Once again, I wanted to share thoughts on my white perspective of this issue:
In thinking about Digital Leadership, there are some concepts I wanted to bring to light in order to dismantle the systems at work that keep white, privileged colleagues in their comfort zones and marginalize other voices:
One concept I have written about already at length is the concept of racism itself. As a white kid growing up, I learned at a very early age that racism meant looking at the color of one’s skin. As long as I didn’t see others as being “different” I was protected from being labeled a “racist.” We (as white kids growing up in the suburbs) were taught that Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was critical because of this very important line:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
What I was taught about MLK was this; if I look at someone’s skin color, I am judging them by the color of their skin. I need to IGNORE skin color and look past that so I can see what is inside them.
Sit with that for a moment. That SOUNDS great on the surface, doesn’t it? I mean, better than the alternative of judging someone to be “less than” because their skin color was different than mine. That seems like a great place to start in teaching kids not to be racist. The problem is I was never challenged to go beyond this view of racism until much later in life. And, we have a society of white people who have remained stuck in “I am a racist if I see skin color” mentality.
The impact of this? I don’t see how people are treated differently based on the color of their skin. I ignore any data given to me that tells me people are treated differently based on their skin color. What this does is wipe out hundreds of years of lived experience. It would be like Germans in 1950 Germany saying “I don’t see Jewish people. I treat Jewish people exactly the same as those who subjugated the Jews and put them in concentration camps!” I say this, As. A. Jew. To ignore race in America is to ignore the lived experiences of those who are not white and make the oppressor morally equivalent to the oppressed.
How does this translate to Social Media? We ignore race in our social media conversations. When an issue comes up (for example on Facebook) and someone makes a controversial comment or post and most of the white professionals react one way, and most of the black professionals react completely different, we don’t stop for a moment and say to ourselves “Hm. There are two sides of reactions here. One side is mostly a group of professionals who we recognized as having marginalized/oppressed identities. The other side is mostly a group of professionals with privileged/oppressor identities. MAYBE those two sides aren’t morally equivalent?” Instead those with power and privilege look and say “I guess the issue isn’t settled – we will just have to agree to disagree.”
This is problematic because it keeps power and privilege in comfort as opposed to challenging and making people uncomfortable and motivating change. If we are going to grow the knowledge base of digital leadership, we need to include social justice lenses when engaging in digital leadership work.