In 2020, I had the front row seat, watching leaders experience transformation and drive race equity in their organization. Most for the first time. Maybe that was you? Moved by the seismic shifts brought on by the pandemic, murders of George Floyd and other African Americans, and the resugence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Perhaps the divisive nature of the 2020 election forced you to take a pause and reflect: What should I say? Do I share my own perspectives? What are other organizations and individuals doing? What do I do? How can I support my staff, colleagues and community? No matter who you are or your life’s circumstances, 2020 forced us all to face the gross systemic inequities in our society.
As we begin a new year, we have the opportunity to put our awareness into action. Awareness that we continue to be in a global pandemic that’s far from over, that divisive discourse in US politics prevailed through the holidays, that more households plunge deeper into poverty as tens of millions remain under/unemployed. Alongside this, an awareness of our privilege — the ability to work from home, safely travel (if needed), income and wealth that create stability, and most importantly, being able to drive change in our homes, at work, and in our communities.
Radical empathy, as a practice, offers each one of us an opportunity to take action — at no fiscal cost. “Radical” in this instance doesn’t mean extreme, it’s intended to be the opposite of “conventional” or “status-quo”. Why? Because conventional wisdom is just not enough. Our siloed, oven segregated lives all but limit exposure to people whose lives and identities are different than ours and therefore our ability to step into someone else’s shoes is also limited. Don’t believe me? US cities continue to be deeply segregated, 3 out of 4 white people don’t have any non-white friends (Washington Post), and despite evidence of diverse team making better decisions (HBR), within philanthropy, 92 percent of foundation presidents and 83 percent of full-time staff members are white (Bridgespan).
How do we push past personal biases and systemic barriers to take action? I’m proposing three ways to practice radical empathy today. Your empathy-muscle grows stronger the more you use it, the more you use it at work, the greater the impact of your giving.
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
It’s time to take off your armor. Dr. Brene Brown’s decades long research tells us that…