Aha Moment Talking About Race and Gender ~ Karen Fleshman

Two months ago, I commented on How We Label Students Matters, an inspiring LinkedIn post by Dr. Verenice Gutierrez, Ph.D., and we began conversing. Soon thereafter, Verenice introduced me to Dr. Dionne Wright Poulton, Ph.D., whom she had met via LinkedIn.

Verenice is a racial equity educator who, as Principal, turned around a poorly performing urban junior high school serving students of color.  Verenice is Mexican American and has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. Dionne is also a racial equity educator with tremendous experience teaching adults and youth. She is the author of It’s Not Always Racist, But Sometimes it Is. Dionne is Black-Caribbean-Canadian and has a Ph.D. in Adult Education. I am a White American and have a law degree and experience in community organizing and workforce development. I have come to understand that race is the central issue of our country, and to dedicate myself to helping White people to understand our role in perpetuating systemic racism so we can begin to dismantle it.

Last month, the three of us met in Atlanta, and discussed how we could collaborate to amplify a dialog of racial healing in our country. We named our new venture trispectives 

trispectives principles Verenice Gutierrez Ph.D. – a Mexican American, Dionne Wright Poulton, Ph.D.- a Black Caribbean Canadian, and Karen Fleshman, Esq. – a White American, specialize in facilitating conversations and workshops on racial equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Drawing on their backgrounds as professional women, working mothers, racial equity trainers, educators, and workforce development professionals, trispectives spark culture change at work.

Last night at General Assembly San Francisco we held our first event together, #DiversityinTech: Exploring Intersections of Race and Gender At Work. We’ll be back at General Assembly San Francisco next week to facilitate an interactive workshop on Talking About Race at Work.

We were inspired to organize a panel at General Assembly by Lisa Lee, Senior Diversity Manager at Pandora, who held an awesome event there last spring, Swipe Right for Diversity. So imagine how honored and delighted we were when Lisa agreed to moderate our panel. She is a BOSS!!!! 

At first, registration wasn’t strong. I complained about it to my best friend and she laughed at me, she said “No one wants to volunteer to discuss how race and gender intersect at work, people would only go to something like that if its mandatory!!” But it turns out, she was wrong, we filled the house. And I was really happy to see the diversity in the audience! 

Our conversation last night was rich, Lisa and the audience asked challenging questions and we were open and candid in our answers. My main takeaway came from something Verenice said, how she has come to realize that people’s resistance to talking about racial inequity is because they view it is an attack on their belief system that they developed from observing and listening to their family. So when one brings up racism, it triggers an emotional response because people don’t want to question views they learned from the people they love the most.

To move forward we have to lose the good/bad binary. We may continue to love our parents, and view them as “good” people, while rejecting their racism and trying to educate them about how race affects people in our country. Writing these words now, I am reminded of All In the Family, a show that was tremendously helpful in its accurate depiction of family dynamics around controversial topics. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us last night, and for everyone brave enough to engage in dialog about race and gender. We have to overcome our fear about saying the wrong thing and have these conversations in order to move forward. Last night filled me with hope that we will. 

Karen Fleshman is a Bay Area-based diversity and inclusion strategist, race educator, and connector. With her trispectives partners she consults with companies to help them achieve their business goals by becoming more inclusive. She is also a writer and public speaker. Karen developed cultural competency skills as a community organizer, public official, attorney, and non-profit professional. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, the University of Texas, and New York Law School, Karen is admitted to practice law in New York. Follow her @FleshmanKaren www.karenfleshman.com







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