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Thinking About and Centering Race in the Workplace

By Abby Rolland

Grants & Communications Manager

Recently, harp-weaver staff were grateful to participate in two workshops sponsored by The Barra Foundation that featured Dr. Kenneth V. Hardy, Professor of Family Therapy at Drexel University and Director of the Eikenberg Institute for Relationships. The workshops that we attended focused on the concept of whiteness. The first (technically the third in the entire series of four) focused on the not so trivial trivialities of whiteness. Trivial trivialities are things that white people do, feel, or say to make themselves more comfortable within a space. While these actions seem trivial to white people, they’re not, and are harmful to BIPOC. The second session (technically, the fourth) focused on strategies for centering race into the workplace. Unfortunately, we were not able to attend the first two workshops, and we had to leave an hour early from the last.

However, the lessons we did learn were incredibly important and practical. We identify as two white women. We are determined to incorporate anti-racist, equitable, and inclusive practices in our work, and we recognize that there are concrete steps we need to take to do just that.

There were many points that we’ve continued to think about post-workshop. Some are specific to the not so trivial trivialities of whiteness – like how many white people wish to be seen as individuals, rather than lumped together with racist whites. In the meantime, BIPOC individuals are continuously lumped together in one group. Or another one – white people tend to see themselves by their ethnicity or as “only human,” while people of color are usually seen as people of color. In other words, white children are socialized as people, not as white people, while Black children are socialized as BIPOC. This point struck home – I don’t even remember thinking about my skin color when I was young.

One other not so trivial triviality is that sometimes, saying nothing is more damaging than trying and saying the wrong thing. I think about this frequently, because I’m often concerned that I’ll say the wrong thing and don’t want to offend anyone. But as Dr. Hardy pointed out, not saying anything can imply approval of systemic racism and racist practices. So, we need to be comfortable with saying something, and asking for forgiveness and/or how we right it if it’s incorrect and hurtful.

Dr. Hardy also discussed ten principles or artifacts that drive white ideology. I won’t go into great detail here (hire Dr. Hardy to facilitate a workshop if you’re interested in learning more!), but many of these principles feel embedded into how we view work and life. Based on these principles, we’re asking ourselves multiple questions – can a person be truly objective? Why do we favor thinking over feeling? Why does the individual matter more than the collective? And how can we dismantle the idea that the final product is more important than the process or journey to create that product?

At harp-weaver, we are actively working to becoming anti-racist and more equitable and inclusive. We have continually tried to prioritize relationships, community, and connection. We want to understand how clients and the partners they work with operate within the context they’re working in. And we’re taking steps to understand how we act as racial beings.

There’s more work to be done. We’re learning a lot and working hard to understand the limits and faults of our own thinking and actions. There are ways for us to contribute and there are times for us to listen. It’s and we’re a work in progress, but we’re determined to be a catalyst that not only drives our clients’ collaboration and giving but also contributes to societal change and growth.

Our gratitude toward Dr. Hardy for leading these thought-provoking workshops, and to The Barra Foundation for hosting them.


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