As a white leadership coach, consultant, trainer and facilitator working in a multicultural global context where people of color are the majority, I believe organizations and individuals need culturally competent support that is grounded in an equity power analysis. Because of this core belief for the next two months I'm going to write about an issue near and dear to my heart: understanding racism and working to eradicate its pernicious and often unseen impacts.
In this month's newsletter I want to tell you about a workshop I attended at the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center. It is a Structural Racism workshop
led on the first Friday of every month from 10am-noon. Anyone can attend and it's free. Do yourself and your friends a favor and join Abigail Ortiz and Cecilia Flores as they illuminate racism from a health-equity context. Their workshop will certainly challenge you, but just as certainly it will build your muscles around this tricky hot-button issue. Bring a friend or colleague since you'll want to debrief with someone afterwards. You definitely won't regret going.
RACIAL PREJUDICE + MISUSE OF POWER BY SYSTEMS AND INSTITUTIONS = RACISM. As the recent police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has shown with frightening clarity, racism occurs on macro and micro levels, across systems (criminal justice, health care, education, housing, etc.) and between people. I recall one of the workshop presenters explaining that the longer a group of people of color has lived in our country the worse their health outcomes are. For example, Pima Native Americans born to Pima parents live, on average, fewer years than their parents. For more information about the racial justice work being done at Southern JP Health Center, click here: Brigham and Women's Hospital - Racial Justice and Health Equity Work.
Stress from racism kills people of color. Humans are not able to tolerate a constant stream of elevated cortisol levels and other stress hormones flowing through our bodies. When our bodies carry too much cortisol over too long a period, our immune system wears down and we become vulnerable to chronic disease and illness. We get sick. This happens at an alarmingly higher rate to people of color than white people in America because of the stress related to racism.
One of the reasons I became a Leadership Embodiment Coach and Trainer was because I saw the impact of racism on my clients and people in general. The stress my clients of color carry from living in the United States is real. On a personal level, I wanted to be more centered under pressure and be able to share this somatic wisdom with my clients. Learning to center using the leadership embodiment practices my colleagues and I teach reduces cortisol levels in the body. I am healthier because I employ these practices. I am more powerful as a leader and teacher. My clients, whether they're executive leaders or recovering from trauma, recover center with greater ease and efficiency and can therefore be more successful personally and professionally as a result.
In order to dismantle racism we must use a system and network approach on local, national and international levels as well as one to one, person by person, each of us learning to heal ourselves. This work on the macro and micro levels is near and dear to my heart.
So if any of this is interesting to you, reach out and let's talk. On an organizational level, if you're just figuring out how to diversify your staff, we can help you develop a diversity strategy. Maybe you have retention issues among people of color in your organization or you're not sure how to begin leading a healthy organization around issues of cultural diversity and racial equity. Well, we can help whether it's coaching a leader, a team or developing a strategic plan. Next month I will highlight the work of a client who is leading our country around issues of reconciliation and racism.
I hope your Fall includes enough rest and nourishment so you can lower the cortisol levels in your body and have a healthier immune system as we enter colder weather here in New England.