Racism and the trauma of racism are ever-present when we are operating at work. Consequently, acknowledging this experience as a fundamental part of the client’s story is crucial. Indeed, our own internal experiences are triggered by certain social realities. For people of colour, this may be enhanced by the face they have additional intergenerational trauma hidden, snuck away only to be exposed in group processes.
Their fears are not paranoid but very real, and these fears are experienced by people of colour daily. However, there is nevertheless a real difficulty discussing their experience. It can feel like a personal risk, a danger, and frequently if you are the only person of colour at the table?
My question is, who provides the safety? How do you take the pressure off individuals to be the ‘expert’ on diversity in the workplace?
Sometimes when I am asked to coach teams, this subject is exposed often by circumstance. It resonates with me on many levels and reminds me that our internal experiences are triggered by several social realities, past and present traumas that can sometimes be perceived as irrational realities. For example, during my diversity and inclusion (D & I) interventions, I found that we all want to belong no matter our experience, skin colour, gender or sexual orientation.
Empathy is an essential regulatory function of human social life. It is a source of deep emotional feelings and a powerful trigger for pro-social behaviour. Thus, modifying our empathic responses is central to understanding the extent to which deeply embedded automatic and uncontrollable responses can influence social interactions.
All fears are real fears that we experience daily. However, there is always a real difficulty in describing their experience. There is always a personal risk, a danger, and often, as the ‘only person of colour’ ‘the only woman’ ‘the only person from the LGBTQ+ community at the table, my question is: Who is providing the safety? Will you?
What can we do?
Read, watch, listen and explore personal life experiences and re-examine your assumptions.
-Reflect on the impact of your own privilege, the choices you have made that may have been made for you.
I feel so privileged to have had an opportunity in my lifetime to talk about what diversity means, what it looks like, what it feels like and how we can help each other in going forward. By being more aware of our behaviour, actions, and stereotypes, they will eventually become less automated and unconscious.
My experience is that we are eager to measure the impact before truly understanding this sensitive and intricate topic. So I recommend moving into the awkward zone, discuss debate and disagree but don’t stop talking.