Recently I read an excellent article by Vu Le about the meta-fragility of white fragility! People saying they want cage-rattling conversations about equity, inclusion, ableism, white supremacy, then… saying “Oh, this is too much!” You say you want a revolution… but do you really?
I experienced this as well this year, when I put forth a proposal for a 3 workshop series. My contact was enthusiastic! We were going to finally talk about the elephants in the room!
AAAAAND the association workshop committee (who shall remain nameless) rejected it as “TOO EDGY”
How are you saying you want a better world out of ONE side of your mouth, and on the other side, saying, “We can’t really talk openly about oppression though, because… it might make people upset.”
Well, comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable!
As my friend Natasha Kolosowsky says,
“Culture isn’t taught. Culture is generated. The ability to see and to listen can be taught. Once you can see and listen, then you can generate culture.”
So, if we’re going to help people see and listen to hidden oppression, we have to start somewhere! Here’s what I wrote:
3 Workshop Series: Saying the Unsayable in Nonprofit Work
Why is it, in fundraising, nobody can hear you scream? Recently I was talking with a fellow
fundraiser and she told me something that made my jaw drop. She went to dinner with a donor and it went exactly as she expected, he flirted with her, pawed over her, and tried to get her to go home with him.
If she tries to tell her boss, they’ll say, “just suck it up” or worse. What’s a fundraiser to do?
What is unsayable at your nonprofit job?
Is it the fact that everyone gets paid peanuts? Is it the donor who won’t take no for an answer? Is it the precarious nature of our work? Is it the fact that we all want pensions but feel like we have no bargaining power? Is it that people were promised money for continuing education, or raises, and never got them?
How can you bring up the unsayable at work and get impetus to change?
- First, we have to name it.
- Then, we have to figure out who is an ally, and learn how to talk with them about it.
- Finally, we move towards concrete policy change and action in our organizations.
In this 3 workshop series, we’ll talk about naming, claiming and taking action around key issues that have gone unaddressed for far too long.
Presentation 1: NAME IT!
We’ll look at the overarching structure of white supremacy and how it plays out in our nonprofits. Using the texts of Rebecca Solnit’s On Silence, White Fragility by Robin Diangelo, and others, we’ll find key points of intersectionality to draw our analysis from, as we see the violence inherent in the system.
You will learn:
- Recent research on the unequal nature of nonprofit work
- What are the 3 pillars of white supremacy?
- How do they play out in our nonprofits?
- Intersectionality and why this is so important in changing the game
- What is the silencing that happens under patriarchy?
- What are the consequences of that silence?
- #MeToo in nonprofits-stories and sharing
Presentation 2: Building Trust + Finding allies
Now that you’ve learned about the silencing, white supremacy and intersectionality- what’s next? Let’s talk about how to start building alliances at work. We’ll help you build trust and take collective action. First, if you need to figure out what you want to change, a decent work framework can help. Luckily, in Ontario, they are already working on this and have given us a model.
You will learn:
- Building trust deliberately at work
- Here’s what might make people not trust you
- How to build trust if it has been broken
- How to demand dignity at work
- Decent work framework
- Figuring out your top rallying issue with your allies
- Looking at your employee handbook (does anyone even read this?)
- Stories and sharing of nonprofit issues we want to change
Presentation 3: Activism- Taking action collectively.
Now that you know what the system is, what you want to change, and who is going to help you make that change, we now need to take action. How do we take action? It can be a small rewrite of the employee handbook. It can be a major overhaul of nonprofit hiring, retention and firing practices. It can be a union. Now is the chance for you to figure out what you want to do, and how you want to do it, as an activist. Even if you are the only fundraiser in your organization, you DO have power, if you organize with other workers. If you join us, you’ll learn how to name and claim what is truly going on at your nonprofit, and become a persuader and an activist for things to change. Join us on this 3 workshop series as we have a robust anonymous discussion of what is truly unsayable in our nonprofit jobs.
You will learn:
- Using the decent work framework to create a better workplace
- What protections are in place for you? And what would you like?
- Creating materials around your issue to take to management/leadership
- Looking at nonprofit unions and reaching out to union reps
- Communication tactics + You are protected if you are looking to organize
- Stories and sharing of next steps we want to take
So, it’s a series to help us… stop losing good people, start keeping our donors with more inclusiveness and understanding of the world we are built on, save money AND make more money as we look at our own internalized and externalized oppression! We all have our own biases to look at (ME TOO!) but looking at them has huge returns for the future of our movements and missions.
What is Vu Le’s advice if you’re running up against resistance in your board committee?
- See if you may be projecting your own thoughts and feelings: When you say “others are not ready to have this conversation on the 1619 Project,” do you really mean YOU’RE not ready to have this conversation? Do some reflection and be honest with yourself.
- Be OK with losing some people: Our work shouldn’t be held hostage by people’s various forms of fragility. If your board is “not ready” or extremely resistant to discuss transphobia or white supremacy and you can’t seem to persuade them, then maybe instead of not having these discussions, you…get new board members.