How Bridge-Building Is Exported Through Training (Part 2) with Mariah Humphries, Gina Fimbel and Sean Watkins
If you use terminology like “colorblind” to show your racial and cultural compassion and understanding, this episode is tailored for you. Many people outside of the BIPOC communities are lost as it relates to how to communicate and implement a culture of color, and cultural caring and sensitivity in such volatile times. This is the wheelhouse of the Be The Bridge training team. This episode’s discussion is centered around cultivating and curating safe spaces for the purpose of building cohesion through anti-racism. Once again the listener is given a glimpse behind the scenes of our training team’s process and execution, as well as a look at the results with the organizations we’ve worked with. Listen to this great conversation between our Ministry Educator, Mariah Humphries, Director of Training and Strategy, Sean Watkins, and Board member and BTB Educator, Gina Fimbel.
“…you know, a popular magazine, People Magazine–in the 25 years of having People magazine’s Most Beautiful cover, there has only been three Black women who have been on the cover of people’s most beautiful. – Gina Fimbel
“…a lot of times when I have these conversations with white people, there is this complete unawareness, dare I say ignorance, (but not in the negative connotation), of their own culture. It is a ubiquitous, ‘how can we come together and be reconciled’, because they don’t know their history, they don’t know their own cultural context.” – Sean Watkins
“I think it’s healthy to understand the system of whiteness that we have inherited, which is a system that was created to benefit people who look white or people who are white passing. You know, racial labels have been applied to non-white groups for the purposes of stigmatizing them and exploiting them.” – Gina Fimbel
“…this is one of the challenges that I have with a number of my friends and colleagues that work in predominantly white spaces. There’s always an invitation of, ‘I really don’t want to examine the past’….” – Sean Watkins
Host & Executive Producer – Latasha Morrison
Senior Producer – Lauren C. Brown
Producer, Editor & Music By – Travon Potts
Transcriber – Travon Potts
Podcast link: https://podlink.to/BeTheBridge Social handles/links: Instagram: @LatashaMorrison Twitter: @LatashaMorrison
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LatashaMMorrison/ Official Hashtag: #bethebridge
The full episode transcript is below.
[Intro] You are listening to the Be The Bridge podcast with Latasha Morrison.
Latasha Morrison 0:27
[Intro] How are you guys doing today?
[Intro] Each week, the Be the Bridge podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture, with the goal of bringing understanding.
Latasha Morrison 0:38
[Intro] …but I’m gonna do it in the spirit of love.
[Intro] We believe understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial unity. Latasha Morrison is the founder of Be the Bridge, which is an organization responding to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by a racialized society, but grounded in truth. If you have not hit the subscribe button, please do so now. Without further ado, let’s begin today’s podcast. Oh, and stick around for some important information at the end!
Tandria Potts 1:13
[Voiceover] Hello everyone, and welcome to another awesome episode of the Be the Bridge podcast! I am Tandria Potts, and again I am honored to be returning as today’s guest host. We are back with Part 2 of our series “How Bridge Building is Exported Through Training.” Forgive me if I sound a little hoarse, but I live in Georgia and in the spring pollen season is pretty serious! But no worries, I have my bottle of water and ginger tea close by. Last week’s host Mariah Humphries will once again be having a conversation, but this time with Be the Bridge board member and educator Gina Fimbel and Director of Training and Strategy Sean Watkins.
[Voiceover] An ally is defined as a person or organization that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity. When service lieutenants can be disrespected, pepper sprayed, dragged out of vehicles and handcuffed—while in uniform—for simply being viewed as a Black American, terminology like “ally” is nice but outdated for our country’s current climate. Within the social justice and racial reconciliation movements, terminology has changed from the need for “allies” to the desire for “accomplices.” Accomplices contribute to or aid in an activity or process. Allies will vouch from the sidelines. Accomplices join the struggle to be change agents. Latasha describes Gina Fimbel, who happens to be white, as—and I quote—”an accomplice in racial healing racial justice and racial equity.” Mariah starts her conversation with Gina with this question.
Mariah Humphries 2:56
Why do you think whiteness education is something that we need to explore?
Gina Fimbel 3:02
Well, when I talk about not centering whiteness in discussions about race, I think it’s really important to recognize the difference between understanding whiteness and centering whiteness. Because I think it’s healthy to understand the system of whiteness that we have inherited, which is a system that was created to benefit people who look white or people who are white passing. You know, racial labels have been applied to non-white groups for the purposes of stigmatizing them and exploiting them. Of course, we know that these categories are not real biologically, but they have been—they have real consequences, and they have been used to subjugate people and to oppress people. So the more that we can see that and acknowledge that and name that, I think the better that will be. I think that this is knowledge, once we learn to recognize it, it’s knowledge that’s going to lead to change. That’s the goal.
But centering whiteness is different from understanding whiteness. So centering whiteness means that I put my pride before the lives of my brothers and sisters of color. That’s really the bottom line. Whiteness is centered in so many ways in our daily lives, that it becomes hard, difficult for even us white people to recognize, honestly. We just think that’s the way it is. There’s a little story about a fish being in water. And if you tried to explain that a fish was in water, they would say, “Water? What’s water?” They’re so surrounded by it, that it’s really impossible to see it, and they can’t really see it until they jump outside of it. And I think the same is true for whiteness. I love that little analogy. I’ve done some research to find out who the person was that said that from the very beginning so I can credit them. I think it’s Derek Sivers (but if you find out who truly deserves credit for that, let me know.) But I think you know, the majority of white people can live segregated lives, they can go for a long time, even a lifetime without ever having to get out of the “water.” Because we can be born into, we can learn in white spaces, play in white space spaces, we can worship, study, love, work, and we can die living segregated lives. And we were not taught that this segregation is a loss. And so I think segregation plus a lack of racial literacy is a really harmful and dangerous combination. You know, we don’t even really notice as white people that things like that are seemingly benign, but they’re really not, because they’re constantly telling us stories about what does race mean, in America. You know, we don’t see that basically, everyone on our money is a white person, that we hold whiteness up as a standard of beauty. For instance, you know, a popular magazine, People Magazine, in the 25 years of having People magazine’s “most beautiful” cover, there have only been three Black women who have been on the cover of People’s “most beautiful” [issue]. Or another example is when you look at: who have we elected into positions of power? You know, throughout our history, when we look at the US Senate for instance, only 11 African American senators have ever been elected. Only four Native American senators, eight Asian senators, 11 Latino senators. So it’s 98% white, right?
So, you know, throughout our history, whiteness has always been positioned in a place of power. Whiteness was, and in many ways it remains, the ticket that grants you full citizenship and a shot, even, at social and economic mobility. And something that I’ve recently been learning and I just embrace the chance to talk about it here. But it’s just really the way our government has intentionally created a majority white population. Through the years, our government has been very intentional through acts such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, or various immigration acts throughout history. We’ve set racialized quotas. So we’ll accept high numbers of people of European descent but in contrast, we drastically limit or even exclude altogether, you know, immigration of specific groups. So in the 1924 Immigration Act, for instance, the annual quota for German immigrants was set at over 51,000 people, the quota for Syrian immigrants was 100 people. So this was prior to the Civil Rights Act, but I think, you know, when we look around our country, and we see that it’s majority white, there’s a reason for that. It’s because it was designed that way. And I’m hopeful that that’s changing, and with that change is going to usher in a new time and, you know, new possibility, but we have to be honest about our origins.
So when I talk about decentering, whiteness, those are just a few examples of what I mean. And I just want to say for the record, I’m not ashamed of being a white person. Okay? So this is kind of a pet peeve of mine. You’ll have white people say, “Well, I’m tired of feeling guilty for being white,” or “Don’t make me feel guilty for being white.” So no, I’m not asking you to feel guilty for being white! I’m not trying to make you feel guilty for being white. But we have to recognize that there’s a difference between white skin color, this hue that God created me I believe is beautiful, just as all you know, skin colors that God created. But a skin color or white skin color is different from this centering whiteness. And so, you know, decentering whiteness in our own lives takes a lot of time and work. And so we have to develop the eyes to see just how powerfully we’ve been shaped by whiteness.
Tandria Potts 8:47
[Voiceover] Again, this is Director of Training and Strategy, Sean Watkins.
Sean Watkins 8:52
Can I piggyback off that for a second? Yeah, I just immediately piggyback off of her. In terms of I think when we think about why it’s important for white people to understand the concepts of whiteness, GIna is spot on. You know, recognize that they can be fish in water. I think it’s also important for white people to recognize the concept of whiteness when they want to enter into dialogue into discussions with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of color) when it comes to reconciliation. I’m a Black man from Houston, Texas and like Gina’s right. I—elementary, middle, high school, and college, I had to navigate white culture and all of those faces so I’m very familiar with it. But at the same time too, my undergraduate degree was a Bachelor’s in African American Studies and History. And so I walked into Dr. A Gordon’s class my junior year of college and he said, “In this class we will study Black people, why we are the way we are, how we got here,” and looked at his watch and said, “If we have enough time, a couple of things that we can do to change it.” And it was the first person, it was the first time in my life that someone put a name to my reality, that was able to put language to what I saw and felt was all of the beauty and all of the gifts of my culture. But then also the issues within my culture too, that we need to be able to work on and to address.
And so I think when you talk to people of color, if they have this cultural consciousness that most people of color have (and have not assimilated to the dominant culture), then they recognize the beauty that exists within the Asian diaspora—whether they are Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, Filipino; the broad Latinx diaspora; the African and African American diaspora. We recognize the gifts that are within our culture. We recognize that we have a culture and we know what we bring to the table. And as the Director of Training and Strategy at Be the Bridge, what happens a lot of times when I have these conversations with white people, there is this complete unawareness (dare I say ignorance, but not in a negative connotation) of their own culture. It is a ubiquitous, “how can we come together and be reconciled?” because they don’t know their history, they don’t know their own cultural context. They don’t know what reconciliation actually means. They’re inviting people to a conversation that looks at the present and moves forward, and it erases the past. And so for people of color, it’s exhausting to step into those spaces and to hear why people say that we want to be able to have these conversations about reconciliation, when they don’t know their history, they don’t know the context from which they’re coming from. And as a consequence, it more often than not breaks trust rather than builds it from jump.
The weekend that Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, I got invited to speak at a conference on reconciliation in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And it was a predominantly white church, there was one Black couple that was at the church, they were on the worship team. And so they held this conference and asked me to come speak. And I mean, almost from jump, from the start, the white senior pastor and most of the white members that were there, they just all kind of began to feed off of each other about how for the last three years, they’ve been trying to engage in these conversations on reconciliation with Black members of Tulsa. But every time they sent the invitations, Black people would just say no, or they just won’t show up at all. And so I just kind of asked point blank, like, “Do you know the history of Tulsa?” You know, like kind of why they’re saying these things. And no one in the room knew anything about the Tulsa race riots, and no one in the room knew about the destruction of Black Wall Street. And so you know, kind of what we say where I’m from: those are google-able facts. Right? Like you type in “Black people in Tulsa,” that’s gonna come up on page one, you know? And so, one of the things that I was saying to them was, you’re inviting people into a conversation as though it’s just now starting. This conversation is almost 100 years old! And so the best thing that you can do is to learn the history of your city, you have to recognize that the last time the majority culture, white people in this town, came up to them to have any type of dialogue and conversation, the destruction that took place really was felt nationally. We had the largest Black economy for a city in Tulsa, and it was wiped out completely. And so there was a visceral lack of trust. Those wounds are still present. And even if this generation is innocent, we know biblically, right, as Christians we confess our own individual sins—but also our generational and cultural sins. We see that in Nehemiah, we see that in the New Testament, there are a bunch of places where that takes place. And so I think when white people have raised their own cultural consciousness, they bring some gravitas, they bring some awareness to the conversation that a person of color can know they can have a conversation, they can engage in this work of reconciliation with someone who is white, and it will not be as triggering or traumatizing. But when someone of the dominant culture who has not done the hard work of recognizing what whiteness is wants to engage in that work, it’s traumatizing and triggering almost from the very beginning. Because you recognize, they don’t know the depths of what they’re asking, and the realities of what they are inviting us into in order for reconciliation to take place.
Tandria Potts 13:47
[Voiceover] When it comes to racial bridge building for white people, Be the Bridge places a lot of the focus on listening to, and learning from, people of color. But there’s also some important internal work that white people need to do as well. When white people don’t understand some of the basic tenets of whiteness, it’s hard to fully engage in the work of racial reconciliation. For this reason, we have created a resource that breaks down the four W’s: white supremacy, white fragility, white identity, white privilege. There’s some unpacking to do there, so you can go to BeTheBridge.com for a full breakdown of each of those four W’s. So with that said, we know “what” Be the Bridge classes and trainings are for, but Mariah digs a little deeper to get into the “who” these classes and trainings are for. Listen.
Mariah Humphries 14:41
Who is this class for, Gina? Who is this, this target that we’re looking for?
Gina Fimbel 14:48
Well, Latasha Morrison designed this class specifically for white people so they would have a space that they can talk about some of these issues, right? So one of the things that we say a lot in [BTB] 101 is that as white people, hopefully, our desire is to contribute to the healing of racial injustice and not to further exacerbate or create more harm. But unfortunately, for this to happen, this means we really have to prioritize learning. You know, we don’t have the lived experience of being a person of color in this country. And so, therefore, there’s a lot that we don’t know. In fact, we’re taught things like colorblindness growing up, right? So I’ve tried to create a space in 101 where I am bringing to life Tasha’s vision where white people can ask all the what I call “stupid questions.” You know, things you may have wondered about but were afraid to say. I would much rather a white person ask me about things like Black on Black crime, right, or other harmful topics instead of asking a Black friend or a Black co-worker, or another Be the Bridge group member.
Latasha often says, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” And there’s a lot that we don’t know about the depth and breadth of racial history in this country. And it’s okay that you start there, but what’s not okay is just perpetually living in that ignorance. I call that willful ignorance. You know, the spring and summer of 2020 was very difficult, there were a lot of high profile cases of police brutality, one of which, just today in Minnesota is beginning to be tried. But it began to cause a lot of white people in particular, to awaken from their slumber, so to speak, and to recognize that racial injustice is a problem. But ultimately, we have to move out of simply being aware, and we have to move toward an understanding of how we can take a healthy action. Racism isn’t just sustained by bigots, but it’s sustained and reproduced by the complicity and silence of people that we might even consider to be good people, including ourselves. And so a huge part of the work that we do in 101 is really looking inward. Reflection, learning, but also understanding, “how can I move forward in a way that’s healthy, and in a way that has a better shot of contributing to the healing instead of just engaging in something that I really don’t know a whole lot about, and showing up and expecting people of color to educate me?”
Tandria Potts 17:27
[Voiceover] Let’s learn about our 101 class, which you can find on our website under the tab “Resources” in the section BTB 101. Often for individuals, companies, organizations and ministries, the thought of bridge building is a heavy lift. Mariah goes into one aspect of that commitment here.
Mariah Humphries 17:46
Talk us through a little bit of the dedication of time that we need towards this 101 program.
Gina Fimbel 17:53
Well, the 101 class specifically, I like to call it a “low cost, high value” class. And so the commitment is low. You know, this is considered to be an on ramp for people in this conversation. It’s facilitated by white people, right? So I don’t, I don’t brand myself a teacher about race. In fact, I am the first to say that, you know, there’s a lot that I don’t know. Every day I’m learning more. You know, people can dedicate their entire lives to learning issues about race. But the 101 class is four weeks. Each week, we speak about a different topic. The first week, we take a dive into racial history in the United States, and we talk about how this history links to the present, but also helping people to understand that this isn’t ancient history—like a lot of this history is recent.
The second week, we explore what we call white identity. You know, this is what I mentioned a little bit earlier about a fish being in water, you know, it’s often difficult for us to embrace being part of a collective because our culture is so individualized, right? I mean, we are, we are taught that in white culture, from the time that we’re young about, you know, the importance of individuality and pulling yourself up, you know, by your bootstraps, and all of those things. But a collective identity is really key to understanding how whiteness functions because whiteness does have a collective function. And so far, this collective function has been harmful in many ways to our brothers and sisters of color. Of course, I hope that changes as more people become educated. And so the third week we look at what’s called white privilege. This is a term that was popularized in the 1980s by a woman named Peggy McIntosh. But you know, you have many scholars of color before Peggy McIntosh who talked about the ways that whiteness worked and the benefits of whiteness. One of my favorites being W.E.B. Dubois, who talked about the wages of whiteness. And he called, you know, he talked about his experience of the social and psychological wage of being a person of color in this country. And so we explore some of those concepts.
And then finally, in our final week, we talk about what we call a white-racialized response. Because as you begin to talk about issues of racial injustice to your friends, to your neighbors, you might notice that you get some pushback! I know I sure did. And there’s a whole range of defensive reactions that you might encounter. And even and especially in ourselves, right? So we have to be willing to identify our own defensiveness, as well as learn how to deal with the defensiveness in others. You know, I used to look like a deer caught in headlights a lot, when I would begin to talk about these issues and someone would bring, you know, bring up some pushback. And, you know, I didn’t know how to respond because I really hadn’t educated myself enough. I had not developed my racial muscles. And so that’s one of the things that I work on almost every day, and that’s what we invite people to do—is to develop some of those racial muscles in 101, and then also other avenues that Be the Bridge offers as well.
Tandria Potts 21:14
[Voiceover] We like to use terms like “unpacking” and “peeling layers,” because there’s an understanding that there is a level of comfort in staying at the surface level. If you know the work of bridge building, then you know surface-level exploration is in fact not engaging in exploration at all. I love Mariah’s question here.
Mariah Humphries 21:35
But why do you think that we need to go deeper, beyond the surface, as we discuss whiteness and white supremacy?
Sean Watkins 21:44
That’s—I’ll give Gina a minute to catch her breath, she’s been dropping some truth bombs! I think we need to go deeper beyond the surface when we talk about whiteness and white supremacy, because we have to understand that the concepts of whiteness, and the reality of white supremacy has been in the DNA of our nation since its founding—its inception. And there is no way in which we can move forward in talking about race relations without understanding that. You’ve got to go beyond the surface in all things. If you want to grow and develop and mature at work, in finances, in our spiritual lives, in our physical health—you have to move on from milk to solid foods, and we see that I think in the scriptures. And more often than not, there’s just a very rudimentary basic approach that I think more often than not the dominant culture takes to these things. And there’s, there’s an erasure again of that history. And so as a consequence, it minimizes the wounds that people of color have experienced for generations in an invitation to step into a place that has not done its own due diligence in terms of analyzing: is this space safe for people of color? And so as a consequence, more often than not, we end up seeing what Dr. King said toward the conclusion of his life, which is we end up integrating into a burning building.
And so there’s always this question of, how can we reconcile, how can we reconcile? And this is one of the challenges that I have with a number of my friends and colleagues that work in predominantly white spaces. There’s always an invitation of, “I really don’t want to examine the past, I want to make sure what can I do to make it right?” Well, you know, we’re not the first generation of people on the earth. And if you look back over the last 400 years, there are people from various ethnic groups that will tell you the questions that were raised in their generation, the concerns that were raised, the ways in which they got it right, and the ways in which they got it wrong. And then they wrote it down in books and said, “Here’s what I did, go this way. Here’s what I did, don’t go this way. Or try this roadmap the next time around so that we can achieve some modicum of success.” But to not do that, to not do our due diligence, it negates the wounds of a culture, of those people of color who have been there, but also demonstrates too that we’re not serious, I think, about that work. Anything that we are truly serious about, you want to go beyond the surface. You want to be autodidactic. You want to be self-taught. You want to dig into the trenches to make sure that we’re operating at our very best.
Then I would say one of the things about that, too, when you go beyond the surface too, it provides a level of authenticity, I think—to your voice, to your witness, to the conversation that you bring. I will betray my people for a moment and say, we indirectly have never talked about it, but we do have different categories for white people in terms of the white people who are safe to be around and the ones that are not. The ones that we will engage in conversations with, and the ones that you know, we don’t even look at the comments on Facebook when things come out. Right. There’s a friend of mine named (I won’t mention his last name, but he knows who he is because I’m saying his name now) and he’s a part of a community that I belong to. And it’s kind of a running joke that most of the Black folks at our church do not respond to any of the comments on his posts. He’s a wonderful white guy, he’s got a Mexican wife, he’s got three beautiful biracial children, but most of his white friends? They are unaware, and so they ask very basic questions—they have not gone beyond the surface. They are aware that there are different ethnic groups that exist on the earth, but they know nothing of whiteness, they know very little about the history of racism in our society. And if they do, it is told from a white-centered perspective. They do not have any educators from the margins, voices from the margins, any people of color that are speaking into their formation. They are only debating people of color. And so for us, we’re like, “well, that’s fine, y’all have a great time, we’re not going to engage in a dialogue and discussion.” The white people who are in my life who I am close to, and are closest to me…that when there’s a shooting, and you know, all white people feel the need to text a Black friend or Latino friend or an Asian friend for that matter, because of what’s going on in the country—the ones that get a response from me are the ones who have been in the trenches and have gone beyond the surface. And they’ve done the hard work, I think, to again, raise their cultural consciousness, so they know the reality of what’s happening in our society.
Tandria Potts 25:58
[Voiceover] Now we have reached the whiteness intensive. What is the whiteness intensive, you ask? You ask such great questions. Listen!
Mariah Humphries 26:07
Let’s talk about the whiteness intensive. So tell us about whiteness intensive.
Gina Fimbel 26:12
So the whiteness intensive is probably our most in-depth online offering, which will help you understand the concept of whiteness. This is a series of eight courses taught by a diverse group of Be the Bridge educators. And you’re going to come to understand the history of whiteness, and how it shaped our systems and structures, our relationships, our cultures, as well as you personally. And this is a values based course, with some faith based components. I believe they’re working on that now. But it’s suitable for anyone to use in any setting. These are pre-recorded videos, and so you’ll have a year to work through them at your own pace. And so that’s also a great avenue for people to pursue if they’re interested to, you know, to gain knowledge in this area.
Tandria Potts 27:06
[Voiceover] Wow, incredible insights. Don’t go anywhere, we’re gonna pause for a quick moment and we’ll be right back!
[Voiceover] If you are listening to today’s podcast and would like to become a bridge builder in your community, guess what? Be the Bridge programs are available for youth, college students, adults, BIPOC, and transracial adoptees and adoptive parents! Our desire is for people to have healthy conversations about race. So we’ve provided guides to lead people through these discussions. Visit our shop at BeTheBridge.com to grab a guide and start conversations in your community.
Tandria Potts 27:45
[Voiceover] Thanks for staying with us! Let’s get back to our conversation. Okay, so you’ve heard all of this so far. You feel inspired, you’re ready to lead your company, organization, and ministry to become more sensitive and empathetic to people of color. I get your enthusiasm, but not so fast! Listen…
Mariah Humphries 28:07
So what are some of the detriments of bypassing something like a Be the Bridge training and trying to do things in-house solely?
Sean Watkins 28:15
Oh, absolutely. It’s a fantastic question. You know, Gina referenced what Latasha has often said, which is: we don’t know what we don’t know. And in John Maxwell’s [book] “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” that’s the first law. It is the law of the lid. We don’t know what we don’t know. And I think it was Albert Einstein that said “the mind that created the problem does not have within itself the ability to solve said problem.” And that’s a paraphrase, right? That it takes some type of external information, it takes a different source, it takes something yet beyond that mind in and of itself to actually help solve the problem.
And I think what happens more often than not, and I have experiences both in the places where I have worked, and then more often than not, with a number of organizations that come to us from time to time, which is they’re not coming in with a blank slate. They’re not coming in as “we’re an organization, that’s a startup, we just got the LLC signed, we just got our board established as a 501C3, and we want to make sure that we are a diverse organization.” No, they have a revolving door on women and people of color. They cannot—if they can recruit people of color, they can’t retain them, and they can’t promote them. And so their base may be very diverse or their level one employees may be very diverse. But when you get to management, senior management, executive senior level management, presidents, vice presidents, board of directors, more often than not—the higher you go, most organizations are white and male in the United States.
And so, again, without recognizing that we attract what we value, and we value what we attract, without recognizing those things the organizations will then say, “Well, we can solve this on our own” but they don’t have the skill set. They don’t have the experience. They don’t have the expertise. A number of organizations have not stopped, they don’t even know the questions to ask in exit interviews to make sure that those processes aren’t repeated. And so that’s kind of the same process. Without any new information, we continue to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. Probably like 60 years ago, and I love telling the story—I don’t know if it’s true or not, I’m not sure if it’s just a Baptist preacher story or not, but I like it, and it works. They talk about how in modern psychology about 60 years ago, if you were admitted to an insane asylum, one of the litmus tests that they would be able to use to see if someone had regained their sanity, was they would say “there’s a leak in the janitor’s closet, go clean up the water.” And so if someone had not regained their sanity, they would go in the janitor’s closet and grab a mop and just start mopping the floor. But if you regained your sanity, they said, they noticed that every single person that regained their standard, they would always do the same things. They would walk in the janitor’s closet, they would turn off the sink, and unstop it and let the water drain and then they would start mopping up the water. In other words, they decided they were going to actually look at what was causing the problem and not just attempting to deal with the problem in and of itself, because obviously mopping the water without stopping the sink and turning off the faucet, the problem is going to continue. And that’s what happens in a number of organizations. They don’t look at the bare basics of diversity, equity and inclusion, the composition, the raw data and numbers, of the relationships or the relational equity that happens in these organizations. And then also the systems and structures that are in place.
And so Be the Bridge has the opportunity to be able to come—and we’re not alone, there are a bunch of wonderful diversity, equity, inclusion organizations out there—Be the Bridge is able to come in from an objective point of view and perspective, we can look at the raw data, we can have the conversations with your staff and with your employees, we can ask some very difficult questions of organizations and of senior executives. We also recognize that our jobs are not in jeopardy. And that’s another consequence, and most organizations don’t recognize this. They invite people of color to be able to be on these diversity teams or have these conversations about things, but if someone is in an environment that is toxic, and they recognize it as toxic, they’re not going to ask those difficult questions. They’re not going to challenge their supervisor. If the organization is not toxic, or they’re just not sure if it’s toxic or not, most people of color recognize that if we ask these questions, if we stir the pot or trouble the waters, or disturb the status quo—whatever metaphor you want to be able to use—there are professional consequences for that. You can be labeled a troublemaker, it can hinder you getting promoted on your job, which puts a ceiling on how much money you can make. Sometimes they can follow you around because executives of different organizations know each other, and they call each other. “Hey, Sean and Gina used to work for you, tell me about them!” “Oh, they want to talk about the race stuff all the time, and it really disrupts the kind of business that we want to be able to have.” Those things can follow you around. And so to trust an organization to come in externally and ask some difficult questions for the purposes of not just you know, I think flipping over all of the tables and frustrating people, but to be able to say, “Hey, what’s your mission and vision and values? And how are you accomplishing that?” Let’s actually help you get back on track to make sure that this organization is a peaceful and safe and fun place for every single person that wants to be able to work here.
Tandria Potts 33:23
[Voiceover] Any of these questions or statements sound familiar? “How did we get here?” Or how about this one? “I didn’t know it was this bad. We talk all the time, I didn’t know they felt this way.” Or even worse, reading through social media and finding out that someone in your organization is completely unhappy because of the racial tensions. And get this, you may not have even known there were racial tensions. Check this out…
Gina Fimbel 33:51
Well as I listened to Sean speak, I was just thinking about over the summer, for instance, when we saw the pressure cooker kind of explode. And people were taking to the streets to protest these injustices that are happening. And I saw a lot of predominantly white churches who were, you know, establishing committees, for instance, on racial injustice. And, you know, I saw a lot of predominantly white churches putting white people in the heads of those committees or going to the people of color in the congregation to say, “hey, do you want to be part of this?” And, you know, I think the danger—and we recognize it so easily when it comes to other things, like if our car is broken we go to a mechanic, if we need our teeth fixed we go to a dentist, you know? If there’s something going on in my body, you know, I’ll go to a physician and even a specialized physician. But for some reason when it comes to race, we seem to lose this concept really easily. And an organization like Be the Bridge in particular is such a gift to the body of Christ. You know, because Latasha is all about discipleship and leading congregations and the leadership team of a congregation toward a healthy racial discipleship. And she’s being pulled into spaces that you know, are also, you know, not in the church, and businesses and organizations, because a lot of businesses recognize instinctively what the church doesn’t! It’s that, you know, a healthy diversity and healthy, a healthy environment around race leads to flourishing. It leads to a healthier organization. And so that’s just what I encourage.
Anyone who’s listening to this, whether you’re in a church or organization, go to people who are giving their lives to understand race and racism, don’t just go and burden anyone, you know, a friend or a neighbor. You know, there may be relationships where you are a true friend, and you do have a deep, deep friendship. And as a white person, it’s okay to talk about some of these issues. But that takes a lot of time, and particularly when you’re speaking about large churches or organizations, you really need someone who has the expertise in this area, or else you’re going to be on a hamster wheel going nowhere. And in fact, you may do a lot of harm by not doing that.
Sean Watkins 36:22
And to Gina’s point, because I love the illustration that she gave, too. Just to go back to it for a moment, like—if you broke your foot, you would not go to the dentist. If you needed to, I don’t know, have repairs done on your house, unless your accountant also had expertise in that, you would not go to an accountant for those things. One of my good friends Robert is an accountant, he has two degrees in accounting. I have a bachelors in African American Studies and History, and a Masters of Divinity from Fuller. When it comes to accounting issues, I go to Robert for all things. I trust his judgment, he’s been an accountant at every job that he’s had, I don’t give Robert accounting advice. It’s a waste of time. Like it’s outside the field of my expertise. And it seems that when it comes to every other field of study—professionally, theologically, in all these other categories, we trust experts in that particular field. But when it comes to issues of race and ethnicity, and diversity, equity, inclusion, for some strange reason (and it’s not a strange reason, it’s the culture in which we live) there is an assumption that a basic, rudimentary understanding of these things qualifies you to be an expert in the field. And you can navigate these conversations without the education, without the experience, without the expertise. And it produces my word for 2020, I’ll get a new one this year, it produces “deleterious consequences” in people’s lives and in the lives of our organizations.
Gina Fimbel 37:45
Yeah, we end up calling the experts “divisive,” or we call the experts all of these different terms, right? Whatever the term du jour is. It’s crazy to me, I don’t understand it.
Tandria Potts 37:56
[Voiceover] If you are in the C suite, a business owner, board member, or an accountant, you get the picture. I’m sure you may have wondered, even if not out loud…
Mariah Humphries 38:07
So what is the benefit of being preemptively proactive in these conversations versus reactive?
Sean Watkins 38:16
It’s a great question. It really is. You know, I always go back to Dr. King’s last book that was published before he was assassinated: “Where Do We Go from Here? Chaos or Community.” And he always—he starts with, in the beginning of the book, about one of his regrets of the dominant culture, white people have not done enough to re-educate themselves out of their racism, that in the midst of fighting for civil rights, he says, Black and brown people were fighting for equality and white people really were fighting for less violence. On the streets, they wanted to make sure that the levels of racism that were present were not as palatable. When Black people and brown people said that’s not enough, let’s actually go for equality, that’s when everyone was like, whoa, wait, y’all need to like slow down, like these things take time. And so I kind of always go back to that. Like, I think it’s analogous to say, for example, someone that wants to lose weight versus someone that wants to like be healthy, right? Those are very two different motivations. Once you hit your goal for losing weight, most people stop, which is why diets fail. But to be able to say you want to lead and live a healthy lifestyle? That requires a complete reorientation of how you think about your life and the calories that you take in, the quality of exercise that you’re going to do. And the goal there is just to be healthy. It’s a lifelong process.
And so what we have found with organizations more often than not, is that the warning signs were there, the sparks were there ahead of time, and they were ignored. And so as a consequence, now we’ve gotten to a place to where there has been an eruption, whether it’s an internal eruption where you’ve got an exodus of people of color who are leaving those spaces, or you’ve got an external abruption where there’s a national crises, whether it’s 2014, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. Really like the last 10 years, you’ve seen these going on and on and on. And longer than that, but more specifically, the temperatures have been turned up a number of notches the last 10 years. Well, what happens when the temperature dies down? What happens when the trial of Derek Chauvin and the names of George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are not in the news? What happens when, for lack of a better word, the crisis at the border is fixed? And again, I use that word very, very, very lightly. But we’re no longer separating children from their parents at the border. What happens when the temperature or rather, the anti-Asian violence that happens in the United States dies down and it stops? Or it just dies down? What happens then?
If we only have a reactive response and approach to these things, then to be honest, we’re not serious about the work. But when we engage preemptively, when we engage in the work without a crisis being present—when we say, “You know what? Just for the sake of being a better person, or being a better Christian, or being a healthier organization, let’s engage in the work,” you set yourself up for long term success. And it never fails for the organizations and the people that are motivated because there is a crisis in front of them, as soon as the crisis is averted, will go back to business as usual. And people of color, especially now we’re paying attention to their reality, and there is a zero tolerance that exists in these marginalized communities. In this day and age with social media and this interconnected community that’s happening, the marginalized peoples at the margins, there is zero tolerance for going back to a business as usual right now. So we need to have the difficult conversations. And that goes beyond the Black/white binary, that includes the Latinx and Asian and African and African American diasporas as well, too, and especially our Indigenous brothers and sisters, as well. But we need to have some candid conversations about those things. And so when we are, when we engage in them proactively as opposed to reactively, we find that there’s a posture of humility that people have, there’s a wealth of information that’s available, and you’ll find that there’s a broad community of people and mentors that we can sit up under and learn from, as opposed to waiting until a crisis is averted. And then trying to get back to business as usual.
Tandria Potts 42:14
[Voiceover] Okay, you are one of those people who are results oriented. So it’s time to hear about the results. Well, listen.
Mariah Humphries 42:24
So how do these courses help their bottom line? Because they’re going to be worried about that. And they’re always going to be comparing, “Do we really need this in our organization right now?” So how do we come in and, and help with that?
Sean Watkins 42:40
Well, Bill Gates spoke at a conference in India about, I want to say six or seven years ago. And he was still I think, the president/CEO of Microsoft at the time. I think now he’s just, he stepped outside of kind of that role. He’s working with this foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But he was in India a number of years ago, if I’m not mistaken. I know it was in South Asia. And anyway, he was speaking at this conference and the Prime Minister of that country came up and said, “Hey, what can it take to have our country be a leading voice in Microsoft? We want to have more businesses here from Microsoft, or more buildings here from Microsoft, more offices, we want to have more jobs here, we want to have our citizens trained. We want to be one of the leading voices, and one of the leading nations that can send and produce Microsoft’s employees and software and business and business revenue.” And Bill Gates smiled at him on stage and said, “Nope, it won’t happen.” And the gentleman said, “Well, how can you say that, how can you say that so confidently?” And he said, “Because you don’t allow women to work, you’ve handicapped half your workforce.” And all the women in the room stood up and clapped immediately. That’s my response, I think to organizations that say, “What’s my ROI? What’s my return on my investment?” All studies show that when you have a diverse team, when you have a diversity of thought, diversity of skill sets, diversity of just ethnic groups that are on your team, you think differently about things. The opportunity to have a multilevel, multi-layered diverse collaboration on a project, it guarantees your success. All leadership principles talk about the great dangers of having everyone on the team who thinks alike, speaks the same language, approaches a problem the exact same way. You are not aware of your blind spots, you don’t know what you don’t know. And so I think to have this type of training to come into your organization, it guarantees that the diversity that you want to see happen will occur. And when that diversity occurs, you will see long term success happen within your organizations.
Tandria Potts 44:49
[Voiceover] I love Mariah’s question here. Often the focus is on why Be the Bridge’s training team is brought into organizations to bring about bridge building. But our focus is brought into clear view with this question:
Mariah Humphries 45:01
So what are some stories? What are some stories from these courses? Can you give an example, an assessment, from pre- to post-Be the Bridge training, so we can provide some of that: this is what we can do for you.?
Sean Watkins 45:16
I’ll share two stories. So one predates my time at Be the Bridge, and then one I will tell from the work at Be the Bridge just to be able to see the values of this type of work and why it’s needed. When I got the opportunity to, a number of years ago, there was a seminary that shall remain nameless, that is hemorrhaging, or was hemorrhaging Black and Latino staff. They lost a Black or Latino staff [member] every year since 2011. And so they knew that this work was a passion of mine, and not just my education, but again, my experience and just how I think the Lord has shaped my heart and my mind, I just, I drink this in. And so they asked me to be on the hiring committee for their search for two tenured Black professors to be able to join their institution. And so we were on a hiring committee, I was the only Black person on the hiring committee with 15 other people. And all 15 of them had PhDs, all 15 of them were white, and all 15 of them with the exception of two people were over the age of 50. And so I was 36 at the time. So generational gap, opinion, perspective—all the gaps. Every single gap that one can quantify, they were present. And so we got the opportunity to, you know, interview a number of candidates. And I remember I got into what we call an “intense fellowship,” it wasn’t an argument, it was an “intense fellowship” with one of the professors that was there. He picked this gentleman, that Black guy, young, early 30s, and to be blunt, completely colonized. In his application, which is 15 pages long, he did not say one positive word about African American history, African American people, African American culture, African American theology. He was viscerally against African American theologians and African American theological frameworks. He had a very positive stance in affirming law enforcement, which I think is a healthy approach. We all have ethics and morals, and we recognize the value of law enforcement, the broader conversation that’s happening in society right now was holding police officers accountable, which more often than not does not take place and gotten us even where we are right now, as the trial of Derek Chauvin begins. And so, but that wasn’t the posture that this man had, it was very much in favor of really kind of some of the issues that we raise in our whiteness intensive and in Be the Bridge 101.
And so there were a couple of tenured professors who were on this hiring committee that read this man’s application and absolutely loved it. I mean, gave it glowing recommendations. And they wanted to go ahead with an interview. And I raised my hand and said, absolutely not. This person cannot even be interviewed for the position. And they say, “Sean, we don’t understand.” And I said, well, “What’s the goal of hiring another Black professor?” “Well, we want Black students to feel safe, we want them to feel welcome, we want this to be a signal to potential students that this particular seminary is doing the hard work, that we’re engaging in the difficult conversations of race and ethnicity, and that we are fostering an environment where Black faculty, Black staff, Black students, and Black alumni can look at us as one of the leading voices and this will be the beginning step.” And I said, “No, he will not, he will break all trust with most African Americans who think differently from him. He is a minority within this sub dominant or minority group. He is one of the few people that stands kind of on the sidelines within the dominant culture and is hypercritical of the African/African American diaspora.” Kind of what Bryan C. Loritts has in his book “Right Color, Wrong Culture,” right? Just because they look like they were a particular ethnic background, when you do some digging in terms of their own cultural consciousness, the ways in which they have learned and are able to articulate the strengths and also the weaknesses of each diaspora,including their own—to the degree that they’re able to do that you will have a longevity of health and trust and respect from that person. And so I kind of put my foot down and we argued back and forth. And I said, “Look, I’m the only Black person on the team. I am a student at a different seminary. I know friends that actually go to this institution that you all work for, and I can tell you right now, none of my friends are going to go to his office, not a single one. It will break tremendous trust if you do this.” And so there were other candidates and they accepted that, and he did not get interviewed as a matter of fact, someone else that was interviewed and hired for the position and is there now and is doing an absolutely outstanding job. He’s translating the gospel from an African dialect that we find out as one of the first African Christians from a particular country and it’s never been translated into English. And so the gentleman they hired instead is doing some pioneering work. But that was because we had to have the difficult conversation.
So I would say that is one example externally. I would say, one example internally from the work that we do at Be the Bridge, and you know, more often than not they want us to be able to tell like the positive stories, but I’m gonna tell one is not so positive. We got the opportunity to go and do a training at a church and this church was…they had one small group that was multiethnic, incredibly diverse. Loved Latasha, loved her book, loved Be the Bridge small group and discussion guides. I mean, they, they drink our Kool Aid, they love everything. They’ve got the hats, they’ve got the beanies, they’ve got the sweaters. We don’t have Be the Bridge playing cards, but they got Be the Bridge playing cards. You know? Like they just, they love it. So absolutely the whole nine. That broader church, however, was not. They were not in favor of that, particularly church leadership. They had a number of elders that were, that recognized the reality to have these conversations and the elders that spoke to us when we were there were older. They were white folks in their late 70s and early 80s. And they talked about how when they grew up, interracial marriage was illegal, and how they did not have people of color that were friends. But it was growing up in that time period, listening to Dr. King, listening to Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers, and Fannie Lou Hamer, and Rosa Parks, and all those other voices from that particular time period, that God changed their hearts tremendously. And so they thought that they had been doing the work, they’ve been shocked by the last five years and invited us to be able to come. Handful of elders loved it, but church leadership? Not so much. The church was not in favor of it at all, we got there and while they were respectful, they viscerally disagreed with everything that we said. And so it was painful for their members of color, the four that were there that were listening and trying to engage in the work.
But we got the opportunity just to have a candid conversation with them. We all went out to eat after one of the trainings and they opened up their hearts, and they shared wound after wound after wound. And so we were very honest about what does it mean to be faithful, I think, in the midst of a difficult place and space? What does it mean to seek the peace and the prosperity of the place to which the Lord has called you? But also recognizing that some of us are Esthers and Nehemiahs, that we get to work within systems and use the power and privilege that our roles have afforded us to affect change. But then sometimes we get to be Moses. And sometimes we get to leave those institutions and go to new places and spaces. And so I’ll say for the institution that we got the opportunity to go to, their church in particular, we got to affirm to elders that difficult conversations that need to happen, and that their senior leadership needed to be held accountable, not just in education, not just in accountability and stopping some bad habits, but also an edit ability to start some good habits as I like to call it. But then we also had a conversation for the people of color that were hurting in that white space that did not feel seen and did not feel heard. And for those people of color, we said, “You know, hey, I’m not telling you that you have to leave, but you don’t have to stay either. What does it mean to be healthy?” And I think that’s one of the gifts that we offered at Be the Bridge.
And I say that story to tell because we always want to have like the ones with the bells and whistles and everyone came back together and they reconciled and everything was fantastic. And somehow that’s not the truth, right? You look at where we are in our society right now. And people of color are hurting. And so we got to go to them and to be honest about that. And there were white people in the room who were, you know, passionate about this work, and were linking arms or locking arms with the people of color that were there, and we said this to them as well, too. And it gave them the opportunity to say, what if we created a new space? What if, as opposed to trying to change the institution which is not interested in change, we bless them to be the ways in which they feel God’s called them to be. Maybe He will bring about change in the Lord’s own time, but what would it mean for us to try to create a new healthy place for us to be able to live and flourish? And so they decided to do just that. I know that’s every senior pastor’s nightmare that the people of color will leave and kind of plant their own church. But we invited people to be able to say, “Hey, what does it mean to honor the place where you are, but at the same time to pursue your own health?” Because ultimately at the end of the day, we want to have healthy disciples and we want to have healthy Christians and healthy Be the Bridge groups, not people that are just perpetually angry and wounded all the time. So trees are known by their fruit. So we want you to have fruit that lasts.
Tandria Potts 54:33
[Voiceover] If you’ve been online and read through or even just skimmed through our resources, you quickly realize they are granular and exhaustive by design. So how did we come up with all of this?
Sean Watkins 54:44
So obviously, much of this comes from the vision I think the Lord has given Latasha Morrison, and so she’s got tremendous background and experience in working in incredibly diverse contexts. And so much of it comes from her own lived experience. And I would say the same thing for myself, too. For Latasha and I both, I call it the three E’s: that’s your education, your experience, and then your expertise, right? I have a Bachelor’s in African American studies and history, and a Masters of divinity. So my world has been professionally thinking about, what does it mean to contextualize resources for African Americans in predominantly Black contexts, but then also in multiethnic contexts? Latasha is from Atlanta, and so she has grown up around Black people her entire life, but then also, she’s been in some incredibly diverse and multiethnic spaces. She’s gone on record talking about working at predominantly white churches. And that’s really how the Be the Bridge material got founded, because in the midst of all these issues that were going on, Latasha really felt like there was a deeper conversation that could happen, one that went beyond the surface. And so she began to write out what type of community would she want to be a part of? What type of community would be healthy? What type of community could she invite both her white friends to where she knew they would be loved, affirmed and challenged? But also a community where people of color could also come to where they would be loved and affirmed and challenged.
And so it’s the education that we have, it’s the experiences that we have, but not just those experiences. It’s learning from the successes and the failures that produces the expertise. So I would say those three things together, really has led to the formation of the material, both that Tasha creates and the litany of things that she’s got me working on, to try to create. I would say that for all of our educators and teachers and trainers and writers, when they’ve kind of—going back to what we were saying before—when they have done their due diligence, when we all have done the hard work of asking the difficult questions beyond, not just for others but of ourselves, that’s really where the solid work begins. Because we are leading people to places that we ourselves have already been. And it’s very difficult to lead somewhere where you haven’t been yourself.
Tandria Potts 56:52
[Voiceover] One thing that is beautiful about the Be the Bridge training team is the culture Latasha has created throughout the entire organization. A component of that culture is one of mutual admiration. I love what Gina says here. Listen.
Gina Fimbel 57:07
If I could say really quick on that, Mariah, just in terms of the training and the material. When I think about Latasha or when I think about Sean, and you, and just the people that I do have the honor to work with, I think about you guys just being so full of truth, but also full of grace. And that’s really a hard balance to—that’s a spiritual balance. I mean, that’s something that we can only get from the Holy Spirit, I believe. Being full of grace and truth. And so that’s what I love about Be the Bridge is that, yes, we’re not going to sugarcoat the truth, but we’re going to meet you where you are. And we have so many ways that you can engage with our materials, whether you are a transracial adoptive parent, or whether you are a church looking for new training, or you’re just an individual who feels like, “I don’t know what I don’t know, and I want to know what I don’t know,” right? Like “I want to know about these things,” there’s a place for you within our community. And so, you know, we invite you, we invite you to be in community with us, and to go on this journey with us, because all of us who work for Be the Bridge have been down this road to a certain extent, you know? I know the white people on staff are voracious readers, we have really taken years, really, to educate ourselves. And so yeah, I just, I love the opportunity that Be the Bridge gives to churches and organizations. It’s incredible.
Mariah Humphries 58:40
What are we leaving? What is the ideal environment as we leave, you know, physically from their space, and now it’s up to them? What’s the ideal environment for them as they move forward?
Sean Watkins 58:54
Yeah, it’s, uh, you know, it’s really four kind of overarching principles that I think that I’ve talked about, I think on a regular basis. Obviously, 1) we just try to raise some awareness for things. And so we hope that people will walk away and realize that “law of the lid” has hopefully been busted. And so they recognize there’s far more that they can learn and grow in. And I try to tell people when I’m leading the trainings, put stars or make, you know, some type of notation as you’re taking notes, “I need to go back and research this. This is something that I had no idea about at all.” So hopefully, as you’re taking notes, I think the main training, you’re realizing that there’s more that you can learn from and more places where you can grow. I think it’s an invitation for people also to do some reading, to be honest with you. We need to lament the realities of what’s happened in our nation in our society. And that really is a place of acceptance, that we’re not just learning the information, we’re accepting it as truth. I think beyond that, people should have some action steps in terms of the direction that they want to be able to go in, what’s the next step they can do? What’s the next training material or the next book they can read, the next conversation they can have, as an individual. In terms of an organization, when we’re reviewing our hiring practices, when we’re reviewing the requirements for you to be a supervisor in this organization, are we doing diversity audits? Are we doing Intercultural Studies? Are we interviewing women and people of color on our teams to make sure that we have an actually equitable organization. So there’s some awareness, acceptance, some action steps.
And then finally, really just an advocacy. We ask people to not go by themselves, to bring someone with you. And you can do that through forming a Be the Bridge group or just inviting someone on a journey. “Hey, I’m reading this book next. Can we read it together and dialogue and discuss those things?” So I think those are some of the personal things that folks can do. I think in terms of the broader scope of what happens in these organizations, my hope is that 1) white people in the room will feel affirmed and encouraged, or not really feel blamed, or a sense of shame for those things. I want them to feel some conviction about the realities of where we are in our society and what it means to be white. But then also, how do you steward that well? I won’t say steward that power and privilege well, but how do you steward the moment well? How do you recognize that if you are in the dominant culture, that there is power and privilege that comes with that. Now you are aware that there is a giant hammer that is on your tool belt that you weren’t aware of. Now what will you do with it? Knowing is not enough. So that’s #1, that I hope they feel the conviction to, again, evaluate their personal lives, but also their professional lives in their organizations as well too. That they’re willing to review hiring practices, how we think about funding, how we think about hiring people, the skill sets that we look for, etc. The other thing that I think is important too, is that they recognize that people of color within their organizations need safe places to be able to process outside of the white gaze. I think if we have done our work well, and white people are serious about engaging the world, they will not cringe when people of color say “we need to be in a room by ourselves to be able to process.” Most people of color—excuse me, not most, ALL people of color in a predominantly white space, experience perpetual displacement. It is an invitation to be misunderstood, every conversation is a cross cultural conversation. And so it is well…
Gina Fimbel 1:00:29
Wow Sean, you say that so matter of factly. But I feel like that’s so important. And I just really want to hold space for that. Can you, can you say that one more time?
Sean Watkins 1:02:28
What did I say?
Gina Fimbel 1:02:30
That all people of color in predominantly white spaces….
Sean Watkins 1:02:34
Yeah. Yeah, all people of color in predominantly white spaces experience displacement, every single last one of us. It is an invitation to be misunderstood. Every conversation we have is a cross cultural conversation. And whether these are the healthiest, culturally aware white people or whether they are at the very beginning stages of this, or whether they are, you know, on the cross cultural continuum, if they’re not cross culturally proficient, if they’re all the way at the other end where they’re cross culturally destructive, it does not matter. There is an exhaustion that kind of comes from that. The microaggressions build over time. And so what does it mean to invite people of color to have a safe and sacred space to be able to process? More often than not, organizations that are incredibly diverse, when they have these diversity teams, those diversity teams, if they’re doing their hard work, then they’ll say the Black staff want to be able to get together and just have a social and hang out. The Asian staff, Latino staff, or the staff of color, and you find that not only the relational equity grows, but then also the professional evaluations can grow as well, too. You’ll find that them just kind of kicking around the table and laughing and cracking jokes—work is going to come up, and they’ll discover the ways in which they have different opinions and perspectives on things, but then also the places in which they have a shared perspective. And from that you will discover more often than not, that feedback can come back to departments, to organizations as a whole, to supervisors, because they have the freedom and the space to process outside of the white gaze.
And so, again, I think how we leave organizations, I hope that we leave them changed. I really do. I hope that there is new information that’s been given to them that challenges what they think, that affirm some things which they already knew, but then also confront some things that are just not true. And I hope it gives them the due diligence and the homework for all of them to learn more but then also to say too as the dominant culture, “where do we need to learn and grow?” And then for people of color, “How do we carve, how do we ask, how do we request, how do we demand that we have a safe space to be able to process for the sake of our own professional health and longevity within organizations?”
Tandria Potts 1:04:42
[Voiceover] Here at Be the Bridge, we have a great team that has not only created stellar online resources, but is gifted enough to come in and partner with businesses, nonprofits, ministries, and more to create healthy environments for racial reconciliation. If you heard this and see an opportunity for your company and/or organization, go to BeTheBridge.com. That’s BeTheBridge.com and let our group of skilled educated trainers curate and facilitate safe and productive discussions, and workshops that will develop into bridge building opportunities for true racial reconciliation. This was such a great discussion! Props to Mariah, Gina, and Sean for this awesome discourse. Til next time, let’s all remember to build bridges and not walls. Go to the Donors Table if you’d like to hear the unedited version of this podcast.
Thanks for listening to the Be the Bridge podcast. To find out more about the Be the Bridge organization and/or to become a bridge builder in your community, go to BeTheBridge.com. Again, that’s BeTheBridge.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, remember to rate and review it on this platform and share it with as many people as you possibly can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today’s show was edited, recorded and produced by Travon Potts at Integrated Entertainment Studios in metro Atlanta, Georgia. The host and executive producer is Latasha Morrison. Lauren C. Brown is the senior producer. Brittany Prescott was our transcriber. Please join us next time! This has been a Be the Bridge production.
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