Empower World Alumni and Professional Life Coaches
Jeanine: So welcome listeners. Welcome to the next edition of the Empower world coaching and leadership podcast. And good morning, good afternoon good evening wherever you are in the world. At the moment I am in Australia isolating down south. And I'm here with my lovely brilliant business partner Marie Quigley who's on the other side of the world. Good morning.
Marie: Good morning. Yeah it's a damp but beautiful day in the UK so I'm enjoying I'm enjoying being here and it's lovely to be with you.
Jeanine: Yes. And it's winter here down in the southern a part of Australia and it's been another glorious winter's day. I have gone on a lovely bike ride. So I'm feeling energized. And I am feeling even more energized with our topic today, a very important podcast. And I am hugely delighted and grateful that we've got two amazing coaches with us today Marie, on this call. We've got to Tenneka Campbell and Shannon Kadenyi. I hope I got that right. You can correct me.
Shannon: Yeah. You got it right Jeanine.
Jeanine: We wanted to invite these two amazing ladies because there's been obviously so much that's been going on in the world in terms of the pandemic and of course the Black Lives Matter protests around the world and of course that is instigating and creating a whole lot of conversation and a whole lot of events and so much more around the world. So it's really shining a light on something that potentially has never really been addressed and I know that there have been many attempts to address racism and we know that it can't be solved easily. But Marie and I were really keen to do this podcast to again support us as coaches and leaders, to have these courageous conversations and we had an initial meeting with Shannon and Tenneka to work out where do we start?
Because it's such a large topic. Where do we start? And so together we decided to let's have a look at having courageous conversations as coaches and leaders about racism. So that's our topic today. But first before we dive into that I'd love to introduce you again to two amazing coaches so Tenneka and Shannon, would you like to briefly introduce yourselves?
Tenneka: Yes sure. So yeah I am Tenneka and I've been a part of the Empower community for a few years now. And yeah I too believe that it's these courageous and powerful conversations that can truly have an impact on moving towards living more open and free as a black woman and speaking about how I feel and also you know move to the coaching community to having a more anti-racist outlook on things. And what that might entail. So I'm happy to be here and happy to have this conversation.
Jeanine: Thank you. Thank you Tenneka. And Shannon...
Shannon: I'm Shannon Kadenyi from Kenya based in Qatar. I'm new in coaching. I've finished my coach training in March, started in July. The last one with Empower World, we're doing in the W Hotel. I specialize in fitness and wellness so more personal trainer and I'm happy to be here and to have this courageous conversation as a black woman, as a Kenyan woman, to represent and have this conversation about racism. And in a coaching perspective we are coaches and the conversation has not really been happening so the fact that I got this opportunity to be here and have this conversation with all of you three ladies, I'm honored and humbled and I'm happy to be here to see where this will go.
Jeanine: Thank you. Thank you Shannon.
Marie: And I think it is important as coaches that's what we do is have brave courageous excuse me conversations and this can be potentially one of the bravest of our time right now. So we're very grateful to have you both. Two beautiful black women talking to two white women and we are here to listen and learn as we explore with you on this podcast as well.
Jeanine: So perhaps Tenneka or Shannon you could perhaps start us off. Where do you believe we can really start to explore these courageous conversations to really break down the barriers and start to have that conversation that opens up and eliminates racism?
Tenneka: Well I think that firstly the reason why I agreed to even have this conversation in this podcast is because as far as self-development and wellness is concerned I was quite alarmed by the lack of support, empathy and understanding around racism and almost feeling like what I feel or what is collectively felt as a black person around racism wasn't necessarily well received.
And so I think in order to have a courageous conversation and a powerful conversation around racism is firstly to just acknowledge that it exists and that it is institutionalized and it comes in many forms and is expressed in many ways. It's a tragedy what's happening in America and that's a very macro form of racial abuse and attack. But from my experience I think that I experienced it more on a micro level. And I'm happy to kind of, dive into that.
Jeanine: Yeah I think as you say Tenneka there are so many levels to it and I believe as I’ve started to dive in this more and more myself. There are so many ways that we unconsciously contribute so that the institutionalization, if that's the word, of those barriers and what keeps racism in place there. You know unintentionally. Not all but perhaps somehow keeping it in place. And I think creating awareness about that is really important. That's what I'm beginning to understand more and more. So as I reflect that back, what comes up for you both?
Tenneka: I definitely feel that you know we are all responsible for how we feel and how we take action on something that causes trauma or unrest and it's my experience that as a black woman there's almost like a layer to it that's on top of what I feel. So it's the way that I can describe it is like, I’ll give an example. I've lived as an expat for a long time and one of the most common things you get asked on introduction after “Hello how are you?” Is “Oh well where are you from?” And I’ll say “I'm from London England” and they'll be like “But no. What where are you really from?”… “hush… London England? That's where I was born?” But it's almost as if my first answer isn't enough and they want to talk about my whole lineage as a means to justify my race as a black person. And even though the intention potentially might not be seen as a bias or way to kind of establish or assimilate towards being a black person, that's exactly what it does. Because it's like well my first answer is enough. You should just stop there. But to have to always justify and then clarify and then say something again. It's where the feeling, my feelings, have been hurt and often it can be disheartening and quite traumatic because it's almost as if I'm speaking, I'm telling you. But why is that not enough? And so that's like an example of like a micro aggression that many black people may face.
Marie: And I'm guessing when people ask you that… well actually let's not guess. What happens when people ask you that? What is the repercussion for you? What happens to you?
Tenneka: Well it's just the feeling of “well I’ve told you where I'm from. And that that should be it. It's not up for, it doesn't have to be enough to justify that to you”. You know why should I have to say something that makes you feel or was asking that question feel as if comfortable with that? I know where I am from. That's as simple as that. It doesn't require further explanation. However, I think when we're talking about racism as a lived experience it just, certain things always require an explanation or it feels as if that's what it’s geared towards. And then what that does is that it can cause a feeling of second guessing, always feeling that you have to explain. And that's not necessarily so. But by something as simple as a question like that where might it come across. Well that's not a racist thing to say. Well it kind of is, because it's like I’ve told you where I'm from. So why do you then need to dig a layer deeper, you know. There are many. Another one would be just walking around the shop and being asked if you work there, just out of nowhere. It's like well what's your assumption? Why are you assuming that I work here? You know I don't have on a uniform even. So that's based on race and so not that there's anything wrong with working in these, wherever you get asked. But that is the assumption that you're of service all the time and must be at somebody's beckon call when required and that's not true. And it's not fair. It's not right.
Shannon: Yeah. Just to add to that so like to exist as a black woman, you know, and not be able to talk about race is not to exist at all because so much of how I am perceived and received by society has to do with race. Though when I walk somewhere in a mall, in an expensive shop it's “where is your boss? Why are you here?”. You know and so it has to do it's just my presence in the room. You know it's about race because of the color of my skin. Which really is not a happy way to live because when by just the way you are seen and you have to act a certain way or communicate in a certain way to fit in anywhere you go you know at the airport I have to explain 20 times where I'm going, where I'm coming from, just because of the color of my skin. So a lot of people would say “Oh I'm not a racist” but it's the micro aggression the many things that they do and knowingly not knowing that it's they're being racist. So it's not saying “oh I'm not a racist” it’s “are you really an anti-racist”. And then when they ask a question, “Are you sincerely asking a question with interest in understanding or are you trying to defend your position?”.
Jeanine: So what I'm hearing and what I’ve been learning is that these seemingly, what might be perceived as innocent questions, actually are really hurtful painful. They trigger something deep.
Jeanine: Go ahead Tenneka.
Tenneka: Yeah. And that's a key point to mention it. It's very triggering. And so when a global movement occurs because of what happened to George Floyd and that we integrate the Black Lives Matter in and what that does to every black person across the world. It triggers all of the times that you felt that you that we haven't been heard or that we're just trying to do normal things you know, go for a run, go to sleep, walk down the street and or saying “Okay I'm sorry but you know I'm standing back”. It's almost not enough for life to be taken in that way regardless of race. It's very harrowing and painful but as a black person you have to realize that that triggers all the emotions and all the feelings no matter how big or small about every time you've had a racist experience, whether it be in employment, whether it be just navigating daily life whether it be, thinking about education and growing up you know not necessarily seeing anyone or anything that represents you are. Who am I as a person. That also plays a big part in understanding or trying to understand how we trigger, you know the world effect that it has had.
Jeanine: And I really you know we've only just started having this conversation and I'm really appreciating what you're both sharing because we've got a number of black, particularly women, that have come through the Empower World program and many people from many different countries and races and have also experienced some form of racism. And the women that I hear right now I see these very strong women, powerful women. And so it is great to get an appreciation of what's really going on underneath by you both sharing what happens when people ask these questions. What does it trigger? So it's certainly opening my eyes. So I really appreciate what you're sharing and I think maybe something that is coming up for Marie.
Marie: No it's just noticing that potentially when that happens, that there is also an inability to respond and explain what is happening from your perspective when these triggers are being pressed and the pain is there and that simple question of “no, where are you really from?”. How do you then address that when the pain is there and there is the lack of understanding of what that question has caused? I mean there are so many layers to this and so many blind spots for people, how do we support, how do we, this conversation, support us even to understand the blind spots that we aren't even aware of that we do. That's what’s coming up for me ladies.
Jeanine: And likewise as you say Marie. How do you support yourselves and how can we continue to create awareness about that type of thing? That's two questions.
Shannon: I think it goes back to just what I said it is just when asking this question before you ask the question you have to ask are you asking it from a sincere interest and understanding? Or you are just trying to defend your position? You know so maybe as a “white supremacy” in quote. So coming from where that question comes from? So if you are asking in interest of understanding and you can never really understand because you're not black. But then if you're coming from that place I think then that the answer might be different. So it's also a way of asking, because most of the questions when they're asked. It's the way Tenneka said. It's like “Where are you really from?”. So it's the way the questions are being asked.
Tenneka: And also context, because even though we are focusing on the “where are you really from” its like well why do you actually need to know? If we are moving towards a more anti-racist more you know, one race sort of mentality then why does it matter where I'm from? What does that even have to be an introductory statement? It should just be about who I am not the color of my skin or my culture or religious beliefs? So when you think about race and asking someone were they are really from. Exactly like that. The reason why that's so offensive is because it comes across as if you're trying to put me in a box that makes you feel comfortable, irrespective of how I feel as the recipient of that statement. I'm not sure if that makes you know makes a bit more clear. But that's exactly what it feels like.
Marie: Thank you. Thank you both of you. So from a perspective of asking questions, it's looking at what is this question about? Is this question about me and my biases my racism? That's because that’s what it is, right, my race. Is this about my racism? Or is this about me wanting to know something deeper about this human being in front of me? Because we're all from many places especially as expatriates right? We live and breathe in one land. But we're all coming from different countries. So it's what the question is really about that's underneath it, that we need to look at.
Tenneka: Yeah. And I think that's very clear. And that's why it could be so offensive. I mean another way to look at this is like, I am a very visual person. You guys have known me for a long time and I'm very visual. You see me often I get compliments about how I look or my hair or what I'm wearing, which is fantastic. But then if that stops there instead of like actually asking me like why I'm actually at this event or talking to me about things that you know, as a coach not just my aesthetics. That's also like another layer to the conversation. It's like if you see someone, a black person, I can't speak on behalf of other people of color but as a black woman, it's almost like being fetishized in many ways because it's like okay I'm here in front of you. You know I can say Wow you look amazing. But then it's like wow I love your hair and you know if someone then goes to touch you or then being asked in depth questions about what it is you're wearing? That actually gets us anywhere what is the need for you to then ask these questions or questions of comfort to me and not comfort for me receiving those statements. It's so a white person can then like I said rationalized or put me in the box according to my race. It's got nothing to do with what I am as a woman, who I am as a woman, my qualifications or my you know, what I enjoy. You know anything like that is just based on face value. And I think it's also important to highlight that because it does come down to racism. There’s no other way to say it. And so there are many layers. And so Shannon's right it about knows what the intention of your question is. You know is it really to get to know the person you're speaking to? Is it really to have that deep understanding of what my experiences are and who I am? If it's not, Then you've got to really start thinking about what the reason is behind the question you're asking.
Jeanine: I love that, it's really understanding the intention and I'm wondering you know, when someone does come with that intention of being really curious and you know wanting to… I certainly know I mean for example even myself I’ve gotten curious of my lineage. Where are my roots? Where's my heritage from? Because I used to get asked as a young girl if I was Greek or Italian because I had very dark hair and I was pretty sure I wasn't but I was so curious so I did a DNA test and I found that I'm mostly British. There is a little bit of European in there and there's a bit of Viking as well. So I get really curious about, I am very curious about the lineage as well. The ancestors. So I'm wondering how do you as black women get curious about where someone's intention is coming from? Or is it an intuitive thing? How you navigate that? Maybe that hasn't happened before I don't know. I'm just curious.
Shannon: For me I’ve had a question like because I'm African and I'm black but I'm not too dark skinned so someone would say “Oh I like you, you're African, you're black. I love, I like your complexion is not too dark” so that's kind of you know comments. It's you like me as an African because I'm not too black, you know that's really just how do I even start responding to you know certain things or certain words.
Tenneka: Yeah. And also regarding finding out heritage I mean you've got to understand that due to slavery, migration, immigration that a lot of black people that are living across the world even if you do a DNA test. There's that feeling of really not having the access to really knowing where you are because you've been removed from Africa. And so often that is one of the triggers that comes up when you can ask a question but where are you really from? Because it's like well I know where I'm from but why do I need to then tell you that you know I'm from London. This is the example. I'm from London. My mother was born in the U.K. but her mother was born in Montserrat. My dad is Jamaican. He was born in Jamaica but came over to the U.K. when he was a young boy. It's like well does that actually get to you to know what it is that I'm offering. Or you know if you say as a leader as a coach you know I’ve had just as a bit of context. It depends also where you are. I mean if we're friends and we're in a situation where we genuinely talk about our history our lineage who we are, our energy and stuff like that then cool you can have these conversations. But if you're just a networking event or you've just got a new job or you're just in a supermarket something basic where you just say hi to someone and the first thing they do is try to put you in a box or a position due to the color of your skin. That's racism. There is no other way to say it. So the curiosity even though it might have a well-formed intention is not always received that way. And I think it's important to highlight that because we do that as coaches right? And we know when it's like well intention versus impact. That well your intention might not have been to cause offense but that's how I perceived it and I feel that it's important to understand that when you speak to or engage with black people regarding things around where they're from and what their experiences are because is it from a place of like love and support and understanding. Or is it just like a sense of like well do I trust you? Or you know whatever negative connotations you can think of that we've experienced, that I’ve experienced. And so it's important to kind of know the importance of really understanding what you're saying when you're speaking to anybody but more importantly when you're discussing racism.
Jeanine: Yeah no thank you so much for that response and so the context is important, the relationship is important in terms of you know, getting curious as well as how you respond as well. Thank you. Marie are there any questions coming up for you right now?
Marie: Well this is such a short… it's such a huge topic in such a short amount of time to be able to talk about this. So I think the important question is how we do as coaches and leaders support courageous conversations about racism. How do we do that? What needs to happen?
Shannon: I think perhaps maybe just continue you know keep the both of view is one of the examples really get to have these courageous conversations and ask questions with intentions of learning and relearning and maybe when you come from a place of love support and understanding, have compassion and empathy so that when you get a response from us it's coming from, so that if you're coaching a black person the response you get is a genuine response. Because as a black woman I’ve had to minimize my voice in order to make other people feel or white people feel comfortable. Or other races feel comfortable. So because of the slavery the way it's happened you know with the background there's the inferiority complex. So if there's love, there’s support, there's compassion, there's empathy, there’s understanding, it's opens up the space of that conversation to happen in a way that supports both people. For a white person or a racist person to understand because not everyone will admit I'm racist. It's something that no one wants to admit. Well it's just learning and learning, relearning accepting that it is there. Well white supremacy is there. There is privilege. And then how can you now with the privilege that you have, how can you have a voice and really support the minority or support the black community or other communities and races.
Marie: Thank you Shannon. I'm hearing that we need to ask ourselves so how am I being racist? Where am I being racist? That I'm not even aware of, that there's a blind spot for me. Where am I? Where is this unconscious happening in myself? If these questions are raised or even if these thoughts are raised not maybe voiced but these thoughts occur within. Where is that within me? Jeanine do you have anything to add to that?
Tenneka: Because it's also important to understand as well and Marie just to go off your point that yeah there are a lot of blind spots but it's that unconscious bias that sometimes can do the most harm and unknowingly so. So that's why it's important. As Shannon highlighted to do the work, to really look into where racism occurs and if you do and this doesn't mean that if you have black friends, black family because you know we all have families and you know we might have multi-racial relationships and things like that. It's not to then go to that person and be like well what's going on here? Even though that might be a good intention. But you've got to understand that there are layers to that. And so doing your own work and then understanding that if a black person is being vulnerable with you, that not to receive that feedback, there's going to be all emotions. And it can be somewhat dehumanizing sometimes if someone does say to you “Well I’ve experienced racism” and then you know a white person might say like “well I just in my opinion I don't see that as racism I see that as this. Or are you sure that that’s your lived experience? You know racism doesn't exist anymore. I only I don't see color”. That is just as harmful because it's not seeing that I'm here. And how can I take action or if you think of it from a coaching perspective that vulnerability that leads to such courageous action and living a more authentic life, If I can't be open and authentic with my experiences or feel that I'm being shut down when I do ask these questions or I do share. Then that doesn't support me and I think that's one of the reasons why potentially some coaches or a lot of industries have been well this is self-development are silent because it's like well if I do come to you with what I'm saying please don't dismiss it, it's my lived experience just like any traumatic experience whether it be abuse or violence it has the same registry within my nervous system as any of those attacks do. And so to dismiss that in any form whether it be like “oh I said that but that was just a joke” you know or anything like that that really dismisses the experience. It's what keeps the blind spots regarding support I think it's also important to have conversations within your own networks if you see someone being racist you know say “well that's not OK”. If you know that you may have benefited from you know privilege or things like that, there is going to be some guilt and shame attached to that too and it's also important to acknowledge that but then that doesn't give justification to still dismiss the experience of racism and be like to push it away because it's real and it’s here. And as a black person I think it's very important to say that because if we do come to a coach about our experiences to really think about accepting what it is I have to say I'm not saying well if you don't like that go over there or we're about moving forwards, which coaching is about but it's also about acknowledging what my experience has been. And so I feel that to have the powerful conversations, it isn't just be in this forum you have to have your families with your friends you know really think about, Well actually I’ve worked in this job for how long? I don't actually have many black supervisors you know are we inclusive in our workspace? Do we have a place for anyone to say that they experience racism? Things like this are what the narrative towards being more anti-racist. But if you're not willing to acknowledge that you do have those blind spots which you have in you just listen. Some people aren't even allowing some white people aren't willing to do that. And so that's where the problem starts. It's knowledge in that there is an issue and really taking it back to the ground. And rallying doing that foundational work to create change.
Marie: Thank you Tenneka. So what I'm hearing is that the first step begins with acknowledging that we all have this as white people, that we all have this bias and it's starting to learn what that is for us and how that can come out, is that what I'm hearing?
Tenneka: Yes exactly.
Marie: And I think after the acknowledgment Tennka, where do we go next to start to continue the work? What advice do you have for us to have these conversations in all the places that you've talked about?
Tanneka: Well I think once you acknowledge something, if it's racism we're talking about, racism. You've got to accept the feelings and emotion that come with that. Just as I do as the recipient of it. For me it's anger. It can be sadness. I can feel quite animated about it or I can feel like I need to pull away. And but in order to heal I find that you know I speak to people that I know that I can genuinely trust, people that I know that will understand. But it also requires some courage. I mean if you think about being anti-racist and you talk about it to some of your peers they're like well I didn't believe in that, whatever. It doesn't mean that you then stop, because this is not something that's in the past. It's deeply rooted within who we are and where we live. So I definitely feel that you know donations and reading is great. But are you then implementing what your findings? Are you genuinely speaking up? Are you supporting black people? Are you really trying to unpack those unconscious biases and then making conscious decisions from an anti-racist perspective, not what you might have learned from your childhood or experiences you may have had or following the crowd. Making light things especially around race and I think that's where you can then keep moving, it's not going to happen in a quick way. It's really having to go deep and do that work.
Marie: Thank you Tenneka. I hear that and we talk about this in coaching don't we. Acknowledgement of everything is the first step. Once we bring the acknowledgement to the forefront we can ignore it again. We can push it aside but we can't say I don't know it's there anymore. And then it's processing what's happening emotionally wise, body wise, energy wise, mind wise, soul wise to learn about how this is impacting ourselves and how we can grow and develop as we learn more about that.
Tenneka: Yeah exactly and it's not easy. It's hard but you know it doesn't mean that it's not essential. It is essential because you know racism shouldn't exist. And it does. And as Jeanine started with it it's maybe the first time it’s highlighted in a way that white people are acknowledging or realizing that wow this is happening, you know this is something and I can only speak about my experience. And so I think that's where a lot of the conflicts particularly on social media is happening because you know you're being told what's happening. Black people are expressing how they feel. But then if you just put up that barrier of “well I don't see it that way. It's not it's not true. All lives matter. Maybe that guy deserved it”. You know it just takes away from everything that could potentially move towards making positive change.
Jeanine: Absolutely and I think you know this is a journey for all of us. It's not one side or another side or another side, it's a journey for all of us. And I think even listeners who are listening to this even if they're perhaps still pushing back and believing that they're not racist or not contributing to racism, to still get curious as Tenneka has said and Shannon, do the work you know get curious find out more about, I mean clearly, it's there because of what was. So get curious and find out why these protests are happening why this is becoming so urgent to address because that certainly that will be part of my journey. You know I liked to think that I was contributing to anti-racism and by doing this work, by doing a whole lot more reading and listening. You know I’ve realized the part that I’ve played as well. And again doing my best. And I know that there's still a journey to go. There’s still more to do to continue to support bringing down racism. So I really appreciate both of you for supporting us to have this conversation and I'm trusting that our listeners are starting to learn a little bit more about how they too can also get curious and also understand a little bit more how they might be contributing to what keeps racism in place. Why it's still here and why it's still such a huge issue.
Marie: And we have only touched on the surface. I feel like we've just scratched a little mark. And there's so much more depth. What comes to mind is the iceberg model that we all learn about when we're coaching. You know we've just touched the surface there's so much emotion, so much pain, so much learning to be had underneath, that we need to continue having these conversations.
Jeanine: Really create that awareness. And I guess that's the thing. There are these perceptions and assumptions that get in the way. And so we are just having these courageous conversations we can get onto the same page.
Tenneka: Yeah I agree. And as I said, as far as supporting and really moving towards anti-racism what I would say is just have these conversations within your own workspace and within your family, in your groups and your wherever you interact if you see it you know speak on it. See racism and call people out. And that is a start that can really start to support that acknowledgment that we've discussed.
Marie: Thank you to Tenneka. Shannon, anything else that you'd like to leave our listeners with as we close off our conversation today?
Shannon: For me it's just to finish off with saying like Let's keep doing the work and unpacking and I'm sending love to all the black people out there that you know have experienced racism in a way, that feel like they’re inferior, like they don't belong. Going through it's been tough experience like with the pandemic and then racism it's still going on there's so much going on. So sending love, sending compassion, sending empathy. I feel all those things that you are going through and whatever everyone is going through like just be kind to yourself and if in a way someone out there listeners has contributed or doesn't even know you know like where they stand, what they've done. They think oh I'm not racist because I never treat, is just going back to looking within ourselves and finding out really you know reading more having these conversations reach out to a black person from a place of you know understanding and love and just have that courageous conversation and ask how can I support you? What is really going on? And I feel like that will be a good start from us healing, from the world healing of which that's what we want. That's the aim of ending racism and we can look at each other as just one race.
Marie: Thank you Shannon. Coaches and leaders we profess that we have hard conversations and we ask the tough questions. So let's begin with ourselves and start asking ourselves these tough conversations. Tenneka, Shannon, Jeanine it's been a pleasure to be with you this morning, this evening where you are. And I look forward to tougher, courageous conversations with us all.
Jeanine: Thank you ladies. It's been an absolute pleasure.
Shannon: Okay. Thank you.
Tenneka: Thank you.