raceAhead: Here’s Some Help for Allies

October 10, 2018, 8:13 PM UTC

Since we’re on the subject of allyship these days, here’s a helpful and shareable short video from Melinda Epler, a self-identified white, cisgender woman who does a fine job both acknowledging her privilege, and sharing the slow-motion derailment she experienced when she hit the glass ceiling at her dream job as an executive at an international engineering firm in San Francisco.

“While there were bigger issues, most of what happened were little behaviors and patterns that slowly chipped away at my ability to do my work well. They ate away at my confidence, my leadership, my capacity to innovate,” she says.

She describes a culture that will be familiar to many – ignored or interrupted in meetings, ideas dismissed then claimed by someone else, and the everyday slights that come when you’re not seen by the culture as valuable. “I started to realize that I wasn’t failing. The culture around me was failing me. And I wasn’t alone.”

What follows is a simple but powerful explainer of how privilege, meritocracy, entitlement, and toxic power dynamics keep already disadvantaged people back at work. “Allyship is about understanding that imbalance in opportunity and working to correct it,” she says, a series of noticing and intervening behaviors that help people feel seen, included, and valued.

She cites simple things like learning people’s names and pronouns, speaking up for people if they’re belittled or the butt of a joke and saying no to conference panels that don’t feature a diverse array of perspectives. (I would extend this to teams and committees, too.)

But since inclusion lives in daily conversation, just learning to signal that you’re listening and understanding means so much. “Don’t interrupt. Underrepresented people are more likely to be interrupted, so just take a step back and listen,” she says. It’s a simple technique: Echo and attribute. “If I have a great idea, echo my idea and then attribute it to me, and we thrive together.”

On Point

Tracee Ellis Ross puts the focus on black fashion designers at the AMAIn what was considered to be an otherwise lackluster American Music Awards (unless you’re Taylor Swift or one of her bazillion fans), Ross chose to wear a series of looks from black designers “for the culture,” she said on Instagram. One outfit was from New York-based designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, who has taken on themes of police violence in previous collections. He dressed Colin Kaepernick for his GQ cover shoot in a shirt with the names of unarmed victims killed by the police.Hollywood Reporter

Speaking of fashion….
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute announced yesterday that the theme of its upcoming exhibition and famous gala will be "Camp: Notes on Fashion," drawn from Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay on “Notes on Camp” which explores among other things, "love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration...style at the expense of content.” But the even better news are the co-chairs of next year’s Gala: Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Gucci's Allesandro Michele, Vogue's Anna Wintour and Serena Williams.

Deported parents are losing their kids to adoption
While the Trump Administration continues to say it is working to reunite asylum-seeking families, the Associated Press has found that legal loopholes are allowing state judges to grant custody of migrant children to American adults without alerting their parents. The investigation drew on hundreds of court documents, immigration records and interviews in both the U.S. and Central America, and finds that with deported parents now so far away, the risk that they will lose permanent custody of their children is even greater.
AP News

The white allies on Facebook and Twitter
I’ve not seen them in action myself, but the concept sounds extraordinary. White Nonsense Roundup is a social media watchdog group with about 100 white volunteers who have been trained to do one thing: Help a person of color who has become ensnared in an online discussion about race and needs an ally. "It's really unfair that we expect people of color to experience racism, but then also explain it to us," says the group's co-founder Terri Kempton. Their goal is to take on that “emotional labor or burden,” by taking the conversation peer to peer. "Because white people are responsible for talking to other white people about racism." Their version of a bat signal is simple – an exhausted person of color tags them into the online conversation, where a volunteer assesses the best way to offer facts and support.

The Woke Leader

How you frame your diversity statements may matter more than you think
This analysis focuses on word choice and framing, and builds on studies we’ve reported on previously. But it’s worth revisiting the underlying premise: How you frame your diversity policies can be alienating to the groups you want to attract. An analysis of 151 publicly available diversity policies found that how an organization expressed its value of differences affected attrition rates. When companies used language that values differences, meaning a workplace committed to mitigating bias, they had lower attrition rates among white women. When their diversity statements emphasized equality, or that the organization was committed to fairness despite differences, attrition rates for racial minorities were lower. Why? Part of the reason may be that white women are already part of a solid majority in the workplace—click through for more.

Consider hiring a woman of color for all your brownwashing, gaslighting needs
Yes! She will instantly diversify your annual report, help you impress your diversity-shy investors and become the brown face of your highly disruptive start-up. Because people get true authenticity these days. “No matter how many hours you force your engineers to sit out in the sun with their laptops, they can’t get tan enough to pass for ethnically ambiguous anymore,” says Misha Euceph. “But this REAL woman of color will make your Silicon Beach company more diverse.” Ha.

The Met is finally adding indigenous art to its American Wing
It’s an interesting development and an important conversation to have. Where does Native American art belong in the context of a museum? At the Met, it’s always lived in a wing with other indigenous art from Africa and the Americas. But thanks to a new acquisition from a wealthy couple who own one of the country’s most significant collections of Native American art, the new pieces will be displayed alongside other previous donations of art made by painters of European descent. The donors, Charles and Valerie Diker, have long advocated for museums to display Native American work alongside other American masterpieces.
Smithsonian Magazine


Fashion is usually superficial and shallow, and today we’re seating people….we’re putting editors [in the] second and third row because we want to put the families of the victims front row who plan to be in attendance. And you get people like “Well, I’m not coming.” Well fuck you then!
Kerby Jean-Raymond on a recent Fashion Week show

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