WDN Regional Council Meeting Summaries — May, June & August 2019

Our thanks to Coordinated Care Services, National Coalition Building Institute, and Harter, Secrest & Emery for hosting!

CCSI member

May 2019 WDN Meeting hosted by Coordinated Care Services

Difficult Topic Discussion: Pittsford Central School District

The May meeting topic was an interactive exercise framed by a September 18, 2017 article in Medium by Helen Kim Ho, “8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits”. In the June meeting we continued the discussion on what tokenism feels and looks like using several specific examples from Ho’s article, of how tokenism plays out to the detriment of people of color and organizations as a whole. The August meeting topic was the History of Segregation and Racist Policy in Rochester.

The content of our difficult discussion was based on the following recent events:
In the last several days the Pittsford School District has been under fire for charges of racism since a heated school board meeting where parents and students charged district leadership with disregard for the racism that exists in schools.

The issue first rose to the surface in relation to two events: a Pittsford Mendon High School student repeatedly using the N-word toward her black teammates on the track and field team, and a Black History Month display at Park Road Elementary School where several of the featured black inventors were in fact photographs of white people.

Since then though, the District’s critics have keyed on Superintendent Michael Pero, and School Board President Amy Thomas’s unwillingness to consider racism as a separate issue from a general push for inclusivity of all kinds.

Pero, in particular, drew a harsh response from critics – “Racism exists—in every instance— at the expense of its victims, and for him to refuse to label it for the hateful ideology that it is, is a clear message to the children being affected that they do not matter. His refusal to call racism by its name and the lame attempt at “making everyone feel included,” serves only to alienate students already being alienated by their peers. What students and families need and expect from him is leadership and a commitment to discipline children who bully and harass other students. The failure to say or do such will only embolden and make comfortable the students prone to harmful behavior.”

After the meeting participants read the description of the situation in the Pittsford School District, we had a brief full group discussion and the broke into smaller groups to address the following questions:

What do you know about this situation?
What conversations have you had with others?
Do you think this is a circumstance unique to Pittsford Schools?
Can you identify similar issues in your own organization? In what way?
How would your management respond to a situation like this?
How hard is it to get the attention of the leaders in your organization?
Is there a cost to be paid to seek upper management involvement, in terms of being labelled or excluded or even punished?

Featured Group Discussion:

The discussion was based on the attached September 18, 2017 article in Medium by Helen Kim Ho, “8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits”, provided by Steve Jarose.

Tokenism in the Workplace

There’s a type of racism in the workplace many of us have personally witnessed, perpetrated or experienced: tokenism.

Tokenism is, simply, covert racism. Racism requires those in power to maintain their privilege by exercising social, economic and/or political muscle against people of color (POC). Tokenism achieves the same while giving those in power the appearance of being non-racist and even champions of diversity because they recruit and use POC as racialized props.

Tokenism exists in all types of organizations including non-profit, for-profit, government, education, health care and more.

At our meeting, we examined what tokenism feels and looks like, and engaged in a robust discussion, with several specific examples from Helen Kim Ho’s article, of how tokenism plays out to the detriment of people of color and organizations as a whole. Prior to the meeting, questions to guide the discussions about each of Ho’s examples of tokenism were developed by Steve and Mike Streeter.

Participants were encouraged to draw on their own experiences and share their stories about tokenism they have observed or to which they have been subjected.

Based on the strong positive feedback, at a future meeting we will continue our discussions to address the other examples of tokenism in Ho’s article.

June 2019 WDN Meeting hosted by National Coalition Building Institute

Difficult Topic Discussion:

Our difficult conversation was based on the following exercise that examines a woman’s unique and surprising response to being tokenized in her organization. The small and large group discussions that followed provided a segue to our featured topic.

Is Tokenism a bad thing?

 Not long after the first anniversary of gender pay gap reporting, I was out for dinner with a group of friends. Inevitably, the subject came up, and the supposed lack of female talent able to step into a senior role was mentioned. One of my female dinner guests complained how hard it was for her to get the opportunity to show how capable she was. Another replied she used the fact she was a woman to her advantage. As we all looked at her aghast, she explained.

She works in a male dominated office in a male dominated industry. As the issue of diversity became more and more important to clients, she noticed she was being invited to more client meetings. One of her male co-workers joked she was the ‘token’ woman.

‘I knew he was right, but I saw this as the perfect opportunity to show how good I am at my job’, she went on. ‘I started as the token diverse gender rep, but as soon as clients, and more importantly my team, saw I knew what I was doing and talking about, I was being invited for my expertise and knowledge.’

This token gesture, she argued, has allowed her to develop and get promoted on her skills and ability, rather than her gender. She is now in a position to help other less experienced females who may not have access to the opportunities my other dinner guest was referring to.

While I instinctively loathe tokenism, I could see her point. While we wish for a world where all people are treated equally in terms of opportunities, this is not the case. Research continues to demonstrate that women are less likely to ask for a pay raise than men (confidence? worth? social conditioning?); less likely to get a pay raise when they do ask (confidence? worth? social conditioning?); less likely to ask for a promotion (ditto).

Working in the world of Executive Search, I meet senior women all the time. I have heard the phrases ‘lucky to have the opportunity’; ‘right place right time’; ‘willing to take a risk on me’ (this last one a particular favorite). As diversity becomes an open discussion and initiatives such as gender pay gap reporting become mandatory, I’m starting to hear phrases such as ‘I worked really hard for it; I deserved it’; ‘I actually don’t see gender as an issue in my place of work’.

How do you feel about the idea that tokenism isn’t such a bad thing? Why?

What roles do confidence, worth and social conditioning play in opportunities for women?

Have you observed tokenism in your workplace or had personal experience with it? Describe the circumstances and the outcomes.

What can organizations do to address tokenism? Be as specific as possible.

Featured Group Discussion:

Tokenism in the Workplace – Part 2

The response to our May meeting topic, Tokenism in the Workplace, was overwhelmingly positive with the main concern being that we did not have enough time for thorough, in depth discussions. Many members asked that we continue the dialogue in our next meeting, and so we did.

The discussion was based on the September 18, 2017 article in Medium by Helen Kim Ho, “8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits”, provided by Steve Jarose.

We continued the discussion what tokenism feels and looks like using several specific examples from Ho’s article, of how tokenism plays out to the detriment of people of color and organizations as a whole.

Participants were encouraged to draw on their own experiences and share their stories about tokenism they have observed or to which they have been subjected.

August 2019 WDN Meeting hosted by Harter, Secrest & Emery

History of Segregation and Racist Policy in Rochester

Our featured presenter at the meeting was, Shane Wiegand, a fourth grade teacher in the Rush Henrietta Central School District. He attended SUNY Geneseo where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Childhood and Special Education and a Master’s degree in Childhood Multicultural Education. Shane and his wife Jennie Dixon live in the Beechwood Neighborhood. He serves as treasurer on the board of the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition, sits on the Connected Communities Housing Committee, and serves on the board of the City Roots Community Land Trust.

Shane has given his presentation on the history of segregation and racist policy in Rochester over fifty times at schools, universities, charities, businesses, and neighborhood meetings. He has also developed a curriculum for teaching elementary and middle school students the local history of redlining and the black freedom struggle.

His workshop explored the basics of the practice of redlining across urban development in the United States and racist/discriminatory housing practices throughout Rochester and urban cities across the country.

How these exploitative practices led to the disinvestment of the inner city, downtown; eventually leading to displacement in the present was just one of many essential questions that we explored.

After Shane’s presentation, as a full group we addressed the following question:

“What individual and collective actions can we take today to dismantle and end systematic displacement of marginalized communities and persons of color?”

Following are some of the suggested actions the group came up with:

Share what we have learned today with one other person.

Challenge my organization’s hiring practices

Start being brave.

Get Shane to come and speak at my organization.

Start to advocate for local field trips that are more inclusive.

Don’t get personal with others, share facts.

Share this presentation with leaders as a way to engage them.

Be mindful at the voting booth.

Following is a link to Shane’s presentation:
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1z6YVBYn5yhWMFErM5nT2-d3CF6iqBWeX_dJr_DRq3Lc/edit?usp=sharing

 

 



 
 
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