"Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on." - U.S. Catholic Bishops statement on Racism (May 29, 2020).
In this workshop, facilitated by Dr. Tiffany Galvin Green, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Megan Wilson-Reitz '10G, Administrative Coordinator for Diversity and Equity, participants will learn how to show up as more effective members of multiracial communities, how to engage more authentically in interracial dialogue and relationships, and how to contribute concretely to the work of racial justice. Discussion will include approaches for tackling difficult conversations, noticing and interrupting patterns of bias, and an introductory framework for mapping our roles in a social change ecosystem. Participants are invited to bring questions and suggestions for how we can contribute to meaningful social change as a John Carroll community.
You are also invited to utilize additional resources made available by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Tiffany Galvin Green, Ph.D. serves as Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at John Carroll University, where she oversees all matterns of equity, inclusiveness, diversity, equal access, and the prevention of discrimination and harassment. Previously, Dr. Green served as Assistant Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence at Vanderbilt University. She also has industry experience having been the CEO and executive director of River Region Human Services, Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida, where she oversaw 13 non-profit locations and 200+ employees across three counties. Previous faculty appointments include the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Capella University (Minnesota), Flagler College (Florida), the University of Utah, University of Texas at Dallas, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Dr. Green holds a Ph.D. in organizational behavior and M.S. in management/organizational behavior from Northwestern University and a B.B.A.from the University of Michigan.
Megan Wilson-Reitz, M.A., '10G serves as the Administrative Coordinator for Diversity and Equity in the DEI Division at John Carroll University, where she assists with the design and facilitation of programs for faculty and staff to promote a culture of inclusiveness across the University, as well as providing support to other institutional offices and initiatives for equity and inclusion. She teaches in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies.
Can you explain how racism is different from prejudice?
Great question! Here’s how you can think about the difference between prejudice, discrimination and racism.
Prejudice is about thoughts. It is when you pre-judge someone in your mind based on that person’s group identity. Everyone pre-judges sometimes; it’s part of being human in the world. The more aware we are of the way that implicit bias can skew our judgments, the better able we are to act in ethical ways and to avoid discrimination.
An example of prejudice is when a store owner assumes that a group of teenagers in her store, based solely on their age or looks, must be there to steal or cause trouble.(1)
Discrimination is about action. It happens when you act on your prejudices in ways that cause harm.
An example of discrimination is when the store owner throws the teens out of the store and calls the police on them, based on her assumption that they are there to steal.
Racism is about power. It happens when the prejudices and discriminatory practices of a dominant racial group become embedded in social systems and institutions to the degree that some racial groups systematically benefit while others are systematically harmed.
An example of racism is the fact that if the group includes black and white teens, the black teens are 5 times more likely to be sent to jail than the white teens.(2)
The important thing about these distinctions is this: while individuals can choose to become aware of their prejudices and can choose not to discriminate, those individual actions alone cannot end racism. In the U.S., structural racism is the result of centuries of oppressive power dynamics, white supremacist ideologies, and discriminatory laws and practices, all of which have created a society in which a person’s race can predict a great deal about the kind of life they will live. The only way to change that reality is to dismantle the practices and systems that continue to perpetuate it, and all of us are desperately needed to participate in that work.
(1) If you want to learn more about how bias affects us and how we can grow into better people by becoming aware of it, join our Summer Community Book Read of Dr. Dolly Chugh’s excellent book The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias. You can register online here: https://johncarrolluniversity.wufoo.com/forms/jcu-summer-2020-community-book-read-alumni/
(2) According to the NAACP, nationwide, Black Americans are 5 times more likely than whites to be incarcerated. In addition, while only about 13% of the U.S. population is Black, 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court are Black.
Can you explain what microaggressions are?
Thank you for this question - as many people often wonder about this term and some may even question its legitimacy.
Microaggressions have been defined as brief and common daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental communications, whether intentional or unintentional, that transmit hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to a target person because they belong to a stigmatized group.
Microaggressions are more than just insults, insensitive comments, or generalized jerky behavior. They're something very specific: the kinds of remarks, questions, or actions that are painful because they have to do with a person's membership in a group that's discriminated against or subject to stereotypes. And a key part of what makes them so disconcerting is that they happen casually, frequently, and often without any harm intended, in everyday life.
Some examples of microaggressions include:
An Asian-American student is complimented by a professor for speaking perfect English, but it's actually his first language;
A black man notices that a white woman flinches and clutches her bag as she sees him in the elevator she's about to enter, and is painfully reminded of racial stereotypes;
A woman speaks up in an important meeting, but she can barely get a word in without being interrupted by her male colleagues.
Good recent article on the topic - https://hbr-org.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/hbr.org/amp/2020/07/when-and-how-to-respond-to-microaggressions
Why is the shift from the term "slave" to "enslaved people," to describe those who were in bondage important?
Today, many scholars, and other activists have begun to speak of “enslaved people” instead of “slaves.” This language separates a person's identity from his/her circumstance. This is also known as “person-first” or “person-centered” language.
A Chicago Tribune article gives more detail on the importance of the distinction in this case - https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/eric-zorn/ct-column-slave-enslaved-language-people-first-debate-zorn-20190906-audknctayrarfijimpz6uk7hvy-story.html
Can you explain the importance of and reason why using the words "Black people" over "African American" should be more widely used?
Thank you for this question. As terminology has shifted, and continues to shift through the years - it can be important to understand reasons and distinctions.
Many people often default to "African American" out of a desire for either political correctness or politeness. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but that isn't always accurate, and it's important to understand the nuance when discussing race both in America and on a global scale. The term “African American” is nation-specific and does not include Black people in different countries or those who come from different countries to America.
Though historically, Black people were most likely direct descendants of enslaved Africans in America, subsequent waves of immigration have changed this substantially since the 1960s. Many people who identify as Black in America may in fact be first and second-generation immigrants without a direct connection to the history of slavery in this country.
Black identities are complex and nuanced. A Black person may choose to be identified by where they are from in recent or far-reaching history, or by where they currently reside, especially in the United States. In addition, Africa is a continent full of a myriad of nations and identities. Due to slavery and colonization patterns in many parts of the world, it can be difficult for some to express a strong claim to any African lineage when the details about their familial lines and nations of origin have been deliberately destroyed through generations of slavery.
“Black” is thus argued to be a broader and more accurate term that recognizes and celebrates the race, culture, and lived experiences of people all over the world. It is said that the term Black captures a more global recognition of the complexity of blackness and identities.
You may also notice that the term “Black” is increasingly capitalized when it appears in print. Journalistic standards for many publications have changed in recent years to adopt this stylistic preference. The Columbia Journal Review has a good, recent article explaining their rationale behind capitalizing “Black” but not “white” in their style guide.
DOING THE WORK
"How do we help combat "cancel culture" of social media to help people grow from past mistakes and engage in learning?"
The act of canceling, which is also referred to as “cancel culture” or "callout culture" is referring to a form of boycotting that mainly takes place in social media or online platforms. It is when an individual (usually a celebrity or popular media figure) who has acted or spoken in a questionable or controversial manner is boycotted or “shamed” online. However, it has expanded beyond online environments as it generally captures the “calling out” of objectionable behavior.
Now, there are arguments against “cancel culture” that go something like this: “If a person makes a mistake and is called out for it on social media, sometimes the backlash against them for that mistake can be so severe that their lives are ruined. How will they ever learn to do better if they are ‘cancelled’ for even small mistakes?”
We would argue that it is important to have genuine empathy for anyone in this situation. We have all inadvertently made mistakes that have the potential to hurt others. As Megan can recount,
“Like many white people, I have said some well-intentioned but breathtakingly stupid things about race in my life. And I am fortunate that most of my stupid comments pre-dated the internet! However, the fact that I escaped consequences at that moment does not mean that I did not deserve consequences. I suspect, in fact, that if I had received immediate, painful feedback about my mistake rather than having excuses made for me, I would have learned much more quickly the difference between intent and impact, and probably would have done far less unintentional damage over time to people I loved. The coddling I received in light of my ‘mistakes’ means that my learning process was, in fact, delayed.”
Concerns about “cancel culture” tend to focus on the injustice of outsized consequences suffered by an individual who has made a mistake (such as saying or doing something racist). But we invite you to notice whose story is centered in that narrative, and whose perspective is missing. What is lost when we center the “mistake maker” is our understanding of the deep and lasting damage that is being done day in and day out to people who are the targets of others’ “mistakes.” In the context of that systemic harm, it becomes clearer that these behaviors -- even unintentional ones -- must be held up to public scrutiny in order to finally stop them from happening. What is happening in “cancel culture” is that people who were previously sheltered from the true consequences of their ignorance are now at last being held accountable for the impact they have on others.
So, can our society afford to extend grace to people who are committed to fixing their mistakes and doing better? Absolutely. We can and we should. Accountability does include mercy and forgiveness, but it also includes reparation for harm done. If we are ever going to move past the unjust status quo in this society, we must start by prioritizing the pain of those who experience racism over the pain of those experiencing consequences for their racism.
What would you say to a person who is trying to implement DEI efforts at their own organization?
There are many sources available, particularly now, on how to implement DEI efforts. But, in short, we can offer five pieces of advice:
Start at the top. DEI efforts move forward most effectively when the organization’s leader expresses clear support for them. A clear statement of vision, plan of action, and commitment of resources, in writing, can serve as a firm foundation on which to build.
Gather a diverse team. This sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many “diversity” initiatives are led by homogeneous teams. Consider a broad definition of diversity here: race, gender, sexual identity, ability, age, ethnicity, length of time with the organization, stage of life, various levels of positional authority, etc. The more perspectives represented at the decision-making table, the better.
Focus on moving the “murky middle.” For DEI work, you can assume that some percentage of your organization are going to be enthusiastic champions. Loop them in to help but don’t target your efforts towards them. On the other end of the spectrum will be some who will always resist your efforts. Your time is not well spent on these folks, either. Sometimes we think our changes must be slow and cautious in order to keep from alienating these resistant few, but this creates a situation where we end up prioritizing the comfort of a few over the change the whole organization desperately needs.(3) Instead, focus change efforts on the “murky middle,” probably the majority of your people, who are ready to do the work and want to learn. They are your best chance at shifting your organization’s culture and making real progress.
Don’t get stuck on diversity training. Training is a good start to help shift culture, but it cannot be the end goal. Many organizations seem to think that a well-planned diversity training will solve all their problems with racism. They are wrong. Make sure you have people committed to examining all elements of your organization’s work through an equity lens: policies, processes, systems, metrics, hiring, culture, etc. Don’t let someone convince you that one training will magically produce a more just organizational dynamic. That would be great! Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy, so stay focused.
Make time for joy. Doing this work long-term can be difficult and often discouraging. Be intentional about celebrating small wins, encouraging people to care for themselves and each other, and lavishing love and support on your champions and co-laborers. This work is ultimately about building a more joyful way of living together as a community. Make time for experiencing that joy even while you work to bring it about.
(3) Credit to Bina Patel for the idea of designing for comfort rather than designing for progress. For one of the best keynote speeches on that topic you’ll ever hear, we recommend her talk at the 2019 Progress Institute in Cleveland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBLtIWEcjKg
"Can you explain the differences between what your department does and the CSDI does? What are ways I can get involved in both?"
Great question! The DEI division office oversees all institutional efforts such as faculty/staff development, employee training, strategic planning, hiring programs, and resolution of complaints of bias and discrimination, and oversees the departments of Title IX, Student Accessibility Services (SAS), and the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion (CSDI). CSDI specifically oversees student-focused efforts such as student cultural organizations, educational training, multicultural programs, and many student support initiatives. Our division’s offices are described in more detail here.
There are many ways to get involved as an alum! Here are a few ideas:
Follow us on social media: @JohnCarroll_DEI (Twitter) and @jcucsdi (Twitter and Instagram)
Subscribe to our R.I.S.E. Up weekly email newsletter: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/ACLMaQG/RISE
Join us for our JCU Community Summer Book Read this month: https://johncarrolluniversity.wufoo.com/forms/jcu-summer-2020-community-book-read-alumni/
Join us in dialogue in our biweekly Affinity Spaces: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1cNuMxsCFyHIjZ-fGKs2vThRHJpeMdXjsAbkfWsAoR6k
Offer your expertise. If you have experience in a particular area that touches on our work, let us know if you’d be willing to speak to members of the JCU community about it. We are always eager to feature alumni as guest speakers or panelists for programs.
Come visit. Once we are able to gather in person again, we offer many on-campus program opportunities, such as lectures, speakers, film series, and more, to which alums and friends are welcome. We’d love to see you back on campus for any of these programs!
Invite our students into your work. Does your workplace or nonprofit organization have a role for possible student volunteers, interns, or shadowing opportunities? We’d love to talk with you!
Reach out if we can help you, too. We are available to help consult with change teams in your workplace or organization, and are happy to draw in members of our network to assist as well.
ISSUES IN THE NEWS
What is your response to White people who feel like their voices are not being heard in the recent national conversation about race and racial equality?
This is an important question to which Megan wanted to give a specific response from her experience as well as her work in racial equity as a white woman:
There is a saying that can be seen in many social media outlets lately:
“When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
One of the first steps for white people who want to do real anti-racist work is to accept the idea that we have benefited from unearned privilege, based solely on the color of our skin. White privilege doesn’t mean that we have an easy life, or that we don’t suffer! But it does mean that our suffering is not continually caused or exacerbated by our racial identity markers, as it is for people of color.
Unfortunately, many of us spend much of our lives assuming we are entitled to (or have somehow earned) the privileges we have been granted by our racist society, including the privilege of having our voices and experiences centered in most conversations. (If you aren’t sure this is true, ask yourself why it is that white Americans are generally described simply as “Americans” while others are expected to hyphenate their Americanness with descriptive terms like “African-American,” “Asian-American,” even “Native American.” That is an example of the centering of whiteness as a norm.) (4)
In my experience as a white woman doing equity work, I can say confidently that the problem in this country is virtually never that white voices are not being heard. In fact, I would argue that the real problem is that white voices are so accustomed to being heard, we often don’t know when to stop talking or how to listen to others’ voices in a meaningful way.
In the current national conversation, what I am observing is that we have finally reached a critical mass of people who understand this dynamic and are working assertively to interrupt it. These folks might, for example, suggest that there are some conversations about race where white people’s voices do not belong. This is true. There is an important role for white people in racial equity work, but all roles do not belong to us, and all moments to speak are not ours to take.
The national conversation on race right now is one in which Black people and other people of color are telling white Americans the truth about their lived experiences. This is a painful reckoning and a hard one. It is a moment for people without those lived experiences to be listening closely. This historical moment is, in short, not the time for white voices to be heard. So if white people are feeling that parts of this conversation exclude or marginalize their perspectives, my response to them is, “that’s OK! It’s not our turn right now.”
(4)This is most famously observed by Toni Morrison, who said “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”
What is the correlation between a growing number of white Americans from areas like Youngstown, Steubenville, etc., who feel forgotten in this economy and the national dialogue on race, equity and opportunity?
It is possible to imagine our current national crisis of public health, economy, and inequality as a valuable opportunity for us to practice solidarity. Solidarity is, among other things, a major theme of Catholic social teaching. As a Catholic institution, JCU takes this very seriously. Solidarity is the biblical principle that undergirds Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous statement: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
The economic conditions of small-town white America are dire and devastating, but these communities are not alone in their economic pain, nor in the experience of feeling forgotten. In fact, they are simply a bit later to experience these realities than are people in other parts of the country (such as the poverty-stricken, majority-Black neighborhoods of our major cities) who have suffered economic devastation (frequently by design) for decades or longer.
Some white people in this circumstance have decided that the best remedy for their circumstance is to demand a more prominent position in national economic policy. However, many other white people are starting to realize that their economic condition is inescapably “tied in a single garment” with that of others. They are beginning to see that our nation’s economic policies have protected and promoted the accumulation of obscene wealth and power in the hands of a very few, to the detriment of virtually everyone else, and they are realizing that the only way to repair the imbalance and protect our democracy is to join in solidarity with Black and brown people across this country who are also in economic crisis, and to demand a change in the systems that protect so few and harm so many.
What are your thoughts on the removal of Confederate monuments and the movement to change the names of public buildings that glorify the Confederacy?
Thank you for this question, and the opportunity to express our views on the matter. We recognize that this is a highly debatable topic, and there are layers of complexity in any symbols and representation of the past.
We do believe that while there is value in preserving our American history, these monuments can and do represent more than historical documents to those who see them and experience them in a myriad of ways. Such monuments are also explicit statements of not just historical value but current community values. As we move forward in a society that should be expressing and honoring different values, the question becomes, ‘do these monuments represent values that our society should be honoring today?’
In a 2017 interview, historian Jennifer Allen describes monuments from the perspective of her own study of memory politics: “Monuments are not static things that have a single narrative behind them. Monuments are things that we create. Monuments are objects whose meaning and significance we create daily….. Memory is something that also means something in the world; what we decide is important to remember is something that is collectively determined, and the politics, the negotiation, the conversation by which we determine what matters and what doesn't.”
A good, brief article published this week by ABC News affiliate FiveThirtyEight presents data on the timeline of naming of buildings for Confederates and the installation of Confederate monuments across America to argue that these memorials and building names were not purely historical in nature, but rather, ideological, “installed as symbols of white supremacy during periods of U.S. history when Black Americans’ civil rights were aggressively under attack.” (5)
If we ever hope to achieve authentic racial equity in this country, we must start -- at minimum -- by rejecting all white supremacist ideologies, and all beliefs in a hierarchy of human value. Confederate monuments, in particular, represent these kinds of ideologies and hierarchies as they memorialize a government whose founding principle was the perpetuation and expansion of slavery. There is an interesting video presented on this topic, called “The truth about the confederacy in the United States” by Jeffrey Robinson of the ACLU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOPGpE-sXh0).
Thus, the decision to remove public monuments that many experience as representations of white supremacy, and to cease our public lauding of the people who promoted this ideology and the injustices that became institutionalized as a result, is one way for our communities to reject the violence and oppression that is white supremacy’s principal export. The changing and removal of such monuments is a beginning of the process of publicly reclaiming the moral values we want our society to embrace today.
This is still a highly debated topic. Yet, as stated in a recent National Geographic article - “Using contemporary values to judge the moral failings and atrocities of ancestors and to reevaluate the lives and legacies of canonized leaders is an explosive calculus. Nonetheless, a growing number of nations seem ready to embrace the moral deconstruction of the past to understand and improve the present.”(6)
(5) Ryan Best, “Confederate Statues Were Never Really About Preserving History” (FiveThirtyEight, July 8, 2020) https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/confederate-statues/
(6) As monuments fall, how does the world reckon with a racist past? - June 29, 2020