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Modern & Sophisticated Inclusion Learning (from American-born Foreigner: A Black Woman's Story)

Choosing Inclusion, Implicit Bias and Diversity /Training Curriculums and Trainers

Know that the profession has evolved over the years, with large influences from Academia and others, but for the purposes of improving organizational problems, such need has produced good quality and effective assessment and activity that has not been labeled by the newer systems. Some newer systems/curriculums/learning packages have just re-labeled concepts that have been around for years. Some have limited scope for the purposes of marketing or perhaps for lack of sophistication, or a certain political orientation that may be a call for a superficial bandage for internal strife, instead of addressing what might be abuse of power or bias in the company, committed by the CEO, supervisor or Executive Director, etc.

Each situation requires sufficient examination of the issues at hand, therefore there is not, in my view, a package that is a one-size-fits-all. There are core issues to be understood, a foundation for further evolution of inclusion and the addressing of bias in the many levels of our society. My personal approach to providing consultation and training means choosing activities based on the problems stated, ideas generated by research of the entity, with the assistance of internal individuals from several positions, assuring the opportunity to collect insights beyond just the contact party by a multi-level process.

Since growth along the developmental process of inclusion skill is lifelong, it is impossible to consider any one educational experience sufficient. Even if it is useful, the training or reading needs follow-up and processing time. In my experience, trainings are one solitary hour, day or weekend at a “one shot deal.” Funding is usually presented as the reason there is not follow-up on the findings in an audit, issues raised between participants during a training or the range of issues that could be uncovered in the day-to-day operations in their entity.

It is also impossible to place the range of abilities on only one path. The most popular format for learning in this subject matter is what I call “the slides and lecture series” instead of appealing to right-brain and left-brain learning styles present in some form for everyone. Another missing piece in workshops done that way is that, especially in a mandatory training, there are people there just keeping a seat warm and will not process material or volunteer questions that would make them angry or uncomfortable. If smaller groups are too big or there are not enough co-facilitators or structure to ensure interaction, a person leaves a training the same way they left it, holding their protected status.

The most popular or expensive trainers are not necessarily the most effective. Some trainers are popular because they are conflict avoidant or are protective of certain privilege categories or classes. Sometimes an organization wants to check off the obligation to have trained without deepening the analysis. Some trainers are more willing to participate in that avoidance. It’s true that people have to be met “where they are,” but the point is also to prod some. If the commitment is real, there is long-term effort with measurable goals. To measure success (or not) based on an incomplete plan is not legitimate and the sophistication of the consultant is crucial to better outcome.

Example: I heard on an investigation into the effectiveness of required implicit bias training in police departments use of excessive force, that there was doubt about whether the training helps. I did not hear a description of what the training covered or the manner in which it was conducted, or how absence or refusal from participation by staff was handled. No true measurement can be made in that situation, but it may be effective for those who discourage moving forward with such requirements for police departments. These issues must be addressed if improvements are to be attained.

Trainer Limitations

One common limitation I have observed in trainers that will likely not have enough effectiveness or impact do not have caucusing in their training structure. In caucusing, people are separated into groupings of commonality, like people of color and white people. When I do trainings where I’m given enough time, I separate them one level more, perhaps (for example) having the groups split into immigrant and non-immigrant white people and immigrant and non-immigrant people of color. Structuring this way creates more ability to address issues of assimilation and internalized racism helps thinking evolve further. There are other strategies that are used in the more advanced programs that should improve success. It is not enabling segregation to do so if a sufficient amount of time is dedicated to the exercise. Participants need the time to process for themselves.

One of the arguments against caucusing is that it supposedly exacerbates segregation. The belief here is that white people and people of color must improve communication and therefore spend more time together, not less. In my view, that point of view misses a key factor. In that binary-type of thinking, working on ourselves is against working together. My point is that there should be sufficient time on both, not elevating one part of the process over the other. To do this well, don’t compromise true inclusion and give proper attention to the mentoring of each other within our own ethnicities and genders and the developmental processes that we are all on. Though not in exactly the same way at the same time, we must devote more time to the inner work, mentoring along with constructively communicating with the “other side.”

Sophisticated enough leadership is key. This is a very tall order, but motion in the right direction is better than holding still out of the seeking of supposedly “the right moment” for everything to be in proper place will be a waste of everyone’s time. Incremental—that doesn’t mean minimizing—and consistent movement is key. What I’ve seen is that these efforts ebb and flow, often due to fear, internal bickering, insufficient leadership, lack of resources or lack of sophistication on realistic goal setting.

Other Strategies

• Talk to the leaders of your most progressive non-profit organizations and/or religious institutions to get good leads. Searching for “moderates” should not be a code for the enabling of fears that come from factors like the white fragility, xenophobia or homophobia of power holders;

• Ask to observe the trainer’s work or view videos of their work;

• Choose curriculums and trainers that encourage long term commitment and specific strategies for evolving success;

• If the training is for personal growth more than for workplace improvement, find out how long the party has been doing such work, in what settings, for which kinds of entities, etc.

· Do not let “moderate” decisions based on so-called expediency and/or pragmatism cloak what is actually the fear-based dismissal of true needs. Unite with truth and facts. Do your best to enable strength of conviction with bravery and better risk-taking.


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