I recently presented for the Diversity In Asia Network (DIAN) on racism in Asia Pacific (APAC) and how to approach it. It is a very current theme within organisations and is being requested in many workplaces. However, the topic is complex and challenging.
Late last year, I attended an event on the topic of racism organised by the Equal Employment Opportunity Network-( EEON)* and it was presented by Sami Shah- a writer/ journalist/ comedian who is Pakistani - Australian. He began the session by announcing that basically everyone is racist. As you can imagine this was very unsettling and difficult for many at the event to accept and there was a lot of push back. Some people questioned his qualification to state that while others were dismayed that he would say this in the context of D&I practitioners. What it did highlight, true or not, was how contentious the discussion around racism is and that when approaching such discussion there are some key elements we should consider.
I thought I would share some of the main areas of focus from the DIAN speech.
Here are some fundamentals I suggest considering when approaching the discussion of racism:
1) Raise you racial consciousness. Even though race is a social construct, be aware that race is something that we all notice. We need to appreciate that we often view race through our own lens and experiences. Raising our racial consciousness requires openness and understanding.
2) Appreciate Ethno-centrism All cultures are basically ethnocentric. That is, we make judgements on others based on our own values, beliefs and norms. We tend to use our own culture to compare and contrast with others therefore becoming Ethno-relative is a developmental process.
3) Choose an appropriate entry point for discussion Racism can be interpersonal and /or institutional. It is important to distinguish the context that the racism maybe occurring in and address it in a suitable way. Institutional racism is frequently systemic as well as structural. This can lead to internalised racism where people of certain races may feel inferior. Appreciate that it is not always easy for people to discuss their personal experiences.
4) Expand the conversation Race is not one size fits all. It is important to remember that race may be just one intersection that can lead to exclusion. Other factors including gender, disability, religion and class for example can further compound discrimination and should be understood when engaging in discussions about race.
5) Honour the experience of others Listening to and validating the experiences of others is a critical part of being inclusive and acknowledging difference. This creates space and voice for experiences to be shared. You may very well be presented with a view point that you never considered before!
Conversations around race are rarely easy or comfortable, however the more we are able to learn ways to approach it, the easier it will be.
What are your experiences with the race conversation?
"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least" - Goethe
The Art of Conscious Balance, Santosh Nambiar
I had the pleasure of coaching Santosh Nambiar 18 years ago. I have immense pride in working with Santosh and witnessing the journey he has been on. It has enabled him to make a difference in his own life and that of many others. I shared these thoughts on his new book.
“In this book, Santosh Nambiar outlines his journey from a village in Kerala to a mindful global citizen. It is a raw, authentic, thought provoking and uplifting narrative for the soul. His lessons provide a blueprint on how to transform ourselves which in turn produces miracles for those around us”
Tom Verghese Speaker, Author, Cross-cultural Consultant and Executive coach, founder of Cultural Synergies.
When Santosh Nambiar found himself in a life-threatening health situation, he realised that something had to change. He was regularly grappling with emotions of anxiety, anger, fear and jealousy, and was negatively driven by ambition and success. Somewhere, somehow, he'd lost himself.
The Art of Conscious Balance follows the tumultuous and inspiring story of one man's journey to discover conscious balance in his life. It explores the conflict between our conditioned self and our true self, and how Santosh gained freedom from his own conditioned behaviours to realise the absolute truth and purpose of life, finally allowing him to move from a place of pain and confusion to one of love, clarity and peace.
An honest and evocative memoir, The Art of Conscious Balance is transformative in its gentle teachings and soothing in its message that anyone is capable of finding their inner compass as Santosh did to understand oneself and one's place in the universe more deeply and truly.