In case you haven’t heard, Danielle La Porte came under a lot of fire this week, due to some choices she made with her new program, called “Lighter.”
First, she marketed the program with some images that are extremely de-humanizing to black, indigenous and people of color.
Then, when she came under fire, she deleted an entire Facebook thread with both the images in question, AND the emotional and educational labor of dozens of women of color who responded.
Her next post was an apology, but unfortunately, many feel (myself included) that it did little to truly apologize, or even acknowledge the experience of women of color, and instead read very much like a defense.
Finally she made another post last night. I believe she did the right thing, which was to cancel her launch (including refunding everyone who already bought), apologize again and share a list of changes she has already started making, for now and into the future.
I’ve been witnessing and in conversation about this for the past 5 days. Mostly, I’ve been listening and learning.
The one consistent theme among the white transformational leaders in my behind-the-scenes communities is some form of… “Oh sh*t, we all have work to do.”
Um. No sh*t.
Let me be really clear where I stand on this.
I was very disappointed in Danielle. I still am.
I say that not to judge, but to be clear.
I believe in do-overs. I believe that we can screw up and make it right. She is taking steps to make it right.
AND let me say right here….
I expect MORE of transformational leaders.
I believe that those of us who are white, and fancy ourselves to be transformational leaders are REQUIRED to take steps to be a part of the SOLUTION to systemic privilege and racism, not more of the problem.
Not just “oh, I’ll do better.”
So what does that look like?
Going well beyond “I’ll do better” when someone graciously points out our cluelessness, privilege, or weapons of whiteness (be them conscious or unconscious). Going well beyond apology.
“I’ll do better” has a place.
But it’s not a STANDARD.
What’s required of white female transformational leadership right now… is STANDARDS.
Standards look like this (notice the present tense):
- I do not tolerate hate, weapons of whiteness and white supremacy to be in the spaces that I or my company creates.
- I strive to create spaces that are welcoming of women of color. That starts with paying attention to their experience and actually figuring out what welcomes them. It also means addressing and correcting privilege head on when it shows up – which it invariably will. Starting with myself.
- I educate myself in the ways of systemic, institutionalized racism. I will pay for that education just like I pay for anything else. I also educate myself on leaders of color and what they are teaching, so I can make referrals and invite them to speak for our community.
- I let people of color lead that conversation. I will NOT use “I don’t know” as an excuse. I WILL use “I don’t know” as a way to take responsibility.
- I review our policies, marketing and messaging to keep it free of unconscious bias, words and weapons that cause harm, and any discrimination, conscious or unconscious. I hire BIPOC experts to help me see the blind spots.
- I insist on diversity being a part of our team selection criteria, and commit to having people of color on our team, in positions of influence.
Those are a few standards that I am a commitment to upholding. I’m sure you can think of others, and that I could word these better, too.
So… once you’ve established the standards, then what?
How can you uphold them, especially when you’re still learning?
The first thing required is checking your defensiveness at the door.
As a transformational leader, it’s your responsibility to deal with however your ego mind is getting triggered.
Create new habits. Learn how to use your power of choice.
Being able to shift OUT of “trigger” in a very short time is part of your JOB as a transformational leader. Responding, rather than reacting, is part of your job.
(And honestly? If you can’t commit to getting your defensiveness under control and PAUSING before you speak, then… I believe you have no business being a leader in this industry.)
You don’t have to be perfect. Goddess knows I don’t have this all figured out.
No one is expecting you to be perfect. They’re expecting you to have standards, and then to do what it takes to live up to the standards.
That’s one of the things about the Danielle situation that really hit home for me.
First, I was shocked.
And then I found out that women of color are so flippin’ tired of hearing white women like me say that were shocked. Being shocked is a “fainting white lady” response. This is what BIPOC deal with every single day.
Women of color, I’m sorry. It will not happen again.
It’s no secret that we have a LOT of work to do in the personal growth industry as a collective.
The way to change is not easy. But it IS simple.
Set your standard, and do whatever it takes to meet that standard… with grace and forgiveness along the way.
This is no longer about “I will do better.”
This is about getting REAL about WHO you CHOOSE to be.
If you choose to be a transformational leader, there are certain requirements.
Working on your sh*t is not optional. And seeing the humanity in everyone… is a GIVEN.
The best transformational leaders I know we’re not perfect. But the one thing they do NOT make, and simply refuse to make… are excuses.
And the time is rapidly approaching when “I don’t know” is simply no longer a valid… anything.
When there is a highly visible incident like this, it’s a call to action for all of us. So act. Get educated. Put in the time. Get your sh*t together.
I will not make excuses for myself or anyone else.
What I will say to all the people of color in my world is… I’m sorry.
I take full ownership of how my privilege has perpetuated your pain, consciously and unconsciously.
I am a commitment to serving you.
I am a commitment to loving you.
I am a commitment to being a part of the solution.
That’s my commitment.
To all those who call themselves transformational leaders out there… I ask you…
EDITED TO ADD: In the coming days / weeks / months, I’ll share specifics on what we are doing on the leadership side, to ensure that Feminine Magic® is an inclusive space for all. I’m also happy to share resources and who I’m learning from. (With a little searching, you will find a lot on your own, and of course feel free to drop your favorite resources in the comments.) For now, I want to focus on this message. More to come.