Dismantling White Supremacy Culture and Navigating with Integrity: Mind Mapping Crisis Response in Nonprofit Leadership

During this time of crisis many nonprofits are juggling a vast array of priorities. These competing focuses might include protecting staff from unnecessary risk, keeping with funding requirements and perhaps the most salient of these priorities–adapting to the shifts in participant need. 

As DV organizations specifically, we are expected to react to crises on a daily basis. As a result, it can feel as though we were built for depletion and disarray, making it difficult to believe that there is another way to face challenges. Scarcity-mode tells us there is never ‘enough’ for everyone, that there is no room for pause before reaction, and that abundance is unobtainable. This depletion can sour more hopeful messages, sometimes making them feel inauthentic and to a degree, toxic. This disarray can diminish the spaciousness needed to embrace any positivity that exists; it has the potential to undermine our vision for the future.

Sometimes our job is to react to crisis when others can’t (or won’t), and we deal with very real scarcity of resources. Simultaneously, we are sometimes expected to face the future, dreaming of systems that are not oppressive where there is truly enough love, understanding, liberation, equity and resources for all. In my darker moments, I’ve felt like this is a trap, and seen my (sometimes) limited capacity to hold both scarcity and abundance as coexisting truths as a personal failing of sorts. 

Given the pressures of crisis under capitalism, it can feel like an impossibility to hold this both/and; we are hard pressed to be generative and flexible versus procedure driven and reactive. At the same time, a very real offering of crisis and cessation is opportunity; opportunity to recreate, reimagine, unlearn and refresh. Personally, having gone through a number of organizational and field-wide crises, I know this to be true, and find this space to feed and reinvigorate my sense of purpose. 

If we don’t take the time to examine what we are doing, how we make decisions, and acknowledge how white supremacy culture and whiteness impacts and informs our work, we are doomed to repeat crisis-ladden patterns that are oppressive and further harm survivors and staff at the margins (queer and trans folx, people of color, womxn and girls of color, folks living with disabilities, those who don’t speak English, immigrants and migrants, etc.). This is where our collective power and liberation can truly live, in crisis, out of crisis, and when we are thriving. 

I submit a friendly challenge, filled with love, informed by the fortitude and resilience I know we share. I share my desire to build a collective movement, that is self aware and always moving toward equity, inclusion and shared power. I want us to build fun spaces where laughter is heard, where we can be authentic and vulnerable, where disagreements might feel uncomfortable, but don’t result in ugliness and never feel unsafe. Of utmost importance, the most marginalized of survivors and staff feel seen, heard and valued. Nobody gets the fuzzy-end of the lollipop for reasons informed by racism, internalized sexism, transphobia or homophobia…This mind map won’t get us there. However, it may serve as a tool that can get us started down the path to change. It can help us unearth our culture, examine our power and how we use it, and unlearn the teachings whiteness has burdened us with. Perhaps all this can guide group discussions, provide a map for individual reflection and/or serve as a coming together point for all staff.

During a crisis, we might not show up as our best selves. We can act from a space of defensiveness, and  react in ways that are punitive; especially if you hold positional power at your organization, this is not what is needed from you at this moment. Perhaps use this as an individual tool, encourage your co-workers to do the same, and reconnect once the crisis has lessened or you are in a place where you can be vulnerable, not punitive.

Consider what needs to be added, or omitted. Do not omit the ‘hard stuff’, namely the section white supremacy culture. Let’s get into it, look crisis in the face, work toward liberation and emerge stronger than before, together.

Jill, Alicia and Shaena | W.O.M.A.N., Inc.

References:

That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief

What Does Feminist Leadership Look Like During a Pandemic

White Supremacy Culture pdf

White Supremacy Culture | Dismantling Racism

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