Intentional Leadership - Board Governance Practices that Promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (Part 1 of 2)
In part 1 of a special two-part webinar, Dr. Robin Hindsman Stacia will outline how board members can embrace the leadership imperative for engaging in DEI focused work and governance.
Steven: All right. Robin, is it okay if I go ahead and get us started officially here?
Robin: Yes. Go right ahead.
Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, welcome, everybody. Good afternoon if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning if you’re out West. If you’re watching the recording, hope you’re having a good day no matter what time it is. We are here to talk about intentional leadership. This is part one of an awesome two-parter that we’re going to be doing on board governance practices that promote the very important DEI initiatives that your organization and hopefully you have. If you don’t have them, you’re in the right place. It’s going to be a good one. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
So just a couple of housekeeping items real quick. Before we get going, just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation. I’ll be sending out the recording and the slides. You should already have the sides, but if you don’t already have them, don’t worry. I’ll send them again. I promise you’ll get those from me later on this afternoon by email. So if you have to go to another appointment or you get erupted, if you’re working from home like us and maybe somebody interrupts you, maybe a kid walks in, don’t worry. We’re going to get all that good stuff to you today.
But most important, please feel free to send us questions throughout the hour. We’re going to try to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy. There’s a chat box. There’s a Q&A box. You can use either of those. I’ll keep an eye on them throughout the whole hour. So don’t be shy. We’d love to hear from you. Introduce yourself now if you haven’t already because we’d love to know who we’re talking to.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to you folks. If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. We love doing these webinars. We do them all the time, but if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, we are a provider of donor management software. So if that’s of interest to you, check out our website. We’re pretty easy to find if you want to learn more. But don’t do that right now because I’m very excited to welcome, like I said, for the first of a two-part webinar series. We’ll give you some info about part two, but Dr. Robin, joining us from beautiful Atlanta, Georgia. How’s it going, Robin? Are you doing okay?
Robin: I’m doing great. Yeah. And Atlanta is doing great also.
Steven: This is awesome to have you. Yeah. That’s awesome. I love Atlanta. We were talking about that before. So shout out to Atlanta if anyone else’s is here in the chat. You are so gracious to do this for us. We got connected by a mutual friend and we put this together. This is going to be a good one. If you all don’t know Dr. Robin, check her out over at Sage Consulting Network. She’s also a BoardSource consultant. She’s a senior governance consultant, over at BoardSource, which is one of our favorites. We’ve had BoardSource people on before. And this is her thing, training boards, helping boards out. And again, just really gracious to share her knowledge with us, especially over two sessions, which I don’t think we’ve ever done, which I’m really excited about. And I got a peek at Robin’s slides over this week, and you all are in for a big treat.
So I don’t want to take up any more time away from you, Robin. I’m going to stop sharing and we’ll let you bring up your beautiful slides here. This is always a fun transition. Looks like it’s working.
Robin: Okay. And then the beginning. All right. There we go.
Steven: Cool. All right.
Robin: Okay, everyone. So as Steven said, buckle up, fasten up, all those things. We have a lot to cover in a short amount of time. And I really need you to interact. So we’ve got the chat box that I certainly hope that you’re going to be digging into. I’m going to stop periodically and go to Steven, say what’s in the chat box. I’m going to do my best to answer those questions. I’ve got some poll questions. We’ll have you . . . Steven, are we just going to have them put the answers in the chat box as well?
Steven: Yeah. That’d probably be the best. Yeah.
Robin: Okay. So we’ll just have you put your answers in the chat box as well for those. We have a couple of videos. We practice them. If they don’t work, do not shame us because you know how videos are. But we are crossing our fingers that these videos are going to go perfectly because we want every bit of this experience to go well for you today. You know, when you get these slides, the second slide is just a little bit about me and my contact info and how to connect with me and, you know. So find me on LinkedIn, on my website, email me. I love to connect after these webinars and to definitely see if there’s anything that you need.
So this two-part series is designed to help executives and board leaders come together around how to lead during this very important time and how to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion within your structure, systems, and practices. And you’ll understand why I say that as we go through this process. Because this is more than what’s in our hearts, this is in what we do and how we create an ongoing process that allows diversity, equity, and inclusion to really take root within our organizations.
And one of the reasons that . . . I mean, quite frankly, nonprofit organizations whose most of your missions align with this work and why we’re behind as even a country is that we’ve been conditioned to feel uncomfortable talking about race, about racism, about anything related to it.
And so, as we go through this, I want you to tap into any discomfort that you might have and begin to say to yourself, “What do I need to do to get past that?” Because this is your job. I start every presentation with this slide. So if you have seen, if you were on Nonprofit Quarterly’s presentation, you’ll see just a few slides that overlap. There’s not a lot of overlap, but if you hear me anywhere, you’ll see this slide because this is the governance framework that really sets the stage for how boards should work.
This is not my work here. This is BoardSource and throughout our many years of research, BoardSource really captured the essence of the framework of what boards do. And the first is your work has to focus on the people, meaning the board members that you have around the table, who they are, how you determine who you need, and how you identify, cultivate, and recruit them. And we’ll talk about that.
Then your culture. How do you create a culture? Like a culture that can talk about racism, race, diversity, equity, inclusion. How do you create a culture where that can occur and that there’s not tension or folks shutting it down or people who don’t feel that it’s connected to your work?
The third is the work and that’s not just the work your organization does, but the work that the board does. So how you determine how you do the work that you do in terms of your board meetings, your committees, your roles, your responsibilities, the way in which you are ambassadors and experts for your organization, that has a lot to do with your governance. And then your impact. So I always say, would it make a difference if this board met for a year? And if you can’t say yes to that, then you haven’t figured out your impact.
And so all of these are areas that align with diversity, equity, and inclusion. So boards have to begin to face a lot of things. And I love this quote from James Baldwin. You know, this was in 1965 and in James Baldwin’s life, he left the United States and went to Europe to live. And he left because he just didn’t feel a place for himself here. As a black gay male, he thought and felt many, many levels of racism and discrimination. But while he was in Europe, he realized that, you know, there were things at home here that he had to face. And so this is one of his very, very famous sayings. And I use it all the time because it still resonates, it’s been so relevant to us today that, “Everything that’s faced can’t be changed, but nothing can be changed that’s not faced.”
And I wrote a blog and Steven so graciously posted it yesterday. And one of the things I said in the blog is that it is times like these when board leaders should be running towards this fire of racism, and inequities, and injustices. We have to be able to face it. This isn’t the fire that we go, “Wow. I hope someone comes to put this out.” This is the fire that we say, “According to our mission, what’s our role in helping to put out these flames?” So what do we need to face as board members?
I want to start with Bryan Stevenson who says that boards need to face what’s at risk in their communities and they need to get close to the people in the communities where that risk is occurring. And we faced as a country and even as a world, 8 minutes and 46 seconds. We faced seeing police brutality, racial, and social injustices through George Floyd being brutally murdered right before our eyes.
And what was so amazing about facing that is not only did we face it, but we saw two faces and that’s what’s so I think transformational about this moment, we saw the police officer’s face, right? As I debrief this with people, everyone is so shocked at how he looked calmly in the camera, how he put his hands deeper in his pocket, how his hands were in his pocket the whole time as he was pressing down the knee, which let us know he didn’t feel at all threatened because his hands were in his pocket. Yet he persistently pursued, killing this man. And then we saw George Floyd’s face and we saw the life leave his body. And so Bryan Stevenson’s second quote, is really powerful for that because it says that we are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. So we saw this happen.
And so, in absence of our compassion, we would be living in a very corrupt community, a corrupt society. So he says, “An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, and a nation.” And so I think on that day, we decided, the majority of us decided that we have compassion and that we would not live in a corrupt society and that we would do what it takes to create that decency that we did not see that was provided to George Floyd. So I want you to hear from Bryan Stevenson. Let’s . . . Oh, you know what I didn’t do. Okay. I’m sorry, guys. Can you hear that?
Steven: It was coming through, Robin.
Brian: Hi. My name is Bryan Stevenson and I’m the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. I’m also the author of “Just Mercy.” This is a critical moment in our nation’s history. There is a need for reckoning with our history of racial inequality and racial injustice that is dramatically on display in our streets. We are a nation that is not free. We have been corrupted, polluted by our long history of racial injustice. There are things we haven’t talked about that we need to talk about. We are a post-genocide society. When native people came to this continent, we killed them by the millions through famine, and war, and disease, but we didn’t call it genocide. We said those native people are savages, and we used that rhetoric to create this ideology of white supremacy. It allowed us to enslave black people for 2-1/2 centuries.
And the great evil of American slavery wasn’t the involuntary servitude. It wasn’t the bondage. It was this fiction that black people aren’t as good as white people, that black people are less deserving, less evolved, less capable. And that ideology of white supremacy survived the Civil War. I’ve often argued that slavery doesn’t end in 1865, it just evolves. We were promised freedom and the right to vote but what we received was terror, and violence, and lynching. For nearly a century, black people were pulled out of their homes. They were beaten. They were hanged. They were drowned. They were menaced and traumatized. That terrorism went uncorrected. It would be the police sometimes that would step away and allow the mobs to pull black people out of the jail and then literally lynched them on the courthouse lawn.
In the 1950s and ’60s, courageous black people challenged this legacy of Jim Crow and segregation. Put on their Sunday best to protest non-violently and they would pray, and they would fight, and they would march. And they’d be on their knees sometimes and still get battered and brutalized by police officers. The laws changed, but that narrative persisted. And even today, there is a presumption of dangerousness and guilt that gets assigned to black and brown people. And you can be a actor, you can be a musician, you can be a teacher, you can be a clergy member. You can be an engineer. It doesn’t matter how hard you work or how much money you acquire, you will go places if you’re black in this country and you’ll have to navigate these presumptions of dangerousness and guilt. I’ve gotten old enough to tell you that it’s exhausting. Things need to change. We need an era of truth and justice in America. We need to commit ourselves to being honest about our past, to reckoning with it.
In South Africa, there was a period of truth and reconciliation. In Rwanda, in Germany, there has been truth and justice. In Germany, there are no Adolf Hitler statues. In this country, the American South is littered with the iconography of the Confederacy. Truth and justice is sequential. You can’t have truth and reconciliation. You can’t have truth and reparation. You can’t have truth and restoration at the same time. These things are sequential. You have to tell the truth before you get to the restoration, before you get to the reconciliation.
I’m excited because in this moment, we have an opportunity to do more, to do better. I believe there’s something better waiting for us in America. I think there’s something that feels more like freedom, feels more like equality, feels more like justice waiting for us. But to get there, we’re going to have to commit to reckoning with our history, to telling the truth about our past, to engaging in important dialogue and conversations. I’m excited that you are having some of those conversations. You are a part of this effort. I want to thank you for that and invite you all to come and see us in Montgomery, but more than that, to invite you to continue being part of this process to change America, to lift up truth and justice.
Robin: Wow. So there’s a lot to unpack there. I want to start though by asking you to go to the chat box and to let us know if your board has participated in any kind of thoughtful discussion about Black Lives Matter, about the protest, about racial, social injustice, about racism, about George Floyd. Have you started to unpack this yourself?
Bryan Stevenson says a lot of things, but he affirmed that quote I said earlier, and that’s that as Americans, we have to spend time talking about these issues. That we have to spend time understanding the truth and getting to the truth. That we have to acknowledge that racism mutated – that’s my word – over these years into so many different forms and that the truth is important to any restoration or any reconciliation, and that it is sequential.
So you just can’t, boards, start to do good work without first talking about the truth about what the problems are. And sometimes we want to skip over the truth and we want to go straight to the work. All well and good, because we want to make a difference, but also because the truth is hard to deal with.
So I see, we’ve got a couple of hands raised, Steven, and we’ve got lots coming in the chat box. So I’ll let you kind of share what folks are saying in the chat.
Steven: Yeah. We got a lot of yeses and then, you know, the nos are interesting, Robin. There’s just a lot of people that maybe are getting some roadblocks from maybe people on the board or people, you know, who are maybe afraid of rocking the boat, things like that. But a lot of yeses, which makes me glad to see that.
Robin: Yes. And particularly at this point in this movement in our country, I mean, we’ve, you know, it’s July, and so most of our country, most of our states have been having protest and discussions about this for a few months now. So I’m glad for the yeses, for the nos, hopefully you’re going to get something out of these. I know you will get something out of these next two presentations that will help to support your efforts to move the work forward. And we’ve had some hands raised, how do you handle that on your calls?
Steven: Oh, I can take care of those folks. I got you covered.
Robin: Okay. All right. Very good. So I’m going to keep going. Okay? So, you know, Robin DiAngelo who wrote the book, “White Fragility,” and those of you who have noes, you may want to get this book. I think everybody should read it. She is a white woman who’s writing to white people about being white and what that means for how you have created roadblocks, exactly what the noes are experiencing. And she writes about white people really good at creating roadblocks to not talking about race and racism and your roles in creating it and your role in solving it.
And I love this quote from her. She says she’s never met a white person without an opinion on racism. So use that quote. When folks tell you they don’t want to talk about it, they don’t have anything to say, they have an opinion. They just don’t want to share their opinion. And this process, just like any process is not pretty, right? It doesn’t start off neat. It starts off really raw. But everybody has an opinion, black and white, but she’s speaking from the white perspective as the white author talking to white folk. And she says, “I’ve never met a white person without an opinion on racism.”
So be emboldened with that knowledge, that that is the case. But your job as a board and as leaders of your organization is to come to what we call a shared understanding. You cannot get to the shared understanding if, a), you cannot bring these issues up to the collective group and if, b), folks in the group are not being honest and talking about their opinions. So the shared understanding is key to you defining what systemic racism, racial equity, social justice, what all of this means for your mission and for the work that you do. And the reason it’s important is because I tell my board members all the time, “You are here to support the mission, not the other way around. So you can be as uncomfortable as you want, that cannot stop this work because the work is about the change that your organization seeks to achieve within the community.”
And if you allow individual board members’ personal discomfort to stop that, then, in fact, what you’re saying to them is that, you know, we’re kind of running your business, right? But this isn’t their business. This is the nonprofit’s business and this is the business of the community and the impact you want to have. So the shared understanding is critical and it’s critical that you put on the table and discern and understand these very important constructs that in our country have been taboo to talk about.
The biggest, I would say misinformation that we get is folks not understanding these three terms and you have to start with the terminology. And so I’m kind of modeling for you in this conversation that we’re having the way in which I think you should have the conversation. So folks will say to you, and you’ve heard this nationally, “It’s just one or two bad actors,” right? So they’re just some racist people.
So, in fact, yes, there are some racist people. There are people who have racial prejudice and hatred in their minds and in their hearts and they may, in some way, individually discriminate, right? That does occur. But that is not enough to explain 401 years, right? So we know that it is not racist people, but it is racism that is what has plagued our country for 400 years. And as Bryan Stevenson said, went from slavery to post-Civil War construction, to early 1900s discrimination, to Jim Crow, to the kind of oppression that we still experience and see now with police brutality, mass incarceration, underemployment. So it’s mutated. What causes this to mutate is racism, which is social and institutional power plus race justice. Racism is embedded in our infrastructure. So it’s like going throughout the system of the United States across multiple levels.
And then he talked about ideology. And white supremacy is the ideology that creates the ground water for racism. So it’s what fuels racism. It’s the ideology or the belief that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to that of people of color. And we know that it applies to black people, often to people from Latin backgrounds, often to immigrants. So it is an ideology, often religion, to our Jewish community. So it’s an ideology that says that white people are better.
Now, folks get very uptight by the word white supremacy because the United States has also done a really good job of making white supremacy feel like it’s like it’s an outlier, right? Like these are extremist people. Now, there are extremists in white supremacy, but the ideology of white supremacy is just about white dominance. And your neighbor can have that and not ever have done anything harmful to a person, but he or she . . . I mean, harmful in terms of, you know, rioting, or marching, or putting a cross on someone’s lawn.
So we have this thought that it means something extreme when it is extreme in its normality. So that’s the point I want you to get across. It is extreme in that it has become a mainstream part of the infrastructure of the United States. And that’s where you get what we call systemic racism. So your boards have to say, “Where is systemic racism present within the work that we do, our mission, those we serve, the communities and the way in which they connect, and what is holding them back?” Right?
We have all too often put the blame on the individual person, right? “Oh, what’s holding them back is the single mothers. You know, they didn’t graduate from high school. They didn’t, you know, they’re not caring for their children. They’re not . . .” So it’s all the blame on the person. Well, that’s not the real situation. The issue is what we call systemic racism, which is institutional and systemic power that’s combined with race prejudice that, in fact, creates policies and practices that create different outcomes for different racial groups.
And so these practices don’t say in it black, right? But red lining, didn’t say in the U.S. government policy black, but the United States, if you read the book, “The Color of Law,” intentionally created communities for poor black people in a very different way than they created communities for poor white people. They intentionally segregated communities that were once diverse, poor black and white communities where folks lived together close to the plant where they worked and they intentionally said, “No, no, that shall not be. We will put the black people on this side of the railroad track in these thing called high rises, which look like cages. We’ll put the poor white people in these low-level smaller cottage homes. We’ll give the white community trash collection three times a week and we’ll give the black community trash collection one time a week. The black community will then become rat-infested, squalorly, dirty, and unclean and people will begin to attribute what they see to the way in which black people live rather than by design that systemic racism set up these situations.
So as boards and executives, you have to ask yourself, “How was this system designed to get the results that we’re getting? How was the group that we work with oppressed?” So oppression is another word that is good for the boardroom. It’s good for us to understand that there is systematic subjugation or oppression throughout the history of America and that that oppression is what creates the divide that we see. It’s how people experience their lives. So how they experience genocide, or harassment, or discrimination in a persistent way.
So oppression creates a layering effect where you might experience it in your school system, then you might experience it in your transportation system, then you would experience it in your employment or in your employer process, where you work or in attempts to find employment that is fair and equitable for you. So you would experience it across multiple systems, and that’s what oppression looks and feels like. So oppression is like humidity. You know, it’s something that those who are oppressed feel and experience.
So we want your groups to do what Bryan Stevenson said, and that’s to reckon with. So reckoning is become one of my new favorite words. It’s really to have what we call a truthful accounting of. A city that I love . . . I don’t know if anyone here is on the line from Asheville, North Carolina. But on the 14th of July, Asheville, North Carolina City Council issued a reconciliation resolution on behalf of the city to its black citizens. And in that . . . And so go look it up. It is the best example of . . . I think our only example of United States reckoning where they said those things that were the truth, they then said those things that the truth caused, they then said those things that needed to be restored, and they then said those things that they would do, meaning the reconciliation.
And that’s what that reckoning is about. And that’s what I would love for your organizations to think about, is what needs to be reckoned with through our work. So if you could go to the chat box and just think of one truth, one truth about the work that you do in the community and where that work is tied to systemic racism, one truth. It might be food deserts. One truth that there’s intentional denial of healthy foods in black communities.
One truth. It might be about . . . I’m blocking on the word. It’s environmental justice, where many of our communities of color were built near contaminated water and sewer systems. Wow. Didn’t we see that with Flint just a few years ago and we were all shocked, like how could the city of Michigan, of Detroit, and that state of Michigan, the city of Detroit, which I believe was the larger municipality that works with Flint, allow for lead to be in the water. And they knew it and they did nothing about it. So I’m interested in what reckonings you all think you need to have. Is there anything in the chat box, Steven?
Steven: Oh, there are some good ones in here.
Robin: Oh, good. Let’s hear it.
Steven: Wow. Lots of people talking about the justice system, over-policing in their community, disproportionate policing, education inequities in the budgets, a couple of people chimed in about environmental justice, like you said. And a lot of folks are also saying the board doesn’t look like the people they serve, which yeah, that’s a big one too.
Robin: Oh. Yeah. We’re going to talk about that in the what you should do. We’re going to talk about that briefly today and then much more in depth and in our next session. So very good. So I want you to like this word reckoning. Join with me and like being a big old fan of it. Okay? Because that’s where the truth telling comes in. That’s where we stop blaming the individual and we start to think about what the truth is and how we need to account for it.
So on a day-to-day basis, we have these bigger issues that I just went through, racist, racism, white supremacy, systemic racism. The day-to-day interaction that we often see looks a lot more subtle than that though. So it looks like this thing we call implicit bias. And I don’t want you to feel that implicit bias is not still important issue for you to deal with, with your boards.
This is, in fact, the reason why many of your boards look all white, is because of bias. So the people on your board are great people. The majority of them, most of them, 99, we’ll say, and they’re not racist, but they are biased. And so this implicit bias is the unconscious bias that really does impact our interaction and our decision-making. And it’s about attitudes and stereotypes that affect our understanding, our actions, and our decisions. We don’t think of it. You don’t necessarily know you’re doing it, but everyone is susceptible and biases are created from the time we are born and biases come to us through multiple venues in media.
So if you were to go to, and I think I have it in my end slide, to Anderson Cooper 360 Clark doll study, Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien did a replication of the Clark doll study, where they looked at how bias is developed in children and bias developed in children, according to researchers at Harvard, very early, actually by the age of 7 to 10, children already have a bias against blacks. And the implicit appreciation study, which is another Harvard study, showed that 70% of black people have an anti-black bias, while 50%, believe it or not, of black people have an anti-black bias. So it’s because of what we’re told and how we’re conditioned and the end result of that is what we call these implicit bias microaggressions, meaning these are everyday verbal, nonverbal, environmental flights, snubs, insults.
You know, when I talk to boards and I say, “Why don’t you have a more diverse board?” And they say, “Oh, we can’t find any one qualified.” That’s a bias. “Oh, we don’t know anyone. Oh, we want people to fit in.” That’s a bias. Well, we really feel that a board members of colors should start first on the committee and then if they show that they are dedicated, then we’ll consider them. And I always say, “Well, did you have to start on a committee?” So creating a separate and a distinct process. Or the big one is, “Well, we’re a fundraising board, and we don’t know of black board members or people of color really can give.” That’s a bias. All of these are negative bias and aggressions that, in fact, prevent you from being able to take that very important step of integrating your board. So I’ve got something for you to listen to real quick about that.
Man: That’s not me. I’m not like that. You call it an honest mistake. But science calls it a blind spot. Our unconscious mind is a mysterious and powerful thing. It makes 90% of our decisions without us even knowing it. Our brains overloaded with 11 million pieces of information every second, yet we can only process about 40 of them. So we’re wired to make cognitive shortcuts using past experiences to make assumptions. And you know what happens when we assume. Our unconscious mind can put us on autopilot, determining where we sit, who we eat lunch with, who we turn to for advice, and who we choose to offer a helping hand. Living our lives with blind spots can put us in a tunnel, same point of view, same decisions, same outcomes. We could find ourselves trapped in the land of snap judgments and misconceptions. We’ve all been on both the giving and receiving end of blind spots.
Think about it. Who’s talented? Who’s able? Whom can I trust? Who belongs? We’ve all been there. Blind spots are part of the human condition. Our choices have consequences for us and the people we interact with. By accepting that blind spots exist, we can stop. Imagine what possibilities exist if we could do it all over again, different perspectives, inclusive relationships, diverse networks, better outcomes. Seeing people for who they really are. People like you with unlimited potential. We all have blind spots. Once you accept that you have them, then you can choose to do something about it. It’s time check your blind spots and focus on what’s possible.
Robin: So implicit bias and blind spots. That’s a big part of why our boards . . . Okay, I’m trying to get this to progress. Okay. Why our boards look the way they do. And we see this each and every day. So we have these things that have been happening for the last couple of years, where white folks have been calling the police on black people who are doing ordinary and everyday things. And these are evidence of microaggressions and they’re evidence of that implicit bias that, what Bryan Stevenson said, that belief that there is criminal behavior, even in the normal and routine things.
The most recent one was the New York City Central Park bird watcher, who . . . I call it bird watcher versus unleashed dog that went viral where she revealed to you that she understood the power in her microaggression when she said, “I’m going to call the police on you and tell them that a black man is attacking me.”
So we have to ask our boards about our blind spots. We have to really dig deep into them and connect those blind spots, not only to board recruitment, but also to the kinds of problems that we’re dealing with in our communities because those individuals who you work with, black and brown people who are a part of those who you serve are experiencing, right, the racism, the systemic racism, implicit bias, and blind spots, microaggressions each and every day.
And so Dr. David Williams at Harvard actually did a study that looked at the impact of this on health. And so one of the things that really always bothers me when we hear them talk about COVID-19 and we hear them talk about the disparity of COVID-19 in communities of color is that they don’t really say why communities of color begin with such disparate health outcomes.
And the things that we are discussing now, that I’m describing has a lot to do with that, because the impact of these daily slights, racism, systemic racism, the oppression that I told you was layered are health outcomes. So these bias in these types of events lead to increased hypertension and coronary artery disease and low birth weight, and poor sleep problems, and mortality, even early death. And so I always say to my colleagues, “Is it okay with you that black and brown people have a more likelihood to die sooner just because they are black and brown?” Not because of anything else and because of what they experienced being black and brown.
So I want to go next to the chat box before I talk to you about what the impact is and then we’re going to shift real quick to some things that you can do just to tee up our part two conversation. So we have anything in the chat box, Steven, that I need to address? And I’ve seen some hands being raised. So I want to pause and see if there’s anything that you want to share.
Steven: Yeah. A question just came in on a point you just made, Robin, about the blind spots. And Sally here is wondering if you think there’s a greater cost to people of color than there are to white people when it comes to kind of breaking away from those blind spots and kind of getting over them. It seems like there probably is. I’m wondering what your take on that is.
Robin: So there’s a greater cost to people of color for all of this. Black is the exponential multiplier. So quite often you’ll hear folks say, “Oh, but I’m a white woman and there are blind spots.” Or, “I’m gay and there are blind spots.” And you’re absolutely right. There’s implicit bias against multiple groups, but the exponential factor that multiplies the complexity of that is being black and brown. So when you are a black and brown woman, when you’re a black and brown gay person, when you’re a black and brown person who’s differently able, when you apply skin color to any of these, then it is even more complicated and it’s even more insidious. So they . . . we, because I am one, suffer more as a result of those blind spots and implicit bias and stand to benefit when they are addressed and they are removed, when people become more aware of them. Stand to benefit with the possibility of having a more fair and just opportunity.
But what really has to happen is what we have on this slide. And so thanks for teeing that up, is there has to be changes in systems, policies and practices and cultural representation. That’s what really we have to focus on as leaders. Yes, we want to encourage one another to individually change, and that has to happen. In fact, if someone cannot change, then they should leave your boards. Yes, even if they are a big giver, I’m sorry. You have to find another way for them. But they can’t be in a place of leadership where, in fact, they have to help drive change, because these are the kinds of conditions that you’re trying to impact.
We know that because of racism, sexism, all of these things I have listed here, xenophobia, that we have racial disparities, and maternal mortality and infant mortality rate. I’m on a board, The Center for Black Women’s Wellness, and this is one of the areas that we focus on. In fact, in Georgia, is I think, the 49th state, I mean lowest performance, and women of color or even the lowest performers in that. Black women are more likely to die of cancer.
You all talked about the achievement gap when you put in your chat about what’s the truth, right? What are those truths that need to be reckoned with? We know that as early as preschool, there is discrimination and disciplining children and in identifying problematic behavior. That sets the tone for a child’s entire educational system with how they’re treated then. Educators’ implicit bias. So when you look at this list, this list is more about the systems, the policies, and the practices and the representation. That’s where we want to focus our attention, but we want to call out and we want to focus in whatever way we can on the blind spots.
How do you know what’s happening is through your data. You have to look at what we call disaggregated data in your work, by race, by gender, by immigration. You have to understand what the disparities and the inequities actually are. So sometimes you say, “Oh, wow, we’re doing really great. We served 300 people.” But I don’t think just passing out food is probably your total mission. Your mission might be, how do we understand hunger? And why is that people in certain communities have a greater food need disparity than those in other communities. And so wanting to understand hunger by data is very important to you, and that’s what we want your organizations to do.
So I’m interested in . . . You can just put this in the chat box. I’m not going to pause but we’ll have it to take a look at for our next section. How many of you are looking at disaggregated data are really looking at race, and gender, and immigration, or whatever your data looks at for disparities and inequities?
So what are you all called to do? I’m going to go through this fairly fast because our entire next session is going to be about this in-depth. You are called to challenge your own bias. Yes, you have to do that. And you begin to challenge that by spending your individual time, getting to understand what you believe and being honest with yourself. So reading books, like “How to Be an Antiracist,” “White Fragility,” “Blind Spots.” There are so many books out right now that are absolutely helpful and amazing. There’s so many things on YouTube. There are TED talks. I mean, there’s an abundance of support. And then there’s also tests that you can take. I mentioned that Harvard implicit bias test, you can go online and that link is at the end of my slides.
So the good news here is that implicit bias is what we call malleable, meaning you can undo it. You can unlearn. And the strategies for that is to replace anti-bias . . . is to replace bias with anti-bias pro-bias efforts, right? So to begin to think of pro-bias thoughts in the ways that you previously had bias thoughts. To challenge implicit bias. So when you’re with someone and they say something to you that is a very generic and generally false statement about a group of people, to challenge it, to say, “Help me understand why you’re saying that.” Or, “Where are you getting that from?” Or, “How do you have that understanding?” Or, “What is that based on? ” That that is generally not true. That what is true is that, you know, black people or Latino people are all individuals and that you’re judging them as a collective based upon one data point that you might have. So we begin to challenge these false images.
Boards have to also adopt and say to themselves that diversity, equity, and inclusion is a leadership role. So if you go back to that slide I had earlier that had the four framework areas, this fits in every one of those framework areas. This is your job. It is your leadership role. So don’t let anyone tell you, you know, “This is out of our lane.” You know, “That’s not really what we’re here to do as board members.” Yeah. You are. And that you really have to create an intentional focus on equity.
So equity is, in addition, to the charitable work that you do, equity is what is our role? How does our work intersect with inequities? So what are we trying to create and how can we create a state where those who we serve have an opportunity for just, impartial, and fair outcomes? And race equity, it’s how can we create and support conditions where one’s race and identity, racial identity has no influence on your outcomes, on how you fare.
And so the picture here, while not perfect, is one that helps us to understand that there are those within our society who need additional support in order to reach the fruit of life, right? In order to achieve because of barriers. And so sometimes you’re removing barriers to create equity, and sometimes you’re creating policy, structures, and practices that prevent inequities from happening. Sometimes you’re creating policies and structures that give additional access or advantage to those who have historically been disadvantaged.
And so folks say, “Well, I don’t like the idea of giving anyone, letting anyone go to the front of the line.” And I always say, “Well, was it okay with you that for 400 years they were only put in the back of the line?” So, you know, you have to be very crafty at flipping that, that it’s not putting someone in the front of the line, when, in fact, white people have been in the front of the line. White folks have written policies and practices that allowed them to be in the front of the line. And so we have to challenge this narrative that equity puts black people, or Latino people, or women in the front of the line when, in fact, it allows them to be in the line in a just way.
So this gets us to the point about leadership on boards. Boards have to really take a proactive approach at ensuring that there is an intersection between race outcomes and leadership. There is a leadership gap in both our executive directors and in our board leadership. In fact, BoardSource’s data shows that over the last few years, we’ve lost ground and the percentage of board members that are of color. So board members have to have intentional strategies to decrease the race leadership gap.
A lot of this is driven by implicit bias, and so debiasing your process, creating a commitment in an intentionality to how you do recruitment when you are doing recruitment as well as decreasing the board leadership gap and creating a pipeline of black and brown potential board candidates, debiasing your process for how you evaluate and determine board candidates, removing barriers that are often put in place for those candidates and removing the practice of consistently selecting only one person of color.
We’re going to go into this more in detail next time, but this is the journey for intentional board building. A board composition is really important. This is where you intentionally map out your board members, identify the ideal board composition in terms of race, ethnicity, age, as well as professional background and all of those things, and then see where you’re missing. And this is aligned with your community. So the community where your organization works and provides services and those that you serve. It should be consistently aligned.
So one of the things I want you to think about is whether or not your board has a board composition matrix or an intentional board building strategy that supports diversity and inclusion. If you can go into the text box and let us know that. Again, we’ll use this information for creating the part two webinar.
And then I’ve just got some guidance here for you for each of the other areas that I want you to spend some time about how to create an intentional culture, meaning how to move towards anti-racist culture, how to elevate the voices of those in the room who want to speak and talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion, you know, how to evaluate your words, your images, and your actions to ensure that they support DEI, how to ensure that you are working towards a greater impact in your work with real intentionality. Like what is the data? What gaps are you trying to close? And how are you holding yourselves accountable to that? It could be a leadership gap. It could be an employee gap. It could be a board diversity and inclusion gap. It could be a gap in equity within your community. It could be a gap in your vendors, those who serve your organization, those who you’re giving economic opportunities to. So it goes across the board, throughout your entire organization and how you’re going to be more targeted and strategic at how you really work towards having explicit equity moves within your organization.
This is a link to a really great article that I encourage you to get and to share with your board. It’s written by Angela Glover from PolicyLink. She’s now the president emeritus. But it talks about what equity looks like. Equity looks like advocacy. So in what ways is your board advocating for equitable, just, and fair treatment? It looks like changing programs, policies, and systems. It looks like making sure that that multiplier I talked about before that multiplies against people of color, that they there’s a multiplier that creates a positive benefit, not just for people of color, but we know it also then creates a positive benefit for our entire community. So that’s what equity looks like. This is a really good article to share with your board and to even have a conversation about this article.
And then some things for you to kind of talk about. We’re going to talk about these more next time. So if you’re coming back next time, maybe you can have some of this teed up. And I also mentioned to Steven that I don’t mind staying for a few minutes longer if folks want to kind of chat about this, but what impact and outcomes do you all really want to achieve? What’s the immediate actions that are needed? You know, we want to know, what should we be doing right now with our board and what our organization. I call those your just do its. What should you do right now? Personally, what does equity, racial equity, social justice, racism, what does all this mean to you? Where are you in this? Is this a priority for you in your life, your work, and your work on the board? And then how would you describe a bias culture and practice and share an experience?
So think about how you see this playing out in your life and what that experience is like for you either to experience it, if it has happened to you or to witness it when you see it. So these are some things that you can also use to talk about with your board members as well as with yourselves.
I’ve given you a little assignment here that . . . this is some of the things that I charge boards to do all the time, and that’s to think about, again, they can do in the first 30 to 90 days. What can you do right now to make the difference and then begin to have a thoughtful process to identify those longer term systems-level issues that you need to change?
And then I’ve given you what I consider some really great ground rules because when you get into these conversations, you need to make sure that everybody feels safe. And so please use these ground rules, build on them, add your own to the mix in a way that will help to set the stage for you being able to have those very productive, safe, and fair conversations. So I’m going to stop there. And I know we are exactly at 2:00 and some of you may have to leave, but we can take a look at the chat box and if there’s questions there, Steven, I’d be more than happy to answer them.
Steven: Yeah. We got some good ones.
Robin: Here’s the links for you.
Steven: Oh, sweet. Awesome. Dr. Robin, this is a fabulous to have you. Loved listening to this. And I know all the folks did too. I’ve gotten so many good chats across the hour, thanking you for this. And a lot of people excited about part two, didn’t know about it. So we’ll get you all invited to part two. It’s coming up in just a few weeks. So look for that invite. I’ll get that to you for sure.
But yeah, I’m happy. I would love to stick around all day with you, Dr. Robin. You’ll probably be pushing me away by the end of this, but we got some good questions here. I’ll just dive into them. There was a great one from Brenda here and Brenda is basically commenting on . . . it seems like . . . And this has been something I’ve observed as well that . . .
Robin: I’m going to stop sharing, actually.
Steven: Okay. Yeah. There you go.
Robin: Thank you, Steven. Okay. Great.
Steven: Correct me if I’m wrong, but typically, the burden of this work tends to fall on black people, right? So, Brenda, she’s an African-American woman. She’s saying, “I’m getting all the time, white board members, white colleagues coming to me and asking questions and looking to me to solve this,” right? And sometimes it’s, you know, the one black employee at the organization who gets put in charge of the committee or whatever. Can you comment on this phenomenon, I guess? ” What should we do? How can we make this better? Because this is not fair for this burden to fall on people. And I feel bad because me as a white person, invited you to come on to bear this burden to educate, so what should we be doing differently?
Robin: So it’s a little bit different when someone does it professionally, as opposed to when you are, you know, just living your life as a black or brown person and people come up to you and ask you to lead a committee or to tell them, give them advice on how to manage racism within the organization that they share with you. And so Robin DiAngelo really talks about that a lot in her book, “White Fragility.” And I always recommend to everyone that you get your answer set that feels good for you. And that that answer may be something like, “Hey, I’m glad you noticed. And because you noticed, then you know that this is something that is a part of our collective experience, not just mine and that, in fact, it’s really powerful when you take the lead on this. It’s really powerful when someone who is not a black person takes the lead.” So, “Hey, I’ll support you, bring this up at the next staff meeting. I’ll support you. Bring this up at the next, whatever and I won’t leave you hanging. I’ll be there for you.”
Because what happens is that they’re teeing you up, but quite often, people aren’t going to support you. This happens to all of us, and I can tell you, it just happened to me a couple of days ago, where I had debriefed something with a group, we got on a call and no one said anything. And so, when I started, no one said anything. But then when the meeting was over, one of my colleagues called me and she said, “Oh, my gosh, Robin, what you said . . . ” And you know what I said to her? I said, “You left me hanging.” I said, “This phone call is equal to finding me in the hallway after the meeting and saying, oh wow, you were so right but during the meeting you said nothing.”
And so you also have to be prepared to hold them accountable. Say, “You abandoned me. You set me up. I’m not carrying the load for this alone. This only works when we all do this together. This isn’t a black problem.” In fact, it really isn’t a black problem. It’s a white problem. And white people have to fix it because white people started it. And so you have to feel very confident in being able to speak the truth. This is one of those truths that we talked about.
Steven: Allyship. That’s kind of what I’m hearing from you, right?
Robin: Yes. What allyship is, and there’s some great things in online about what allyship looks like, and that is one of them. Allyship shows up, takes the lead. Does your part. If you prep in advance, you don’t leave the other person, black, white, or other people of color hanging. You don’t just show up after the meeting, but you show up during the meeting. So those are some of the real key steps to being an ally. Absolutely.
Steven: Here’s one from Renee, my buddy Renee. I’m going to introduce her Renee, Robin. I think you two are going to get along actually. But, you know, the people on this webinar with listening live, listening to the recording, they’re open-minded, they know, right? It’s the people not on this webinar that I’m kind of worried about. And Renee is asking, “How do we get those people to see that these things exist? That systemic racism is real, that they have biases.” What should we do? Should we send them the recording of this? Should we buy them these books? What do you think we should do for people that maybe are a little bit more resistant to these concepts?
Robin: So it all depends on how. So, first of all, if you’re the board chair or the executive, you have the ability to create an agenda for this to say to the board, you know, “This is a journey we’re going to go on because we know that this is the right journey, and we want you to go on it with us. If you have any, you know, sincere problems with that, talk to me individually, but it’s not going to stop the journey.” And so you take them on the journey, either yourselves, you get a consultant which, I mean, not because I’m pushing this on you, but because I know it works. A lot of times it’s better to have someone external who comes in and really does a deeper dive, who can bring to the organization and say things that you can’t say, and actually can uncover things that you can’t uncover.
Form a committee is another great way to do it. It’s always better than there’s more than one voice saying this is important. There are other people on your board who are allies, and so they are . . . who are supportive, who want to grow. And so you just keep moving this work. And that committee brings work back to the group. And that committee continues to change the governance structure to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. And eventually, those who are resistant will realize that they have to grow and they will, or unfortunately, they’re going to leave. So you just have to keep pushing this work through whatever the right structural way is through your organization to get it done.
Steven: Okay. Here’s one from Emily. I really like this question. Emily is in Aspen, Colorado environmental organization. Majority white community, over 85%, they want to do this, but they struggle. You’re right. They struggle finding these people. Is that an excuse? I know Emily’s heart is in the right place, but even if you know, the minority population is a small percentage, does that matter? What can they do? Should they allow that to kind of be a roadblock? What do you think?
Robin: This is not uncommon where folks are in communities and the people of color or the diversity is extremely low. So I go back to who are you serving? And that’s the first thing you need to know is your data, who are you serving? Are you serving people of color? Or if you’re not and you’re in a community that is not serving people of color, then, in fact, you should still know about it. You should work on issues that are changing conditions and situations for those that you serve, but it may not be for you, you know, all about race. It may be about class. It may be about LGBTQ issues. It might be about religion. You have to just understand in your community what the disparities are.
For our country, overall, the disparity is race. Inequity is race-driven, but there are pockets where the racial representation is so low, that that may not be the predominance of what you see. But you have to dig into your data and go with what your data tells you.
I also, you know, working with a group who have an indigenous . . . and I imagine you might in Colorado, indigenous communities that have been disenfranchised, that have been isolated and whether they’re a part of your mission or not, you may identify an obligation to do some truth-telling about how those indigenous communities have been treated and what restoration you can become a part of in terms of a partnership within your community. And I have really been seeing that as a priority that is rising to the top because many areas have marginalized, indigenous Native American communities, that they’ve just been walking past for years. And so take a look at your community and see what the needs are.
Steven: What about tokenization? Is there a danger that someone may listen to this presentation or read another book, another resource and, you know, have good intentions, but, well, we got our one black board member and we got our one gay board member and, you know, we’re done? Is that a real danger? Is that something that people should kind of keep in mind and what are ways to avoid tokenizing people?
Robin: Well, that board composition is the way to avoid it. First of all, you want a diverse board. You don’t want just one black person or one gay person, but you want those folks who you identify to represent the qualifications that you need on your board. And so, if you need a person on your board who has a CFO, a financial background, and in fact, what has always happened is the all-white board members have turned to each other and said, “Hey, who do we know that’s [inaudible 01:11:42]?” And then they go to their buddies who they know who are white CFOs. But if, instead you say, “We need a CFO, and so we need to create a more diverse pipeline for people who have financial backgrounds, who can bring to our board that asset. Where can we get this diverse pool of board members, a diverse pool of board candidates?”
And you begin to look at your community at where, in fact, black CPAs and financial experts are, you begin to connect with them, send them information about your organization, maybe invite them to a gala or to an event, figure out who really cares about your mission, right? Because it’s mission first. You’re not recruiting someone just because they’re this, you’re recruiting them because they care about your mission, they align with the work you do, they have the expertise you need, and they may be of color, gender, or other background, demographic background that you need as well.
So we’re going to talk about this more, but go back to that slide where I had identify, cultivate, recruit. Most people go right to recruit. And if you go right to recruit, you’re going to get someone who feels like a token. But if you identify really who you need and you cultivate those relationships, then you’ve got someone who is aligned with your mission as well as with all of those other demographic and professional characteristics you need and then you recruit them and you can say, “Hey, Robin, we really would love to invite you to apply to serve on our board because of these five things about you that are great that we need, not this one thing about you, but these five things about you that we need.”
Steven: Love it. Yeah. You gave us a great rubric. This is awesome. We’re a little over time. You’ve been so gracious. Maybe a good way to end is I was personally curious myself of, do you feel like we’re at a little bit of a tipping point? And the reason I ask that is, you know, we’ve been covering these topics for years and I would always get pushback from people saying, you know, why are you stirring the pot? Why are you talking about this? You know, all lives matter. I would get replies. But since Memorial Day or early June, those have calmed down as we have talked more about it. And I was just wondering you, personally, do you feel like maybe something finally is changing or is going to change? It seems like a moment, right?
Robin: Yeah. I think that we are in a collective movement where people are seeing it, it’s that proximity and we’ve had a lot in the past, right? We’ve seen these police injustices. We’ve seen these microaggressions, you know, we know this has been happening, but people have wanted to keep the peace more than they’ve wanted change. And so now we have COVID-19, which has highlighted the health disparities that many people of color came into COVID-19 preexisting. And we know why those health disparities exist because of systemic inequities in healthcare, systemic inequities within our community that set up a vulnerability to various health issues. Then we had the economic downturn and we see that many of those who suffered economic downturn are actually frontline workers, and many of them are people of color. And then we see again, the systemic racism that is within our policing practices and we see this up-close death, murder.
So it has put people into a position where it’s hard to ignore this. And as Bryan Stevenson said, you know, are we a people of compassion and caring? And do we want to create a society that is just for everyone? And if not, then I think a lot of people realize that, you know, we are really going to lose all of our moral compass in this country. And so that’s where the diverse, I think, outrage is coming from, and that’s what’s creating this real change opportunity for us. And so you’re right.
Steven: I’m thankful for that. I wish it hadn’t taken so long and taken these incidents, but it I am thankful that maybe certain people are starting to pay attention. So hopefully everyone who is listening enjoyed this. I know I did immensely. And, you know, share the recording. We’re going to give you all these resources and make it easy to send to board members, coworkers, your boss. And part two coming up, right? We’re going to be doing that August 12th, I think it is.
Robin: Yes. It’s August 12th.
Steven: Let me share my screen here and we’ll make sure we’re going to get you all invited to this for sure. Yeah. August 12th at 2:00 p.m. Part two, we’ll get you an invite and we’ll also get you all the great resources from today’s session. Dr. Robin, this was awesome. Thanks so much for doing this.
Robin: Thank you. And thanks to 104 people who hung in there with us. That’s awesome. That’s amazing. Thank you.
Steven: I got to say, a lot of registrants, which made me happy. And you read my mind with the people who stuck around longer, but another thing, Dr. Robin, you might want to know is I was crunching some numbers while I was listening, but this had one of the highest ratios of registrants to attendees that I’ve seen in eight years, which is awesome. So hopefully . . .
Robin: Which is good. It says a lot about all of you guys, that you’re ready. You’re ready to get tools for what you can do to move this work forward within your organization.
Steven: Absolutely. Well, thanks again. And thanks to all of you for hanging out. I know it’s a busy time of year. You’re just starting your new fiscal year. But hopefully we’ll see you again on part two and you can see on your screen, we’ve got lots of other sessions. So look for the invites to those, and hopefully we’ll see you again on another webinar. So look for an email from me. Slides and recording coming up. You’ll have them before dinner time. I promise. And hopefully you stay well, stay healthy. Dr. Robin, stay cool down there. I know it’s pretty hot in Atlanta but we’ll talk to you again next month and hopefully we’ll see you again soon. So take care, have a good rest of the . . .
Robin: Bye, everybody.
Steven: See you.
Francisco "Paco" Ollervides