How is my privilege for you?
This is the question we are often scared to ask in the room with the client. However, it is the crucial question that opens the door to a trusted work for change and healing.
This month the newsletter is dedicated to diversity and privilege because it is a topic close to my heart at the moment. I care for it every day, of course. However, this April, I am standing at the crossroads of multiple belongings and identities myself. Moving softly from the World Health Day to the UK’s National Unicorn Day (seemingly light, but for some of us, burdensome symbol) I think a lot about our wellbeing in the context of diversity.
I am healing from the disempowerment of the past few years of being an Eastern European in a Brexit United Kingdom – a process and experience that has educated me so much about the shadow side of the privileged abuse. We spend a lot of time talking about violence, abuse and targeted discrimination (which we should, of course). However, we hardly mention the people on the margins who experience neglect, are silenced and deprived of their identity—people whose history is hardly ever written, and it is happening now.
In the last few years, I myself have pretty viscerally experienced the meaning of perpetual helplessness and intrinsic bravery of the ignored, forgotten, unregistered or – in some cases – expelled members of our communities. And as I emerge from that place, I am reflecting on actionable learnings I can share and implement when building Voxel Hub.
I am very fortunate that I can do this from a place of privilege. And that’s the least I can do. That is how leadership and privilege worked in ancient and tribal societies. Leaders were chosen by skills, strength, power and merit, of course. But their job was to keep their tribes – everyone in their tribe – safe. The privilege of those positions was actually secondary. So when did we lose this sense of kindness and care? So I ask myself daily: am I a kind leader?
As I look back at the last few years and trends around us, I think leadership is precisely the position the change should always have come from. I want you to know that as a Founder of Voxel Hub, that approach to leadership is my aspiration. I am here to care and to keep people safe. So, you will see me write a lot in the future about individual experiences, soft leadership, kindness, silence and the unspoken.
Our fantastic (paid) digital intern, Kätlin, is working on a social media campaign exploring isolation. Liam is sharing his tips and personal experiences of negotiating individual and collective challenges. We will also explore action, change and conditions for the disempowered and isolated not only to emerge but to speak up safely and thrive too. If you have ideas, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.
I wish you a safe, calm and soft April. Be safe and be kind to others.
My favourite topic this month
When working with diversity, it might be not easy to embrace all aspects of our identities and belongings, so here are my recent personal sources of education specifically about White privilege and anti-racism:
Antiracism Daily – a fantastic daily newsletter with news and best practice
Becoming An Anti-Racist Ally – Instagram account by Andrew Snowball, EdD – “I’m a White guy focused on becoming anti-racist. This account is intended for White people to think about themselves in relation to race & racism.”
so you want to talk about… – another easy to read Instagram account – “Dissecting progressive politics and social issues in graphic slideshow form!”
John Amaechi OBE – fantastic real-time reactions (“there is no middle ground”) and context to events on his Twitter account and this great video explanation of the difference between non-racist and anti-racist
Please do not forget about the intersectionality, though – all forms of disempowerment are essential to consider, however, this might be a good start. The above sources come in small content chunks, so there is no excuse not to make time for them. That is the beauty of digital communication – we have free access to excellent, free education in multiple formats.
I hope you will find those sources useful. If you have a recommendation on this topic, please do let me know!
This has to stop now, we have to change now
Good coaching and counselling courses always start with an exploration of power imbalance and diversity. As I am personally approaching a milestone of embracing my British identity more officially as a soon-to-be citizen, but also an individual who has experienced a lot of quiet, subtle disempowerment in the last few years, I though I would share my raw, emotional, strong points about what practitioners should avoid in their client work:
- Don’t name people’s identity aspects on their behalf – ask about their sense of multiple belongings
- Do not correct people’s accent, wording, way of communicating – avoid micro-aggressions – unless you are an interpreter, it is not your job to help people speak
- Don’t assume your cultural standards on others, especially if you are in the majority – collective standards are necessary but can lead to an imbalance of power, too (politeness, clothing, sense of humour, …)
- Don’t assume you know the experience of disempowerment better from the place of privilege (power, knowledge, influence) – consider the meaning of your words, no matter how innocent you might be patronising the client (“successful”, “articulate”, “smart”…)
- Do not ignore the silence and the silenced – always ask yourself: what else is there? What else is not mentioned by the privileged? Who is on the margins?
- Do not reinforce the divide and the negative impact of victimhood – shed your skins, unite, empower instead – watch carefully how labels are used
- Don’t ignore the intrinsic meaning and impact of your privileged identities – “I did not know” is no longer good enough
- Do not expect the change or rise from the disempowered who live in fear, implicit courage and perpetual helplessness – you need to change, do the work, educate yourself, when safe – call out active disempowerment – and provide safe, kind spaces for others to thrive.
I hope the above points are useful, but please let me know your findings as I am doing this work myself and would love to openly be called out and learn too.
Thank you for reading our Newsletter. Talk to us online, check out our blog and let us know what else you would like to see here in the upcoming months.
Stay safe. Stay well. Stay connected.