Episode 16 : Everyday Conversations on Race with Howard Ross and Tracy Brown- Redemption, Race and Belonging


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Howard Ross and Tracy Brown- Experts on race, belonging, and all aspects of diversity and inclusion for over 25 years.
Howard is a white Jewish man and a baby boomer and Tracy is an African-American woman and a baby boomer.
Most people want to feel like they belong to something greater than themselves and being part of an environment where they can feel supported and connected.
Tracy started cross-race dinners where people talk about race, make new connections and new friends.
Tracy has facilitated dialogues about race and race relations in corporations where people were afraid to talk about race with each other.
She saw people drop their fear of each other and collaborate more.
Howard discusses the need for people who are in dominant groups to learn, understand and support people from non-dominant groups.
There are ways to have the conversation and make a difference without shame, blame and attacking people. That doesn’t make any positive changes.

Why people are afraid to talk about race

People of color are worried about repercussions in the work environment and in other environments if they speak up.
White people are afraid of saying the “wrong thing.”
Tracy asks, “do you want to be a diversity cop or diversity coach?”
While there are times someone might have to be a “diversity cop,” but we you really want change and transformation you need be a “Diversity coach.”
Howard Ross,”In organizations my job in diversity and inclusion is to be a facilitator, and not an advocate.” In his life outside of work, he is an advocate but if he’s an advocate in the corporate environment, he won’t be able to help facilitate change.”

At what point should someone be fired and at what point should they be educated?

Howard supports free speech. He asks, ”What is the intent? Do they just not know, it’s a one time incident that is not systemic. However, there are the incidents that happen over and over and need to be stopped.
There is a difference between what happened with Megyn Kelly and Juan Williams.
The Juan Williams incident was an example of extreme political correctness. He should not have been fired.
Tracy Brown,” Zero tolerance is inappropriate. It takes away opportunity for change, learning and increased understanding.

Key points:

  • Recognize and share your blind spots- like when you become aware of your own bias or other people point out a bias to you.
  • Know why this is important to you personally
  • Seek solutions instead of just complaining about problems
  • When you fire someone there is no way to hold them accountable for their behavior and they will take their behavior somewhere else. There is no one who will force them to behave differently.”
  • White people don’t think about race all of the time, but people of color are always having to deal with racism and bias at different levels.
  • No matter who we are, we can all say the wrong thing at different times.
  • Be aware of the impact your words and actions have on other people. It’s really offensive when white people put their hands on Black people’s hair.
  • As experts on diversity and inclusion, we have to be aware of how we “correct” or call attention to someone behavior that might be inappropriate
  • Allow people to change and redeem themselves when possible
  • Take time to listen and understand other people’s lived experience who are different than you
  • Learn about privilege. Having privilege doesn’t make you a bad person but you need to understand what they means. White people don’t have to tell their kids to be careful when they’re driving and what to do when they are stopped by cops
  • There are subtle ways that antisemitism shows up even when it’s not overt
  • We have to learn and share the history of other ethnic and racial groups
  • The conversation on race has to go beyond Black and White.
  • Why it has mostly been black and white
  • Because it has been the most prevalent
  • No one is just one identity
  • We are all intersections, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
  • Too often there is a misconception that all people of color have the same dynamic when dealing with race
  • There is also a lack of understanding that not all Black people have the same experience
  • A black person from Africa from an upper-class background doesn’t have the same trauma or history as someone who is African American and dealing with post traumatic slave syndrome
  • When you fire someone there is no way to hold them accountable for their behavior and they will take their behavior somewhere else. There is no one who will force them to behave differently.”
  • White supremacy, racism, anti-Semitism has been normalized and spread by the political climate and people at the highest levels
  • Are we going to choose evil and hate, or are going to build a country of love and acceptance. We choose love, acceptance and responsibility and need everyone who feels the same way

Tracy Brown

Howard Ross

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