June 2020 Newsletter

A 3-Point Framework for How to Be a Better Ally

Dr. Tiffany Jana

If you are a white woman who feels a little tentative to speak out or take action on the movement to confront racial injustice right now, you should know this: You are not alone.

“There is a massive sense of fear and resistance in this moment that white people are feeling that is rooted in a lack of understanding,” says Dr. Tiffany Jana, Conferences for Women speaker and diversity and inclusion expert.

Overcoming this—and becoming part of the solution at this critical time—does not lend itself to quick, easy fixes. There is much unlearning and new learning to be done, and much courage and generosity to be tapped.

But there is also a clear three-step framework that Jana offers as a way to become, as they say, “a tool and not a weapon” in confronting racial injustice. Jana is founder of TMI Consulting Inc. and co-author of the 2020 book, Subtle Acts of Exclusion.

1. Invest time in your own education—and know that, in itself, is a big deal.

In any kind of showing up for other people, you are either going to be the tool or the weapon,” says Jana. “An undereducated or malinformed person is going to be a weapon moving through the world causing harm in this moment. An introspective, well-informed person will be able to serve as a tool also known as ally, accomplice or co-conspirator.”

That’s why the best first step is to take a good look at yourself and advance your own understanding, Jana says. “Embracing your own education is a big freaking deal, particularly if you are a woman and there is a good likelihood that you are raising children or raising a spouse or taking care of business,” they said.

“If you are doing it right you are spending hours upon hours internalizing,” they added. “What happens when you take this kind of information in is it disturbs your equilibrium and that is not small. I don’t want anyone thinking that reading and introspecting now is something small.”

Jana also advises: Be sure to read a mix of Black and white voices, adding that—while it is clearly important to learn directly from Black voices—there is also something sacred about hearing from people like you about their journey in becoming more inclusive.

Two black authors Jana recommends:

Two white authors Jana recommends:

For a roundup of Black voices on race, visit the Conference for Women’s new Resource Center for Confronting Racial Injustice.

2. Reach out to other white people—in a spirit of “each one teach one.”

“We don’t need you on Day One to reach out to Black people; you need to reach out to white people. Bring a sister up with you. Make your reading into a book club so you have accountability. Talk about a chapter a week. Then you have people you can have conversation with. You don’t have to sit in your discomfort alone,” says Jana.

“The wonderful thing about the nature of diversity is even if you are of the same race, you still experience things a little differently; and one white sister might be further in the journey and able to unpack something you haven’t looked at yet,” they added.

3. Hold each other accountable.

“Before, it was typically people of color who had to hold the system accountable, and we were often yelling in the wind,” says Jana. “Now what we want to see from our white allies is once you’ve done that education, bounced things off your girlfriends, worked together to become more culturally fluent—stand up and use your newly informed and empowered voice to make sure you are calling out racial injustice when you see it.”

It is also important, they added, to pro-actively support Black people in service of cultivating greater equity in the workplace and society. Some specific ways Jana suggests you can do this:

  • Sponsor Black women. “Sponsoring means when I’m not in the room, you are actively advocating for me to be able to participate more fully. Or, when you hear someone saying something racist, you speak up and say that is not appropriate. I’ve worked with her and know firsthand she is a stellar employee.”
  • Buy from Black-owned businesses. “One of the most powerful things you can do is spend money in Black-owned businesses. Virtually everything can be purchased from Black businesses.”
  • Make room for Black women to advance in the workplace. “If we are advocating for each other across racial lines, particularly when the privileged are advocating for the underrepresented, you embed a level of innovation and resilience and cultural competency and fluency into an organization that serves the mission’s goals more than homogeneity every would. If a white woman does not get a job, trust me, she will find another opportunity at another moment. But Black women are so far behind the starting line, it has been fundamentally unfair and weighted against her from birth,” Jana says—which is why there are times when a white woman should step back and make room for a Black woman to advance. “That’s really putting your money where your mouth is.”

Finally, do not stop.

“My invitation to everyone who is emerging in this moment and waking up to the reality and intensity and the atrocity of racial violence,” Jana says, is this: “I beg that you don’t give up. Do not stop until we have eliminated the fallacy of the hierarchy of human value—because if we stop and settle for something less, we are denying ourselves, our children and grandchildren the beautiful future we can absolutely guarantee if we do this work now.”

Learn more at the Conferences for Women’s new Resource Center for Confronting Racial Injustice.


Also, new this month:

  • Two-time National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward speaks about “Giving Voice to All” – on the latest episode of our Women Amplified podcast.
  • Also, check out the newly released sessions on Best Breakouts, an audio series featuring timeless insights from our archives including ways to expand your knowledge and make important changes to advance inclusivity and mitigate bias, better support women of color in the workplace, and how to advocate through authentic activism.

Giving Voice to All with “Sing, Unburied, Sing” Author Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward

Get up close and personal with two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.

In this episode of Women Amplified, we explore writing as a vehicle to give a voice to others past and present. Ward’s powerful insights, however, go far beyond writing instruction. Her words serve as an important reminder that we have a responsibility to speak up and give voice to those who have been silenced or erased in whatever means of expression feels right for us.

Sharing her real-life experiences, Ward will not just teach you about the writing process, but will help you go deep within to find your voice and inspire you to use that voice for the good of all.

“I wanted people to see how growing up in that type of environment, growing up in poverty and as a black person and in the rural South, how that constrains your existence in certain ways. Because you never see people like us. Or back then, you never saw people like us portrayed in pop culture or living complicated lives in television or, I don’t know, or in literature. I wanted us to exist and I wanted us to be able to speak and to have voice and to have agency, and to assert that we are here and that we shouldn’t be confined to people’s ideas about us. But instead, we should be able to speak and to tell our stories and to show that our lives are just as complicated and just as complex and just as unique as everyone else’s.”Jesmyn Ward

 

NEW: Please take our first-ever listener survey! (We’re giving away free tickets to make it worth your while!)

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This Month’s Guest:

JESMYN WARD is a novelist, memoirist and essayist. She is a MacArthur Genius and two-time National Book Award winner and has been hailed as the standout writer of her generation. In 2017, she became the first woman and the first person of color to win two National Book Awards for Fiction—joining the ranks of William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Philip Roth, and John Updike. Ward’s stories are largely set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where she grew up and still lives. Her novel Salvage the Bones was winner of the 2011 National Book Award. Her debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, depicts what Publishers Weekly calls “a world full of despair but not devoid of hope” in the aftermath of natural disaster. Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, delves into the five years of Ward’s life in which she lost five young men—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that follows poor people and people of color. The book won the Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Ward is the also the editor of the critically acclaimed anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, which NPR named one of the Best Books of 2016. A singular Southern odyssey that strikes at the heart of life in the rural South, Sing, Unburied, Sing, earned Ward a second National Book Award in 2017. It was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2017 by The New York Times and Time, and was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize.

She teaches creative writing at Tulane University in New Orleans. In 2016, she won the Strauss Living award, given every five years by the American Academy of Arts & Letters for literary excellence. In 2018, she was recognized among Time‘s 100 Most Influential People. Ward is currently working on two new books: a novel for adults set in New Orleans at the height of the American slave trade, and a young adult novel about a Black girl from the South with supernatural powers. Ward received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, where she won five Hopwood Awards for her fiction, essays, and drama. She held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University from 2008-2010, and served as the Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi the following year. Ward’s latest book is Navigate Your Stars. @jesmimi

 

Our Host:

CELESTE HEADLEE is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @celesteheadlee


 

Additional Resources:

Website: Jesmyn Ward, Author

Read the books: Navigate Your Stars | Sing, Unburied, Sing | Salvage the Bones | Men We Reaped

Hear from more great Conferences for Women speakers in our new podcast, Best Breakouts


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