It’s been a while since I blogged in this space. It is a pity; I love reflecting back on the work I do, particularly with regard to the improv workshops I run. Last week I worked with a tiny group of four IT specialists and we practiced the basic rules and concepts of improv before delving into some narrative games to cultivate active listening and empathy. It was lovely, uplifting work and I could see the benefits of it while we were doing it.
But, the truth is that while I know how important this work is, and how liberating, I still want to tackle the elephant in the room; racism. We deal with these notions every single day in our daily lives, on social media, in the news, at schools, at the shops and in public spaces. The one place it isn’t being dealt with in any open way is in the workplace, and in the corporate environment. Of course, lip service is paid, and BEE is thrown around, but structural and endemic racism and white privilege are not spoken about or even acknowledged. This is really very serious.
When I work with mixed race and gender groups I am aware of how so much is taken for granted by white, male voices; how much space and opinion they take up. Less so, but still vocal are the white women. Black men are next in line and then, at the end of the scale are black women. It is important that I am understood. This is not about personality, or ‘culture’ (that fabulous excuse for everything), or even corporate hierarchy. It is about who thinks they can do what they do. It is still a white man’s world, even though he is complaining loudly that it isn’t. He is still the voice in the room.
I want to work with these white men and women. I want to help them understand what structural racism, inherited racism, white privilege and white ignorance is all about. Because the reality is, unless they start doing this work, understanding who they are, they are going to come up against some seriously awkward and dangerous situations pretty soon. It is a challenge, because these are the very people who refuse to admit that there is a problem. They refuse to dispense with the notion that white males are being victimised or targeted. I want to unpack this notion that white people have had to work so hard for what they have. I want to manage the unrealistic expectations that white men have because they do not ever compare themselves to black people. I want to help them understand, acknowledge, accept, and then agree to do things differently. Like listen instead of tell, walk around in someone else’s shoes, accept collective responsibility for the past. It is huge, and scary, and ugly and messy. But it has to be done. I want to try and do this. Are you brave enough to contact me for us to try and start this work? Do you know of somebody in a company who would take the chance of going there?