Approaching Harm With Healing for Ourselves & Others
Discussion between Reflecting Justice (Moneek Bhanot & Colleen Klus) and rootid (Sia Magadan & Val Neumark) around approaching harm with healing for ourselves and others.
Sia Magadan 0:08
All right, hello everyone. So excited to kick off 2023 With this conversation with an organization that I admire and just appreciate the work that they’re doing as they contribute to the overall nonprofit ecosystem. Today we have reflecting justice with us. And so I am seeing my Gadon have routed root as director of community engagement and fundraising. I reside here in Sacramento on this anon land. My pronouns are she and her. This is Arturo root, it’s intern his pronouns are he him, he also resides here. And I’m going to pass it over to Val.
Valerie Neumark 0:48
Hi, everyone. My name is Val, my pronouns are she Bay, and I am the Director of Strategy and education here at rooted. I, let’s see, my where do I reside, I reside in the San Francisco East Bay on Ticino Aloni land. And now we will pass it over to our beloved guests, Colleen and Monique from reflecting justice in whichever view would like to go first to introduce yourself.
Colleen Klus 1:17
Thank you so much for having us. My name is Colleen. My pronouns are she and her. Monique and I are the co founders of reflecting justice, I also reside in the East Bay on to Chanyeol Aloni. Land.
Moneek Bhanot 1:28
Hey, everybody, I’m so excited to be part of this conversation. Thank you see, and Val for having us. My name is Monique OneNote. My pronouns are she and her. I’m also on in the East Bay on Aloni Chanyeol.
Sia Magadan 1:48
Awesome, thank you both so much. So let’s kick this off by having you first share a little bit about yourselves and your background. But also let us know or let the people know like what reflecting justice is, what is the aim of the organization and what brought you to this inspiring work.
Colleen Klus 2:08
So I’ll say first, myself and my background, I am right now for the last two years, Monique and I have been at reflecting justice prior to that I was at a youth nonprofit for about 10 years. Prior to that I was in the Peace Corps and college. So that’s kind of like my career trajectory there. My time in a nonprofit, I spent a few of those years as a local site director. And so that informs a lot of the work that we do and the approaches that we take. And I’ll say also a lot of just how I approach healing work, how I approach understanding, oppression, understanding injustice comes from definitely personal experiences that I’ll share more about in a little bit. But also from that time at that nonprofit, and really from youth that were teaching me and helping me learn with them along the way. I’ll say a little bit about just like what we do at reflecting justice, and then Monique, please add and adjust what I share. So I would say the the first thing is that we we both come to this work through our own individual lived experiences and our multifaceted intersectional identities are professional experiences as well. But at the core is, this is our purpose work. Equity, Healing Justice is really just at the core of who we are. It’s really the gifts that we have to offer in this world and what we want to spend our time doing so we do work with individuals, we work with organizations and companies, we can share more about kind of what services we offer in that work. But we spend so much of our time at our workplaces and in our jobs, and especially in this country, the systems of oppression that exist systemically manifest in our workplaces, they manifest interpersonally, they manifest individually. And so we really want as much as possible when we get to partner with someone to help our workplaces be supportive. You places where people are treated fairly, where people get to be in their full humanity, and to not be replicating those harmful systems. And so that really is the impact we hope to have with our clients we really want to be in authentic relationships. We talk a lot about power dynamics about minimizing power dynamics, about being accountable to one another. And we’re going to talk more later about harm and how accountability isn’t about punishment, but really is about healing. And we really hope to move through conflict together with a lot of care and in ways that can, again be individually and collectively healing. So with that, I’ll pass it to Monique, please add all the things.
Moneek Bhanot 4:44
I love all of that Colleen beautiful summary. I think I’ll start just by sharing a little bit of like how I come to the work and I think first and foremost it’s through is deeply rooted in my own lived experience in You know, I identify him Punjabi, I’m sick. And there’s a lot of binaries I that I have navigated throughout my life. Right. So being Punjabi Sikh, you know, my father wore a turban, right. So we’re like, in a lot of ways really, really hyper visible in even even growing up in the bay area, where it’s like, super diverse, still, like hyper visible, still, like different in a in a particular way. And still, even within that, also navigating invisibility. And in the ways that, you know, as I navigated, you know, education, the education system, or different systems growing up ways in which my experience wasn’t seeing, it wasn’t understood. I think about that in the layers within my community as well. I’m a survivor of domestic violence in my home. And so the challenges I’ve experienced as a woman, I’m someone who has critiques of how we practice inclusivity and equity within my community. In Sikhism, and so these are my experiences, right? My my life experiences, and I know that there are so many of us so many people that are experiencing navigating so much in our identities, as we move through our daily lives. There’s the various interpersonal interactions, we have the institutions that we’re engaging with, from schools, to banks, to police, right, and we’re navigating these things, how we’re seeing, you know, tokenism, policing, access. And all of those things have an impact on our safety, the level of violence, we experienced the harm that we experience. And I think, at some point, I came to an awakening in my adolescence, where it was like, Oh, my gosh, all of this is centered on on whiteness as the standard as the norm. Right. And I think Bell Hooks, you know, talks about that white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, it’s so centered on that. And I went through a process of like, contextualized thing, and understanding my individual experiences that they weren’t happening in a vacuum, they’re happening in a country that’s built and centered on white supremacy, anti blackness, genocide, on, on, on violence, right. And so I think that that’s really driven me at my core to want to do healing work. And I did that a lot in as an educator for 15 plus years in the classroom in nonprofit, just hoping to make my students feel seen in ways that I wasn’t seeing, hoping that they’re seen in the curriculum that I curated, having space for their emotions and experiences to be a part of the classroom not separate from. And the whole goal with reflecting justice. And what Colleen and I are building together is about, it’s a space where hopefully, we can like bring that to folks, right? Bring that to people in their workplaces. help folks build knowledge, I think foundational knowledge of the systems that we are navigating I don’t, our society is actively trying to suppress that knowledge of the histories, the history of this country. And so it’s vital that we are contending with and reckoning with white supremacy, anti blackness, capitalism, reflecting on our own identities, and experiences, understanding how we’re granted and denied power by those systems. And then ultimately determining our roles, right what what actions we can create, to make a more to create a more just world to create more healing for ourselves, I think calling talked about this a little bit how to create accountability for ourselves and others, and how to do that in a really embodied way. So I think that that’s what we tried to do with the fucking justice. And that’s just a little bit about how I came to that work.
Sia Magadan 8:52
Awesome. Thanks so much for sharing. So even as you all were talking, and I’m hearing you, and I believe you’ve been in operation since when
Moneek Bhanot 9:04
we founded reflecting justice in 2020,
Sia Magadan 9:07
and 2020. Right, so at the height, recognizing that you saw the need, you’re like, let’s put this together. We know we can contribute. Were there any thoughts of like, what is possible pushback or barriers to us coming together to do this work?
Moneek Bhanot 9:22
I mean, there’s always pushback, right? I think that that’s where my mind goes is that like, we founded reflecting justice in 2020. But equity work and like healing work has been a part of both very, very long time. I would say as early as college for me, and maybe even prior to that I don’t I don’t know that I’ve examined my own youth but like Yeah, I think that I don’t know for me to be in this body is to go against the grain Right? So there’s always going to be resistance but Um, to me, that’s not a reason to not do it. It’s all the more reason to do the work. And I think in any role that I’ve held, as a teacher, as an educator, as a nonprofit director, like any of the work that I’ve done has always been about centering people on centering equity, because it’s just about bringing humanity to anything and everything that we do. And of course, there are going to be folks that are resistance to resistant to that, and I think, and our institutions, you know, purposefully are designed to make it hard to center humanity. But that’s the work is the way that I see it. Awesome.
Sia Magadan 10:42
Thank you. So my next question is, what are some of the misconceptions about harm? And this one is one that I’m like, you know, you everyone has their working definition of what it is. But I feel like I want to get a better understanding, and even some of those things that we may not classify as norm, and they truly are.
Colleen Klus 11:03
Yeah, so appreciate you asking that CEA. And I think my first response to that is also to go back and share some of I think Monique shared so beautifully of like her own a lot of her own personal experiences that brought her to this work. So I want to share some of mine, because they connect a lot to what I understand about harm. So most vulnerably, and honestly, I do this work holding the truths of how much harm I’ve caused. And in all the bodies in the identity that I have, as well, knowing that I will continue to cause harm, and with the deepest possible commitment to lessening the harm that I cause. And so as a white woman, I come from a history and also a current culture, of horrific violence, in particular, against communities of color, most acutely against black and indigenous communities. But really, across the board, I think that that is part of what whiteness is, it’s part of the function. And I think that there are, there are particular ways, again, in history, and currently that white women in particular, are responsible for so much death for so much insidious violence. And so the more than I understand about that history, and about that current context, the more that I can consciously choose how I show up in this world and how I moved through this world. And so that is deeply at the core of this work for me. And just to say, I think a lot of times, people can see that and think that that’s we’re talking about something that’s really extreme, or we’re only talking about death. And we are also talking about daily insidious kinds of violence, including the kind that a lot of people might dismiss, which is violence in the workplace and harm in the workplace, in people’s everyday experiences, and who and who is listened to who is believed, whose experiences and expertise are trusted or valued, who gets to have different kinds of emotions and why and when So, there is so much to that. And again, I think that that’s that’s really where I’m coming into this, I’ll say, my partnership with Monique is a huge gift in my own every day learning and healing and being a parent is probably one of the best places that I learn and grow, and how where I can so acutely see my own power so often, and how I can shift how I’m showing up to be in partnership with my child in a very different way and make sure that she is within her own power as much as possible. And then the other thing I was just going to add to is Monique shared about like whiteness being normalized. And just to say that is very much my experience. So growing up, most of my exposure to race and to my own racial identity, was almost exclusively actually through racism, through witnessing so many people around me doing and saying very racist things, ignoring racism, normalizing racism and normalizing the dehumanization of people of color. That is how I came to know of race as anything and was through racism. So I very much had the normalization experience that Monique’s talking about in terms of whiteness as the standard as the norm. And I think you had asked you about like, like, what would be what would have any, like concerns or any risks or something like that. And I think like there is a I hold a lot of privilege and a lot of my identities and I think just to say there is a constant pressure and threat both overtly and covertly to not challenge racism, to not challenge sexism. For me growing up did not challenge Catholicism, Catholicism, for everybody to be straight, for there to be two separate conforming genders, right, like all of these things that are in our power systems. And so I think depending on what kind of privilege you you hold, you may or may not have as much of that threat, and then as much a risk to your own safety. So I think that’s also something that we really try to talk to folks about is like, what is the level of risk for you within your everyday life within your work? Place and the more power that you are granted, also the more safety that you have in being able to address and speak up against all of these things. So anyway, I just wanted to share that because I think Monique shared so beautifully about some of her own personal pieces. And I’ll say the other thing that we talked about a lot with clients in terms of misconceptions about harm, is that intention is almost always prioritized over impact. I think it’s just so often a response, I think, especially with white folks, but But generally, again, across the board, there’s just like a defensiveness that happens. And so it’s often either somebody’s dismissed, that it’s turned around and made that the person who brought it up is actually the one who’s at fault. Or that it’s just let me focus and take up all the space with telling you about what my intention was, rather than slowing down enough to really center what harm Are you telling me about? So Monique, I’d love to hear if you have things to add about that, too. But that’s a piece that we try to talk about a lot with folks.
Moneek Bhanot 15:59
Yeah, I love that. I think that. I think that alongside that harm. There’s a misconception that harm is like, some big thing that happens, like some overt somebody said something to someone else. And sometimes to your point calling I think a lot of what you’ve been saying is like harm is really, really insidious, like, and we can’t always name it, like, it’s hard to be if we gotta be master analyzer sometimes to be able to get underneath and be like, Well, I’m doing a discourse analysis to be able to say, here’s why that was a harmful comment, right, like, and so a lot of labor that goes into that. And we’re not always able to do that. And I think that that’s why it’s so important to do exactly what you’re saying is to just center the impact believe people, if they’re saying, Hey, I was impacted in this way, even if they can’t, like, explain every, you know, line for line, why it’s really important to be able to center folks experiences and understand how they’ve been impacted. So yeah, I think that’s what I’d add. The second thing that comes to my mind to add is that I think, a misconception about harm is that we need to punish harm. And, you know, Colleen and I are students of abolitionist who do work day in and day out to reframe this idea. But we believe that punishing harm creates more harm. And, you know, there is we’re learning in our own process about what accountability can actually look like. And that it’s not actually about punishment. It’s about healing. It’s about direct, honest, open conversations with folks that are had who are adversely impacting other folks. But the goal is to ultimately expand folks frame, right, we don’t want to shame folks. But we need folks to notice and to learn, to understand and like notice their own embodied responses, to notice the needs understanding where you know, how they’ve been socialized, how we’ve all been socialized, we’re all accountable, right? And then practicing being in relationship differently. So just some additional thoughts there.
Valerie Neumark 18:30
Could you say more about how you each define centering the lived experiences of someone because I think that gets misunderstood? And similarly of how it relates to harm? Yeah. Could you kind of talk about how you define that?
Colleen Klus 18:45
I think one of the first things that comes to my mind is actually one of the things that Monique said at the beginning is around systemic power. And where are we granted or denied systemic power. And I think that that is really critical in these conversations. Because alongside how much in our country, we continually see an attempt to erase history and attempt to not have any knowledge, let alone accountability for how this country was founded and continues to exist. On the genocide, of attempted genocide of indigenous people on the enslavement of African peoples, right, like, there is so much to try to, like move away from that. So the other thing that I think we see a lot is is like CO opting of language co opting of movements of folks who do have a lot of systemic granted power, who use this language to say that they are then being oppressed or that they are then being marginalized. And again, I think in particular, that comes from white folks, there is a very strong, far right movement happening right now. There always has been and it is a lot more visible and a lot more vocal right now more acutely. And I think that that’s a clear part of that movement is saying that now white people are being oppressed. And so I think one of the conversations that again, we really try to bring people back to is around systemic power, because systemically white people are granted power, that is the function of white supremacy. And so and we also try to talk about that in terms of like individual power, right, like an individual may have a lot of individual power, feel very empowered. So we don’t want to do anything in our work that takes that away from someone. And we’re talking about systems. And so we really want to make sure whether you’re in a workplace exchange or something like that, and when you’re looking at the different power dynamics that are there, when you’re talking about, you know, someone’s supervisor, to their staff, or, you know, what are all of the different positional and identity power dynamics that are happening? Because somebody hurt my feelings, or I didn’t like what you said, is different than you are trying to take away my humanity in this moment, and not even letting me exist, right, like, so I think we’re really trying to get into that what sometimes seems like nuanced to people. And also a lot of times also can seem very clear if you’re looking at the systems that are involved.
Sia Magadan 21:07
So I want to backtrack a bit. Colleen, you said something, and it got me to thinking and so I want to bring this up, you said your relationship with Monique is a gift. And I and it triggered something in me because I’m noticing that there are a lot more and I like to call them dynamic Duo’s being formed, where you have people coming across different lived experiences. With an own the soil, I usually see it amongst white women, and a woman of color. And I’ve seen this a lot in the nonprofit sector, as far as in the co director, realm, my good friends at the LLC Sonam. And Cassie, I’ve seen it with valor myself, where the white member of the duo has already begun to do the work to say, oh, my gosh, you know, things that I may have grown up with had been wrong. But how does this also translate into the work I’m going to do as I partner with this person. So not only are we creating this relationship of reciprocity, but we’re also going to go ahead and live these values and show other people one, there’s some work that needs to be done, but to how can we course correct and ship? So if you could speak to you all dynamic? And how you do this in your work? That would be awesome.
Moneek Bhanot 22:25
Yeah, I love that question. See it. Thank you so much. Yeah, shout out to the dynamic duels out there. I think for us, our identities absolutely impact how we both come to this work and how we’ve interacted with each other, I think, what’s been a really beautiful part of our process. So we, Colleen and I met as co workers at a youth development nonprofit back in 2014. And at that time, you know, we were, you know, building equitable systems at this nonprofit and trying to figure things out, and we were really drawn to each other because we had such aligned values. And there were ways, even then, you know, where we weren’t always able to fully see and affirm each other given our different socializations given our different identities. And so, for us, I think what’s been really powerful is the transformation of that relationship. You know, it took a lot of deep love, a lot of commitment, a lot of vulnerable conversations, of what it can look like for us to really do that differently. And, for me, personally, you know, I’m a person where if there is a challenging dynamic, I’m like, ready to go, I’m like, cool, it was nice knowing you. It’s been it’s been real, I’m, I’m gonna go now. And, you know, if y’all have read the, the bell hooks, classic all about love, like, there’s something about what it means to like, come back and to like, heal. Right. And I think my relationship with Colleen, you know, our, our friendship has allowed us to do that. I think that there are and there’s a lot of what we have done in that relationship that now we do with individuals and organizations, right? There are ways that we are like reflecting on harm caused and experienced and asking ourselves, what does accountability look like? How do we hold accountability and love simultaneously? How are we showing up with intentional care in the way that’s best for the other person while also still honoring our own capacity and our own boundaries? And I’ll say, I think the other thing that comes to my mind and then calling I’d love to hear your thoughts on this is that you know, for me to be in right relationship in authentic relationship with a white person means that that person is doing their work like Colleen has a commitment and value for love. duration, which exists regardless of whether or not I’m there, right? That is like something that she is committed to. And as as her, her, you know, both her like business and creative partner and her friend, like, it’s not my responsibility, and that’s what makes our friendship and our work. doable. It’s what makes it. It’s also what makes it strong, right? It’s like we’re ultimately responsible for ourselves. And that’s not to say we’re not a resource to each other, right? We both call each other in were needed in our in our power holding identities. And that’s one of the ways that we we show up and hold accountability and love simultaneously. But ultimately, Colleen is doing her own work, regardless of what I’m doing over here. So what would you add Colleen?
Colleen Klus 25:58
I’m receiving and also processing. So I think, yeah, I love the questions. Yeah, I’m so glad you asked and gave us time to just like think about it, too. I think, to the last piece Monique said, I will say absolutely. Like my my personal work is forever, there isn’t a place that I get to there isn’t like a, oh, I checked this thing off, I arrived at this place, oh, I’m not going to be harmful about that thing anymore. Right like, and I think actually, in our work a lot, especially with leaders, a lot of times, there’s like an ask to to like arrive at a certain place to be done with something to like, check something off a list. And so I think that is one of the things that we try to talk to folks about in the very beginning is like, the most important thing that you can do is to come to a place where your commitment is forever, there’s not ever going to be a place at a time at which you think you’re done with some part of it. And likewise, that is absolutely how Monique shows up to this work as well. And like she said, there are places where we call each other in, in our various identity isn’t in our ongoing life experiences, right? Like we are continuing to navigate a global pandemic, we are both going through our own things personally healthwise, with our families, right. And so we get to be whole in all of that together. And really hold space for each other to be as much as possible to just get to be. And so I think and to what she said that she doesn’t feel responsible for me, I will say to that point I made earlier about the knowledge and the truths of how much harm I have caused, for quite a long time, I did ask people to be responsible for me, very often, that was women of color. Very often, that was my husband, who was a Filipino man who has his own lived experiences of what it means for a white person to be asking that of him, right. And we’re still going. And Monique and I are too. And so that is some of what I mean when I talk about harms that I have caused. And again, knowing that I will continue to cause harm, and I hold those truths at the core of my being to know that never again, do I want to ask somebody to be fully responsible for me for whether or not I’m going to be showing up to do my own learning and unlearning every day. And again, that is particularly important for me as a mom, as a parent to a daughter who is mixed race, who I wants to always be an example to of what it means to interrogate my own identities every day, and not put that burden on her. So I will say the other piece that I think about, just like in our work together in our partnership, there’s a lot of how people receive us, consciously and unconsciously, that really speaks to how they may be treating folks that they work with as well. And so again, I will talk about this a little later, too. But like we really, as much as possible, like shame is not actually something that is motivating, that creates change that is helpful or healing for folks. And it is also a feeling that comes up. So we try to hold space for it. We try to like let people be and feel what they’re feeling. And that’s not actually like a tool or an approach that we use. And that being said, like there is a lot and how folks will especially white folks, especially people in leadership positions will listen to me differently than they will listen to Monique will receive something from me in different types of tones than they will from Monique. Right. And so I think that’s a dynamic that we are continually engaging in and navigating and talking about, and creating space to process and then to be able to bring that to our clients to talk about that. Because chances are if that’s happening with us, it’s also happening in your workplace. The last thing I will say and this this is one of those topics that when we start to bring it up, again, especially with all my white folks out there, I’m talking about white folks a lot but here we go is internalized racial superiority, the more that I have learned, and again, that can be something that feels like a like a buzzword or something. What it really means is that somewhere deep down, I was taught I was socialized to believe that I am better to believe that there are tons of reasons for why it is okay to dehumanize folks of color, trans folks, queer folks, disabled folks, that is real. And so I think the more that we can talk about that, that we can help people see what that means, and then how that shows up. Because even if you, even if you think you’re not replicating that chances are on some level you are in the values that you’re pushing in the approach you’re asking somebody to take. And so that’s the other conversation that we like to get to with folks is being able to really dive into that in a place that allows the openness of those those learnings to come out. So that I can show up in how you and how you are and things that you embody on an everyday basis.
Sia Magadan 30:43
So one of the things you just said, Colleen was in working with clients, sometimes people just want a checklist of, hey, let me get these things out of the way. Here’s my rubric. I’ve hit it. Thank you all for your services. I’m out. What are some of the barriers Other than that, that you have seen in working with organizations? And how do you help them to chip ship their understanding, as far as getting to that place? Like you’re saying, This is not a one and done, this is a forever type thing?
Colleen Klus 31:17
I think the first thing that jumped to mind when you said barriers, is listening. There’s a lot, you know, in our work, we are continually you know, seeking out new clients, right? And so we’re submitting RFPs, we’re looking for our excuse, we’re doing that. And there’s a lot especially in the racial equity di field right now, that is that is asking for assessments, that is asking for strategy roadmaps. And that’s not to make judgments or say anything about that. And at the same time, most of the time, what we see when we arrive, is that there are a lot of folks of color, a lot of queer folks, trans folks, disabled people who are already voicing and uplifting the challenges at whatever organization, whatever company in whatever dynamics. And so actually a lot of our role, the whatever that barrier is, is uncovering those barriers to Why aren’t these folks being listened to? Because the solutions oftentimes already exist within the organization. And there are gaps barriers have a lot of different kinds to why those aren’t already being listened to and uplifted. And so I think it’s rare that we’re actually bringing in like solutions, or that we’re the ones with the answers or something like that. I think what we really want to try to do actually is listen and uncover what people already know, and have been trying to voice. Monique, I’d love to hear what you want to add to that, too.
Moneek Bhanot 32:37
Yeah, I think that’s really beautifully put, I think that’s exactly right. I think a lot of you know, we always start our processes with some level of like a survey focus groups, there is a discovery phase, right to try and understand. And to Collins’s point, I think a lot of that is just tools to help folks hear each other more effectively at the organization. I also think like, you know, depending on what, like, I think the role that we do end up playing is also like, to what Colleen said, like, there might be gaps into what we were speaking to earlier. Like, sometimes folks don’t have like the the knowledge or the language or the competence to be able to just like speak about race, identity, power dynamics. And so depending on what, you know, what we’re hearing as the need for the organization, I think we have an approach, especially if we’re doing training that’s just really honest and direct, right? So our role is to understand, like, who’s in the space, right, who was the, you know, what are the multiple identities represented in the space, and there’s always going to be some basics that we do, which is like naming white supremacy as it is we’re going to name racism as it is. We talk we’re always going to lead with race. And we’re going to talk with the folks in the training about why we’re leading with race. We’re and we’re always grounding in the foundational understanding that white supremacy is a system, that anti blackness is fundamental in how that system operates. Right. And so part of what we do to for organizations that might be nervous to name those things out loud or haven’t explored this is that we name it as it is so that we can contend with and reckon with and be clear about what it is that we are talking about and what it is that we’re trying to dismantle. I think the other thing that comes to my mind as far as like barriers is that and we’ve spoken to this a little bit is that there are a lot of pieces of how white supremacy shows up that is just in a city is it’s embodied, right. And so you know, there’s a lot of like every day in the day to day subtle interactions where harm is being caused. And so a lot of what we do is try and support that primarily through coaching. So whether that’s in groups or whether that’s individually, it’s to start to like, uncover, what are those really small ways that you’re interacting with folks that can be undercutting. That can be micro aggressions that aren’t microaggressions that are aggressive ways that you’re having huge impacts on people’s day to day lived experiences in the workplace. And so we find that like, those opportunities for coaching the one to one conversations, and the small group conversations allow for deeper introspection and examination. And to Collins earlier point, we approach it in a way that’s not shaming folks, right? But it starts to start to understand what’s happening for you in that moment, what needs what are the underlying needs, what’s happening in your body? Right, what are and then we get into embodied practices for healing, how to like shift those dynamics in the moment in your interpersonal interactions. So yeah, those are some of the I think some of the ways in which we’re helping you some of the barriers that we’re seeing, and how to help them.
Sia Magadan 36:10
Awesome. Thank you both for that.
Colleen Klus 36:12
Oh, I have one more thing on that. So yeah, Moneek, you just made me think of it too, which is a barrier actually, that that somebody just said so beautifully to us in a training a few weeks ago was, hey, we’re doing this right now with you here facilitating this conversation, creating this container, like how do we do this when you’re not here? And so I think one of the barriers is, is when and how folks even come to that these types of conversations together? How do we talk about race? How do we talk about racism? How do we talk about identity? And I think a lot of times, there’s this idea of like this conversation, versus what we’re talking about is actually just what we’re engaging with every day. Right? What we’re talking about is our ability to just exist together. And so I think there is like, a really intense pressure, there’s a fear of making mistakes, there’s across a lot of identities, just to say there’s a worry of like, there is a worry about causing harm. And so the default is to do less, right. And to veer more towards like colorblindness, which is actually very harmful in and of itself, right. And so I think, that idea of how do how do we even do this together? What does that container look like, is also something that we talk a lot a lot about with folks like Monique said that we do individually, especially for people who have positional and or identity power, what kind of awareness of power dynamics do you need to have even to be able to show up in that space in a way that you just have, again, heightened awareness, and at the very least some best practices, some like tools to be thinking about? How can I show up in this moment, even if I don’t feel like I’ve got all of them yet, right. And a lot of times, that’s actually leaning into vulnerability, and saying, like, I don’t feel like I know how to do this. And yet, here’s my commitment. And here’s why, you know, so
Valerie Neumark 37:55
Something that you all have spoken to in some different ways, is this idea of this work is not just about something that you do. But it’s really something that you become, and talking about accountability and, and sort of using that really, as a tool and framing it as a way of healing. So the piece that, that I, that I’ve been sort of knocking on as we’ve been all chatting is this idea of like, you know, we talk about being the change that we want to see in the world. But it’s like more than that. It’s like the step after that of really practicing the new ways that you’re trying to be. So there’s this sort of first piece, like you were saying about assessments and people wanting kind of a checklist. And then the next part of like, being so like, how are you embodying the things that you’re talking about? And that you’re exploring, but then this next piece about, you know, how do you how do you practice? It’s not just exploring, but like, how do you continue on your journey and, and, and not just unlearn but become something different?
Colleen Klus 39:09
One that comes to mind, and I don’t know how I referenced the idea of a checklist, but just to make sure I didn’t like put that in a negative light is like there, there absolutely is a space for best practices. And there are oftentimes a lot of very tangible, concrete things that someone can be doing, especially alongside their own personal work, while they are deepening their own learning, deepening their own unlearning to cause less harm. So that is definitely something that we talk about with our clients. It’s definitely something that we partner with and ofter offer it’s always alongside really trying to hear from someone’s teammates, you know, understand their the context that they’re in understand, and again, like bringing all of the systemic knowledge that we’ve been talking about this whole time. And I do want to make sure I say that there is a place for that. And what we don’t want to do is just have that right just be like all right there. checklists go on your way. Because like you’re talking about velvet, the much deeper, much like, more powerful and more consistent type of like, forever personal transformation and change does come from embodied change. And I’ll say that the first couple of places this makes me think of one is pace. I think there is a lot to be said about the urgency and the pace at which we move and are often expected to move, expected to have answers expected to respond. And a lot of that is a function of white supremacy. And I think that it doesn’t leave space for us to even understand or notice what’s happening in our bodies. And I think that, that, you know, when I mentioned my relationship with Monique being a gift, that is definitely one of the things that, especially in this last year, she has been much more of a teacher on is like, how we can slow down enough to notice our responses and then to listen to them. And so sometimes that happens a little faster. For me, sometimes it happens in a way that feels really slow, and everything in between. But when I do that, when I slow down enough to notice, like, Oh, my chest is tight right now, or like, Oh, I just got a little sweaty, or my throat feels scratchy, or and you know, our bodies are going to have responses to a lot of things, right? But I can, if I slow down enough, I can connect it to whatever is happening, I may not be able to pinpoint the thing. But I can connect it to the conversation, I can understand a lot more of what is aligned with my values and like my actual embodied ways of wanting to be and what’s not. And so I think that there’s a lot to be said about slowing down. And I think the other piece it makes me think of is kids, and how often I see how we are socialized in and out of our own instincts. And so I think that’s one of the places that I really try to lean into in my own parenting is like, really trying to affirm my daughter’s instincts and make sure that we have space to slow down. And like, say what those were and listen to those. Because, yeah, there’s so much power and like, No, my instinct was No, right now, my instinct was a hard, firm no. And like, hell yes. How do we make sure that we hear that we hear it loudly? And we celebrate that and you get to be in your power in that? No. Because what that can translate to in your, in your future is, I think is really incredible. So yeah, I think pace and like being able to listen to our bodies and trusting those instincts is really important.
Moneek Bhanot 42:35
I think honestly, the first place that my mind goes is like Shouts out to the teachers. You know, I think I’ve learned a lot about embodiment. Over the course of the last year and a half from reading my grandmother’s hands by Resmaa Menakem, I’ve taken a self guided embodiment course with Prentice Hemphill. There’s just a lot of like, folks, especially black folks, queer folks at the forefront, I think really bringing embodiment to the masses. And I’m grateful recipient of that knowledge and those practices. And, yeah, I think we alluded to this a little bit before, but we were talking about, you know, just like what it takes to learn, and sometimes the resistance that arises the shame that can arise all of that. And I think, for the way, the way that embodiment is connected to liberation is like we all have to feel safe enough to be able to learn something different. And we all have different parts of us that are working really hard to protect us in navigating the world that we’re in. And so, you know, I’ll speak from my experience and perhaps the experience of many people in the global majority, right, like we have, there’s like an intergenerational component to this. We come from legacies of like enslavement and colonization, right? There’s, there’s a way in which like, we have experienced layers of trauma and layers of violence, I think about my own ancestors who were a part of one of the greatest, like human migrations, you know, in 1947, the partition of South Asia, right? Like, my ancestral homeland is in Pakistan, all my family is from India. These are fake words that have been drawn arbitrarily by white men, right. And so I just think about, like, how that then translates into how that trauma shows up. In our day to day experiences, the grief, the loss, the the resilience, all of those things, the ways that our bodies are working really hard to protect ourselves. And they show up in our day to day interactions. I know that it’s it’s easy to be like Well, that happened a really long time ago and how does that impact me when I’m in the workplace and It’s like, well, when we have a response in the, you know, in a fight, flight, on freeze, a lot of times we’ve inherited that we’ve inherited that, though those trauma responses. And so there’s an opportunity, I think embodiment is an opportunity to do exactly what you were describing, calling to like, pause to notice, to see the ways in which our embodied responses are serving us the ways in which they’re working to protect us to notice we need something different. And then to the point that you were making Val, it’s an opportunity to then invite and practice something different. And to nurture ourselves to provide ourselves the compassion, perhaps that the systems and maybe even folks around us sometimes don’t, right, it’s an opportunity to really get into healing. And then I think the piece that you’re talking about calling is like, how do we then the more we’re doing that for ourselves, the more we’re able to do it for the people around us. And I think especially, you know, I spoke as like, I spoke from my perspective, and then I think that there’s also like, folks who have like a lot of power holding identities, including myself. And so in the power holding identities, it’s like examining underneath, like, what are the core emotions that are running through my body? Is it fear that’s driving me? Is it shame? Is it guilt, and like, I think the internal family systems frame talks a lot about this, but it’s like it, befriending the different parts of ourselves, noticing what they need, being with them, being compassionate with them, and then practicing something new, finding new ways of being.
Sia Magadan 46:38
Alright, so we are going to ask one final question. A nice, closer, if you will, the work of Reflecting Justice is a very large part of cultural transformation. At least this is how we see it. So both Colleen Monique as on the ground pack practitioners, with your hands to the plow, if you will, of this work. How do you view it? And then even think about what would be what do you feel like? What do you want the legacy of Reflecting Justice to be? And I like add a little part about there, when you think about just the societal change and the effect that you had.
Moneek Bhanot 47:21
You know, it’s interesting, the work that we do is really to, to, to create racially equitable systems and transform organizational culture through how we relate right through our relational practices through our embodied practices. And, you know, when we’re thinking about like, the granular every day of our work, our our work focuses on supporting people and doing that daily and doing equity, justice and healing work on all levels, right, individually, like we’ve talked about with embodiment pieces, interpersonally. And in terms of how we’re interacting with people day to day in creating equitable experiences, and then setting up helping organizations set up the right policies, structures, and practices to be able to support that support that effectively when you ask this question about broader transformation, I think that like when we’re focused in on making changes at each of those levels, that’s what can create cultural transformation. I don’t know that, you know, we’re going to all at once and white supremacy and systems of oppression in our country and in the world. But I think Colleen and I believe that that’s the impact that we can make in our in our corner of the world. And it allows us to make incremental progress to build towards less harm, more love, I mean, really, fundamentally, right? And we’re connecting and if we’re healing ourselves, and we’re healing, how we’re interacting with each other, then we’re creating, hopefully, like building a movement of more love in the world. Colleen, what would you add to that? Well, yeah, it’s,
Colleen Klus 49:11
It feels like a very big, powerful, humbling question. It were like some of my thoughts when I heard you ask it. Can y’all hear me okay? Because the rain is quite loud. Now, on this end. Okay. Um, I think some of the like words that came to my mind when you ask that sia and when I’m listening to Monique, I think integrity is one word that comes up to me, I hope our legacy is one of being in our own integrity. And I think for us, a lot of that means like, you know, our own individual and collective work on a regular basis. I think the more that I learn about white supremacy, white supremacy culture, the more that I learned about internalized racial superiority, the more that I do my own unlearning of how I embody those and how I show up In ways that dehumanize other people, the more whole, I feel like this is truly about my own humanity. And I feel like a fuller, more whole, more loving human than I ever have. And so I believe that the more I continue to commit, the more that will grow as I as I continue to get older. And so, and that is what I hope for the people that we work with, right, I hope that there is space to be able to see and feel that those internal shifts that internal healing, and to continue, like Monique said, to be able to cause less harm, the more that we are tuned with that. I don’t think that we are, you know, I’m I’m knowing under no illusion that we’re like, you know, changing the the systems themselves or that kind of thing. And this is what’s within our control. And I believe it is very, very powerful. When a lot of individuals continue to do that. I think we have the power as a collective to shift workplace cultures. Absolutely. I think we have power as a collective to shift workplace policies and practices. And I think that when enough workplaces are doing that, I absolutely think it shifts an organism an overall collective culture and experience. I think we’ve seen it, especially throughout the pandemic, I think that when there is a collective commitment to mask wearing to protecting our most vulnerable to acknowledging the very real health impacts that folks are experiencing like that there is a shift there, there is power in us being in something together. And so I think that that’s what I believe in. And that’s what I’m hoping for us to continue to contribute to is where are we giving our individual and collective power. So that is what I that’s definitely what I hoped for, and why I am grateful to get to do this work.
Sia Magadan 51:58
I mean, I am beyond elated and grateful for this opportunity to hear from you both, and to just really deep dive into this topic, because it’s timely, it’s necessary. And it’s just been awesome to hear you all’s just insight thought, and then, you know, our you’re living your values and practice.
Valerie Neumark 52:21
Yeah, thank you both so much for just sharing so much about each of yourselves and your journeys and, and why and you’re wise, you know, why you’re doing this work? And I think, for Sia, and I, you know, just knowing both of you is is such a gift, as we spoke about earlier. And yeah, and just said, you know, we are we are honored that you shared your time and your perspectives with us today.
Moneek Bhanot 52:55
Thank you both for having us for asking us these super thoughtful questions. It’s really powerful conversation that, again, our cultures don’t necessarily like, allow us to pause and have so we’re grateful to be able to do that with you today.
Colleen Klus 53:09
That Oh, to that, yeah, it’s it’s part of it’s in our name, we love reflecting. And there’s just so much richness in what you can like, and what we can think of when we take the time to slow down and talk about things like this. So again, like a ton of gratitude from us, too, because it was actually like a really helpful exercise for ourselves in our own work and, and to continually pause and ask ourselves these questions. And I’ll just say like, personally, I also had a lot of just nerves coming into today. And I think that there’s really something to be said about, like, my ongoing work to be to be like, hold my own expertise and confidence simultaneously, and alongside my own humility and growth, and other things that I feel self conscious about, you know, so I think today was also an exercise in embracing all of that, too. So. Yeah, lots of gratitude from us. Thank you.