Racial+ Equitecture FAQ

What is your expertise in "Navigating Challenging Race and Gender Environments"?

 

My expertise in navigating race+ is informed by both traditional & non-traditional research methods:

 

Traditional research methods: I employ mostly qualitative methods (ethnographic) to investigate institutional processes, policies, and interactions that contribute to the reproduction of inequality, including those that particularly affect women-identified people across race, class, sexuality, etc. While the findings reflect some of the more common race-gender macro-patterns, there is variation across organizations including institutions led by women-identified individuals. Moreover, I’ve worked with the power dynamics on majority-female and female-only teams that vary across race, class, sexuality, etc.

 

Non-traditional research methods: In addition to traditional research methods, I “[c]ircumvent the colonizing and exoticizing action of ethnographer upon the cultural other,” [and] use my physical, existential, and emotional experiences as a research tool to excavate an embodied and experiential knowledge (Banks and Banks, 2000, p.2). Rather than see subjectivity as a limitation, I use my biography, and others, as “a critical looking outward at power relations in a cultural space that constrains the meanings available for understanding…one’s own life…” (Banks & Banks, 2000, p. 2).

 

Black and other feminist knowledge production (Hill Collins, 1990) and critical autoethnography (Banks & Banks, 2000) accomplishes several tasks. To

  • Acknowledge the intersections between researchers’ personal biography and her/his/their professional sensibilities.

  • Challenge “objective,” distant, boundaries of scientific inquiry.

  • Construct social theory from personal narratives.

  • “Reflect on asymmetries of power, unequal opportunities to render judgments, and maldistributions of responsibility and rewards in our institutional lives” (Banks and Banks, 2000, p. 43). [back to top]

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What is your pedagogical approach & how might intersectional identities be addressed in the pedagogy of your seminars?

 

Intersectionality is a given in any seminar. One underlying assumption of my approach to the work is that everyone in the room, brings what is happening in the world into the room, including all of their intersectional, overlapping, ever-evolving identities. I bring this alive by facilitating at the nexus of black & other feminist thought, critical race pedagogy/Freirian thought, and adaptive leadership.

 

Black & other Feminist Thought inform our methodologies for how to professionally manage race-gender-related stress. This means we:

 
  • seek to create a dialogue that embraces interlocking forms of oppression - race, gender, class, sexualtiy, religion, ability, lifestyle, political views, region, etc., acknowledging we often carry axes of both privilege and disadvantage.

  • Utilize frameworks that value the knowledge produced by prominent Black feminist thinkers like Angela Davis, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde, and other womanist intellectuals.

  • Incorporate the importance of knowledge produced in communities for group empowerment.

 

Critical Race Pedagogy/Freirian Thought inform our approach to inviting participants to become active in changing their environments. This means we:

 
  • Embrace the centrality of race, including in intersectional dialogue.

  • Establish an authentic form of thought and action, seeing critical reflection as action.

  • Prefer praxis. That is, reflection/theory and action directed at the structures to be transformed.

  • Employ a "problem-posing" educating model (vs lecturing); ensuring everyone is involved in reflection+action, regardless of degree, status, title, age, etc.

  • See everyone in the group as both teachers and students. We expect collective responsibility for learning.

  • Reflect on the world in order to transform it; seeing self as a re-creator of the world.

  • Actively and consistently engage in a healing praxis to transcend personal wounds and triggers.

  • Engage in a process of constantly becoming.

 

Adaptive Leadership inform how we coach participants to practice asserting their agency. This means we:

 
  • Leverage disequilibrium and conflict so that participants can transcend being leveled by it.

  • Examine well what s/he/they might run from or avoid, uncover underlying assumptions, & dispel illusory ghosts from the past.

  • Dwell in productive discomfort and are bold in the face of negative capability.

  • Risk more than others think is safe & expect more of ourselves than most people think is possible.

  • Oscillate between getting on the balcony to reflect and on the dance floor to affect what is happening.




Principles of Experiential Goals: Shedding, Expanding, & Blooming

 

 

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In our seminars, attendees can expect to be asked to participate differently. For some, this may mean being seen rather than being invisible or finding their voice in front of peers. For others, it may mean

struggling to actively offer analytic contributions on an unfamiliar topic rather than passively sit in an “I don’t know” posture. The entire journey is about growth and co-constructing liberatory praxis. I welcome you all to the challenge. [back to top]

What is the Racial+ Equitecture Crucible Experience?

 

The Racial+ Equitecture Crucible Experience simulates the racial+ climate and conditions many face in their everyday lives when it comes to equity issues while providing participants with high support, high challenge, a guiding framework, and the potential for transformation.  It is a searching trial and a test in a holding environment with low stakes and high possibility for a team or group to surface it's biases, innovate beyond their current status quo, experiment with new ways of engaging each other, and discover new ways of grappling with race+in-house. It is an experience that forces one to become aware of things she/they/he were not previously aware. Previous participants have used these words to describe their experience: “My mind was blown.”

 

Crucible experiences are a common tool used to develop extraordinary leaders. Leadership researchers, Bennis and Thomas, 2002 define crucible experiences as “a point of deep self-reflection that force [one] to question who they were and what mattered to them. It required them to examine their values, question their assumptions, hone their judgment. And, invariably, they emerged from the crucible stronger and more sure of themselves and their purpose—changed in some fundamental way.”

 

Why a crucible experience?

 

When researchers study what separates an extraordinary leader who inspires hundreds, garners loyalty, and transforms lives versus a leader who stumbles, they find one significant factor: her/his/their capacity to triumph over adversity (Bennis and Thomas, 2002, Heifetz and Linsky, 2002). Bennis and Thomas (2002) find that “recent research has led us to conclude that one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is an individual’s ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances. Put another way, the skills required to conquer adversity and emerge stronger and more committed than ever are the same ones that make for extraordinary leaders.”

 

The crucible experience exemplifies our company values in a concrete form:

 

1. Curiosity: We reframe how organizations understand and undertake their equity mission through curiosity.  We ask questions.  We use empirical research, analytic rigor, and disciplined thought to test what has always been done a certain way.  The ordinary is strange.  That which is atypical is made familiar.  Here, one challenges one’s own preconceived ideas, underlying assumptions, and taken-for-granted dispositions.

 

2. Numinosity: To confront racial+ disparities is to often rouse ambivalent emotions – both attraction and aversion.  Therefore, we value growth experiences, which incite fear and fascination, overwhelm and inspiration.  Rather than the “banking model” for educating, we design intensive courses and coaching that use brilliant thinking to inspire breakthroughs, transcend tensions, and cultivate response-ability. With Racial+ Equitecture, one takes equity seriously, approaches learning determinedly, and pursues transformation sincerely.

 

3. Metanoia: Shifting from well-intentioned people just doing their jobs to racial equitects is a journey.  Hence, we value the journey of changing one’s actions and way of life (metanoia).  This means enduring productive discomfort and negative capability[1] (capable of sitting through uncertainty, doubt, and ambiguity).  Racial+ equitects approach the unrelenting with rigor, the unattainable with courage, and the unrealistic with possibility.  We fall down and get back up, (dis)agree, partner with oppositional stances, and complicate simplistic thinking.  We innovate, imagining alternatives to what appears ubiquitous, entrenched, and unrelenting.

 

4. Alchemy: Alchemy is required to dismantle systems that engender racial+ disparities.  Consequently, we value processes of transformation and creation.  Alchemy represents a shift in actions since the beginning of our partnership. We grapple with one’s sense of purpose, one’s sense of what is at stake, and the unintended consequences of one’s silence, stances, and recommendations for the future.  We are attentive to whether one’s contribution compels or encumbers progress.​

 

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The design of your seminars seems very experiential.  While there are great benefits to experiential learning, how do you minimize the impact of the limitations of this style of presenting?

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What is your past experience facilitating seminars focused on racial battle fatigue & gender inequality?


In the last 15 years, I have worked in nonprofit organizations and urban schools, tackling the racial, gender, and socioeconomic factors contributing to social inequality. I’ve facilitated seminars for the past 12 years.

Beyond documenting explicit events, I have designed and facilitated leadership, diversity, and realizing inclusivity trainings that shift racial climates, disrupt gendered-dynamics, and decrease effects of unconscious biases. These seminars:

 

  • Question how power is negotiated in the talk, posture, and silences of  discourse.

  • Involve “exploration of one’s place” and “acts as [a] form of resistance to ‘othering’…(Burdell and Swadener, 1999).”

  • Interrogate the norms informed by the culture of power (Delpit, 1995) and how people who do not align with these norms get objectified (Foucault, 1985).

  • Investigate how people acknowledge, acquiesce to, and challenge being objectified (also known as “a practice of liberatory learning”),  

  • Distill common ways institutions and other individuals respond to challenges to predominant ideas through emotional, ideological, and performative rhetorical postures.

 

More than bestow theoretical products, the tenor of our seminars invites a practice of liberatory learning. Liberatory pedagogy involves resisting and challenging predominant ideas and structures, daily self-affirmation, and dialogue (Lynn, 1999, 2004). [back to top]

© 2019  Myosha McAfee. All Rights Reserved.