Our company motto isn’t just something we help clients with. Our own team at Leverage to Lead has experienced (and continues to experience) moments when something previously hidden, often in service of upholding white supremacy culture, is made visible to us for the first time.
An understanding gap shifts and we can see something that was there all along.
A toxic social conditioning is disrupted, and our differences are embraced.
A harmful belief gets exposed, then released.
We have undergone the transformation of the invisible made visible and know from experience that it’s uncomfortable to confront entrenched beliefs, regardless of how they held us back or caused us harm.
Seeing something new and adopting a new view requires vulnerability. We have to say, “I never saw that before,” or “I never knew that.” Yes, we ask our clients to step into this vulnerability, but only because we’ve walked the walk.
The Myth of Neutrality
It’s hard for us to engage with the news media these days, not just because of the negative news cycle, but because it’s become a place that leans into the myth of neutrality.
We tend to think of neutrality as a positive value. Being objective, fair, and impartial sound like admirable qualities. Ironically, however, believing that we can be neutral—that is, free from any and all biases—is purely a myth and fools us into thinking we can make value-free statements.
Our job is to help clients first embrace and then leverage their differences. We are shaped by our identities, so why would we believe they don’t influence the way we see the world, or a single issue?
Often the myth of neutrality is held by those who don’t acknowledge their identity markers, who think they can make judgements apart from their race, gender, ability, sexual orientation, or education.
Once we see the impossibility of neutrality, it’s hard to hear claims of balance, fairness, or presenting both sides of an issue.
Several of us have had less than great experiences with our primary care doctors. As women and women of color, our health care isn’t free from sexist social values, like thinness. One experience that several of our team members share is being diagnosed as obese. With that diagnosis, comes instantaneous dehumanization.
We become numbers—pounds, BMI, blood pressure. And then nothing else matters, not our muscle mass, our height, proportion, frequency of exercise, the fact that we are a marathon runner, or any other health indicators. We are told to lose the weight. We are told to eat only stewed tomatoes and boiled chicken. We are told that we need to care about our health, as if we didn’t already. Our overall health and our humanity are not engaged with until we lose the weight. We won’t deserve health care until we’re not “obese” anymore.
So, our doctors don’t provide us with the range of care we actually need. Eventually, we stop listening to our doctors because they don’t see us or hear us. Why should we follow advice that isn’t designed to meet our humanity?
It makes us think of all our daily, unconscious, automatic dehumanizing. An unvaccinated person is “selfish” or “a conspiracy theorist.” In refusing to see their humanity, we ignore the systemic maltreatment from the medical community that might make a person hesitant to follow their advice.
The Driving Force of Identity
Identity eclipses everything, and we have to make it more visible to avoid being driven by our identities and not our values.
Here’s what we mean: if identifying as a Republican is what drove me to agree with and support President Trump’s efforts on the COVID-19 vaccine, then once President Biden is at the helm, the vaccine suddenly becomes a government conspiracy. How does the same set of facts turn from good to evil? Our identity drives us toward those who are in our group and away from those outside, no matter what is actually at stake.
Facts get filtered, not through values, but through identity. We will ignore facts that don’t align with our identities and beliefs. We will turn on facts and call them lies if they come from someone outside our identity group.
How do we see this in real life? Graduates of ivy league schools will attack their opponents as “elites.” Governors who denigrate the federal government will accept federal relief funds. Leaders who say they want inclusive and diverse work cultures will silence those who challenge their worldview.
The Invisible is a Cage
We are only as free as our ability to see the truth. The invisible expectations and beliefs that drive us are keeping us from being our fullest, most authentic selves. There is no shame in saying you see the world differently now, that you’ve changed your stance, that your beliefs have shifted. It’s growth. It’s learning.
If you or your organization are ready to see yourselves, your team, and your culture with clarity, contact anyone on our team today.