Given their druthers race is not usually the go to conversation topic for most people. It’s not hard to understand really, when you think about the ever present fear of saying or doing something that will get you called a racist.

I can say from experience someone calling you a racist (or homophobic) feels awful. I’ve been called both.

You can’t really defend yourself when someone calls you racist because its their perception of who you are.  Based on whatever facts they are using (assuming words or actions), our intentions, motivations and back story are no longer relevant.

What ever you say ends up sounding like a “but I have black friends” excuse.

When I have the opportunity to lead workshops about race I usually pull out the Jay Smooth video. This does a couple of things: gets some very important ideas in the open quickly, lets everyone look at a screen rather than each other while they hear those ideas, and puts an African-American voice in the room.

The fact that I am a white woman can work for or against me when talking about race. Again perception.

The other day someone introduced me to a new tool for my tool box.

Amandla Stenberg, a 16-year old actress, made a video about cultural appropriation for her history class: “Don’t Cash Crop on My Cornrows – a crash discourse on black culture.” I give it an “A” for its ability to raise issues in a meaningful way that leads to further discussion.

Don’t know why this feels like progress in the face of continual reporting of black men and women being shot to death by police, but it does.

Given my druthers I’d wade into a tough conversation every day if could. Anyone need a workshop?

nogeneforrace

This morning, I heard someone say “women hold up half the sky”, and I thought, “I would be happy if most people just held up their half of the conversation.”  I’m hosting an event this evening where I will spend a lot of time chatting and being charming.

It may not look like it but there is an art to introducing people, remembering and providing the right details to get them talking, so they can get to know each other, so they can have a good time.

Sometimes its a lot of work, sometimes its a lot of fun.

My mental RSVP list for every event I throw has two columns: 1) attending, and 2) “totally cool and fun”. The translation of “totally cool and fun”, in adult speak, is “interesting conversationalist.”

I am unfortunately stuck with “totally cool” being automatically the highest praise that comes out of my mouth, but I am able to translate it if I pause for a second.

Conversation is important to me. Not just for work events (mine or my husbands), but because it really centers and connects me in the world. I need to talk and listen and hear stories and new ideas. I am not now and never will be a solitary, introverted person.

I once had the privilege of attending a storyweaving workshop with Spiderwoman Theater. The sisters were powerful and funny and that day with them years ago gave me a way to see how the threads of my experience come together and are part of a larger design.

That weaving of connections, of people, of patterns is never far from my mind, especially when I am listening to clients tell me their stories.

I often tell my female clients to avoid describing their work as “weaving together” or “creating a tapestry” because these tasks are associated with “women’s work” and are generally devalued in mainstream US culture.

But that is what I do. And what I love to do. Help my coaching clients find their threads, stitch them together, see the value, the connection to humanity.

Women’s work.

Its a rambly post today, but in honor of the topic I’m not going to edit or try to fix it. Or even find the spelling and punctuation errors that I invariably make.

One last thing: If you have never visited the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC I highly recommend it. It was humbling to understand the vastness of what I didn’t know (and still don’t) about Native American cultures.

NewTribeLadies
The women of Spiderwoman Theater. Still going strong.