Are we really “allinthistogether”? How do we balance our desire to live in peace with acting in solidarity when we see injustice, bias, racism and resulting suffering, including deaths? How do we deal with our own broken hearts, fears, challenges to hope? How can we respectfully live out “#weareallinthistogether”?
These are questions I have been asking myself and felt led to ask in a live video today. My intent was not to share answers but to facilitate the discussion and offer support. I have been writing for years about how injustice and the related suffering breaks my heart. That includes racially motivated deaths in the US and the inequitable impact of the pandemic on racial minorities and women (2/3 of low paying jobs, many of them “essential” are held by women in the US and who still carry primary responsibility for children). “Racism: the other virus.” “Bias can get you killed.” (cor.org 5/31/20)
I am feeling tender, even “shakey” this morning as we started the video. I recognize the need to pause and give ourselves permission to experience our emotions as well as looking at the path forward and how we can contribute to positive change. Not only to experience our emotions, but to give ourselves time and energy to heal. Grieving takes a lot of energy. Anger is an aspect of grief that can also drive us towards positive change. Coming together in solidarity increases shared power and decreases the energy drain of intense emotions as well as the strain of trying to go it alone.
“As One ICF, we stand together. We stand for greater diversity and inclusion. We stand against racism. We stand against violence. We stand for respect, dignity and integrity,” our professional organization, the International Coaching Federation, issued this stand yesterday. What are you standing for? How are you experiencing solidarity? How can we really be allinthistogether?
Reflecting, I noticed myself commenting on others’ posts and not writing my own. And in a coaching session, realizing the fear of “not getting it right” or “crossing the line.” This is my longest and most vulnerable live video. I still find myself, in the third day of this discussion with colleagues and friends, feeling emotional and can only imagine what the families of Ahmoud Arbery, George Floyd, Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor are experiencing, as well as US families of color who live in fear and targeted groups globally are experiencing.
“It can get messy” was one of my key takeaways from the 2009 Coaching and Social Action course I took from former students Lisa Garrett and Sangita Kumar. This is an imperfect video: even getting a fact wrong: the US anti-Lynching Act was only passed by the House and Senate together this year, 2020! After first being proposed over a hundred years ago, an example of hundreds of years of racism. Are we really allinthistogether, yet?
Having accountability partners helps, as one of the participants today acknowledged her daughter calling her out on the bias she had grown up with and her daughter’s concerns over the impact of her two year old black foster child. Caught up in my own emotions and (new to me) managing the live stream from Zoom to Facebook, I did not feel I fully addressed this participant’s situation, calling afterwards to apologize and allow more time to process.
An African American friend and I hold each other accountable, calling each other out when we hear something that sounds biased coming out of our mouths. I have previously written about my own flipping judgment, with my daughters catching me talking about “those people” (“othering”) with a different political perspective than mine, rather than seeing us #allinthistogether. As a result of posting https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234on a Linkedin post, I have a new accountability partner. We are letting each other know how we are progressing through the 75 things on the webpage we can do to take action, like contact our local police departments about the training they are providing to the police officers, and to make sure body cameras are turned on for each call. I have already received an affirmative response from our Police Chief. Accountability can contribute to our being allinthistogether.
Notice in this image the woman is wearing 3-D glasses, not a blindfold. Our view of cultural groups (political, ethnic, race, gender, generation, region, tribe, educational and socioeconomic level, religion, appearance, sexual orientation, etc) is filtered through the biases we all have, conscious and unconscious. If we put on someone else’s glasses, we see things differently. It takes a strong self-identity to be able to try on different viewpoints without fear of losing our own and what that might mean to us.
Even my choice of the initial quote I paired with this image caused an unintended reaction and led me to further consideration of my bias in selection of quotes and images. In fact, I’ve challenged the images websites I use about the lack of racial and gender diversity in images in office settings. And I’m still on the journey to greater awareness. I changed it to Desmond Tutu’s quote: “When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate.’
“No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion, our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity or because of their sexual orientation,” Desmond Tutu. We see you. We care. We hear you. You matter. We can be allinthistogether.
Respect: As a coach, I strive to be judgment free and realize that is not how our brains work. What I can do is choose to see and value each person as a unique and special creation and strive to treat them as such, in accordance with my spiritual beliefs as well as professional training and standards. I am holding up the “all the children of the world” scarf a friend gave me as a reminder in the thumbnail video image. And I continue to do self checks as well as rely on accountability partners to help identify and manage my biases. What does that mean? Loving others. Not responding to bullying with bullying.
“Are your words pulling us together or tearing us apart?” I ask myself and challenge others.
The danger of power over: I have a strong conscious bias or preference toward shared power. For those in positions of power, there needs to be strong accountability systems in place. A psychology experiment I learned about in university divided students into two groups: prison guards and prisoners for a simulation. By the end of the weekend those who were designated in the prison guard role were starting to mistreat the “prisoners”. We need to not only be checking ourselves when we are in positions of power, rank and privilege, but also to have accountability partners and other systems in place, like police cameras turned on. We can use our solidarity to check on accountability and legislation of situations where there is power over.
Thank you for being with me on this journey and contributing to the sense that we can be allinthistogether.
To our full potential, prosperity and peace,
Marilyn O’Hearne, MSW, MCC, LLC; CQ MCC