Carol Taylor-Shim leads KFTC staff in anti-oppression training

On Thursday, November 30, Carol Taylor-Shim led an Anti-Oppression training for KFTC’s staff team. Carol is currently the director of the Bias Incident Response team at the University of Kentucky, and has over a decade of experience in diversity, inclusion, and belonging and anti-racist/anti-oppression practice. She’s also a self-described “Liberation Superhero” (after this training, I would describe her that way, too). The training addressed the questions: 

  • What’s the difference between diversity, inclusion, and belonging?
  • How does oppression impact people and environments?
  • Why are people resistant?
  • What are potential next steps for KFTC?

We started the training off by addressing the question about diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Those are all words that get thrown around a lot when talking about how people with different identities are included or excluded from groups, and especially when talking about race, and even more especially when talking about People of Color within organizations made up mostly of white people. The first, “diversity,” is about having people with different identities represented within a group or organization. While having diverse representation is great, it can also be shallow. An extreme (and also common) version of this is an all-white board of directors bringing on one Black woman, and then rarely listening to her views, or only listening to her views as long as they are the same as everyone else’s views and don’t force people to think about race or gender. Our facilitator talked about “inclusion” as a group of people being within an organization, but still separate from the dominant group. The final term, belonging, is “a person’s sense of being accepted, valued, included and encouraged by others in a community and of feeling oneself to be an important part of the life and activity of the community" (modified from Goodenow, 1993).  This is the kind of community we endeavor to be; one in which people of all identities feel a sense of belonging.

One of my biggest take-aways from this conversation is that being an organization that fosters belonging requires ongoing change and growth, and regularly questioning how our practices, policies, mission, and values serve that goal. Part of being an anti-oppressive organization is a willingness to notice and change parts of our organization that may make people feel alienated or tokenized. We live in a world where racism, sexism, ableism, and transphobia infiltrate every aspect of our existence. To build a community where we all belong to each other, we can’t ignore these forms of oppression. We have to fight them wherever they show up – in our government, our economy, our streets, our classrooms, within our beloved organizations, and within ourselves.

Carol shared some personal practices, organizational practices, and meeting practices that can help us create an atmosphere of “belonging” within our organization. Let’s commit to these, and more, in 2018.

Personal Practices:

  • Push yourself to be honest and open and take risks to challenge racism, sexism, transphobia, etc. head on
  • Recognize when someone offers criticism around oppressive behavior; treat it as the gift that it is rather than challenging the person or invalidating their experience
  • Don’t feel guilty, FEEL RESPONSIBLE
  • Understand that you will feel discomfort and pain as you face your part in oppression.

Organizational Practices:

  • Commit time for organizational discussion on oppression; don’t wait until something happens to start talking
  • Promote an anti-racist, anti-heterosexist, anti-transphobic, anti-ableist message in everything you do
  • Create opportunities for people to develop skills to communicate about oppression
  • Don’t push historically marginalized people to do things because of their oppressed identity; NO TOKENISM
  • Make a collective commitment to hold people accountable for their behaviors in order to provide a stronger sense of belonging

Meeting Practices:

  • It is the role of the facilitator to ensure that the space is safe and welcoming for everyone; this responsibility is shared with group members
  • Be conscious of how your use of language may perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, etc.
  • Be conscious of how much space you take up and how much you speak in your group
  • Respect different views and opinions
  • It’s the group’s responsibility to challenge racist, sexist, transphobic, islamophobic remarks

(these practices are adapted from “Anti-Racism Principles and Practices” by RiseUp DAN-LA, Overcoming Masculine Oppression and FEMMAFESTO).

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