Change Must Be Inevitable

Change Must Be Inevitable

Change Must Be Inevitable

It was an easy decision to insert our firm into the #BlackLivesMatter conversation, advocacy and movement.  Deciding the context in which we would participate was far more difficult.  The first inclination is to take up a cause, show your support for an organization, volunteer, raise money, assess your own hiring practices.  Those efforts, individually or collectively, certainly have merit. 

Historically, many organizations, including our own, reactively threw ourselves into a cause to demonstrate our alignment.  Those domestic, even global crises of society that have boiled up in recent years– #metoo, #gunviolence, #covid19 plague our country and our world. And yes, they deserve our attention. While we are quick to insert #BlackLivesMatter into the important conversations that shape our business and personal lives, we must first take a step back to school ourselves on the 400-year history of inequality and power. Without this perspective, we will struggle to understand its true nature.  Ultimately, we will fall short of the imperative – to not just change our mindset, but actively work to disrupt the structures and policies that landed us where we are today. 

We recognize that neutrality is not an option in the racism struggle.  Ibram X. Kendi in his book How to Be an Antiracist says directly: “One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is not in between safe space of ‘not racist.’ The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism.” 

To even acknowledge those perspectives mean taking the time to listen and learn first.  Before throwing ourselves into action, we have instead thrown ourselves into education.  Books, podcasts, movies – see why we read.  As we immersed, we ideated.  We agreed we needed a platform that could take root in our organization, that could offer us a longer term means of contributing.  Language is both a powerful and polarizing medium. 

The Ignorance Project candidly was a first consideration.  We thought, let’s try to isolate the problem, afterall, ignorance has been a long-standing culprit that drives many of the poor choices we make.  However, we came to the conclusion that ignorance alone is not enough of a motivator for change, nor is it the cause of systemic racism—which is more about how those in power continue to enact policies to further their financial or political goals and then create racist ideas to support these policies.

Then we locked in on All Means All.  Our focus would begin with a constitutional pursuit to expand or more literally define … “All people, races, ethnicities and genders are created equal with unalienable rights ….” Once again, we took a step back and realized that today, “All” is a polarizing word.  Eliminating race is not the answer.  The idea of a color-blind society does nothing to end the racist policies and ideas that permeate our nation.   

The process to find our purpose was not easy, but it was therapeutic.  We landed on Voice4Change – Radicate, Advocate, Communicate and Educate.  Our mission offers us a flexible and sustainable way to embed it into our culture, to support organizations whose voices need amplifying and to throw our creative energy at not just equality—wherein everyone has the same chances, resources, etc. but actually equity—where everyone gets what they need to succeed.  Focusing on equity means acknowledging the differences in resources and treatment thar exist in racial groups across our country.

So for organizations trying to figure out their next move.  We suggest they first embrace the importance of the moment and decide the most effective path to educate the organization in a sustainable, culture-rich way.  From there, needs will appear.  Ideas will follow. Change will come.



Why You Should Read White Fragility and Recognize Your Own

Why You Should Read White Fragility and Recognize Your Own

Why You Should Read White Fragility and Recognize Your Own

At this moment, communities across the country, and our country itself, is reckoning with a storied history of racism. Protests continue daily as people demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, the list (unfortunately) goes on. Communities are continuing to call for police reform and an end to racism. With this, it’s important to elevate the voices of those that need to be heard the most. One of those voices is that of Robin DiAngelo, the author of White Fragility.

White Fragility is a book that explains why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism (Disclaimer: I am a white female who grew up in a predominantly white, upper-middle-class bubble, with the privilege to live my life without any restriction due to my race). Skillfully written by Robin DiAngelo, a consultant and trainer on issues of racial and social justice, the book is a bestseller in the U.S. and has played an important role in provoking uncomfortable conversations on what it means to be white in this country. She uses her over 20 years of experience discussing race and analyzing people’s reactions to inform the concept of what she calls white fragility.

Essentially, the concept of white fragility is discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and justice. DiAngelo found that when white people are called out, we have very predictable responses – usually anger, denial, guilt and behaviors like argumentation and silence.

We can do things to recognize what white fragility looks like and identify alternative ways to react.

The first step is deconstructing and understanding the definition of racism.

From speaking with my community of friends and family, I think there’s oftentimes an outdated consensus that racism is this ‘thing’ that happens when you’re an amoral person acting with the intention to hurt someone based on the color of their skin. By that logic, if you don’t intend for your actions or words to be harmful, then you are not racist.

DiAngelo flips that idea on its head and essentially says that it doesn’t matter what your intentions are – it’s the impact that matters. If a Black person feels offended by a comment you said or an action you made, it’s problematic. And if you’re a white person in America, you have racist tendencies, if for no other reason, because of the institutions in place in the U.S. that we benefit from.

That’s a hard pill to swallow, and it’s supposed to be.

So, how can real change begin? And what can you do when you inevitably slip up and do or say something racist?

It’s critical to understand that this is an ongoing effort that starts with a lot of internal work.

DiAngelo encourages us to assess our individual racist tendencies and where they come from – because we all have them. Acknowledging that we all have these tendencies doesn’t mean that we’re admitting we’re all awful people. It just means we have things to learn.

Lean into your feelings of discomfort and dig deeper. Why did I think it was okay to laugh at that joke? Where does my defensiveness come from? What does it truly look like to support the Black community, and not just on social media? How can I use the knowledge of my white fragility to react differently?

In the words of DiAngelo, “We won’t ever be free of racism or finished learning, but there are things white people can do when their fragility surfaces: breathe, listen, reflect, return to the list of underlying assumptions, seek out someone with a stronger analysis if you feel confused, and take the time you need to process your feelings, but do not return to the situation and the people involved until you’re ready for feedback.”

 White Fragility is an uncomfortable, but eye-opening and essential book that everyone should read, especially now. However, reading one book doesn’t cancel out the rest of the work that you need to do. Continue learning, continue having important conversations, and learn how you can be the best ally for our Black neighbors because it’s past due, and they deserve it. Join me in this life-long work.

Why We Read to Lead (and Listen)

Why We Read to Lead (and Listen)

Why We Read To Lead (And Listen)

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
— Desmond Tutu

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
— James Baldwin

As part of our agency’s professional development program, Trevelino/Keller encourages all employees to expand their horizons with a curated selection of books on topics ranging from creativity, entrepreneurialism, tales of perseverance, management and more. 

Known as “Read to Lead”, the chance for our teams to expand both their bookshelf and world view took on a new meaning in the days and weeks after the murder of George Floyd. We watched protests unfold in real time around the country and in our back yard. Suddenly we were in a position to better educate ourselves on racial inequity and oppression in the U.S. and begin to learn how to be an ally for Black people in our community and our country. To effectively communicate about what we saw and heard happening all around us requires context. To participate in change, we first must understand how we got here.   To be an ally requires critical steps: 

  1. Take on the struggle as your own.
  2. Transfer the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it.
  3. Amplify voices of the oppressed before your own.
  4. Acknowledge that even though you feel pain, the conversation is not about you.
  5. Stand up, even when you feel scared.
  6. Own your mistakes and de-center yourself.
  7. Understand that your education is up to you and no one else.

Adding new voices and perspectives to our bookshelf was a small but important step to let our employees listen, learn and eventually lead and advocate for change. And we were not alone in this desire–shortly after we got to reading the New York Times Bestseller list looked like the conversation at hand.

What we’re reading now helps us to create a framework to speak more openly and informed about these issues—learning what we can do to confront the decades of systemic injustice, speak out when we need to and amplify the voices of the oppressed. How can we take these learnings beyond the

workplace to our communities and interpersonal relationships to have the difficult conversations needed to make change? 

What’s on our shelf?

The first group of books on our shelf include:

  • “How to Be an Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi
  • “So You Want to Talk About Race?” by Ijeoma Oluo
  • “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo
  • “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

After our colleagues finish a book, they share what resonated most with them at our staff meetings and ideally take those findings beyond the office into their daily lives. We know it’s upon each of us to educate ourselves, learn to be a better ally, and do the hard work. It’s the absolute least we can do.

Other recommended reading; 

  • “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi
  • “Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor” by Layla Saad
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson

What else should we be reading? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”
— Ijeoma Oluo