religion, ethnicity, ability etc.). Activist and educator Patti Digh is known for saying “The shortest distance between two people is a story.” Get to know the stories of people that do not look, think, or act as you do.
- Some ideas: Our DEI Community Resource Portal has many books that can be a good entry point for learning and fostering empathy. Some of the moments that resonate most for me have come from reading fiction. A few that standout to me: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Homegoing by Yaa Ghassi.
There are plenty of online programs offered to support you in your journey and a growing number of certificates and educational programming right in the Lehigh Valley. And we hope you think of LINC as you have questions, are seeking resources, or a place to turn for assistance along your journey.
Please let us know what actions have helped you foster an inclusion mindset. Feel free to write a note to email@example.com. We will select a few responses to feature in our next newsletter.
Click here to watch all the Traveling While Black panel discussions.