EBDN Event: Resistance to Diversity and Inclusion with Cheryl Whitelaw, Kind Power

Thank you to everyone who joined our first virtual EBDN event last week.  We persevered through some technology hiccups and distractions from those working at home.

Cheryl opened by posing the question: Why do we still face resistance to Diversity and Inclusion?

She offered one lens to look at resistance and how we as Diversity and Inclusion practitioners can approach people who resist.

This presentation comes out of an acknowledgement that people are rarely changed when someone tells them they need to change.  Cheryl acknowledged the vulnerability of looking at the place where what we are doing as D & I practitioners isn’t working.

Look At/Look As lens

We can “Look AT” them – viewing people who resist D & I from our own lenses.  Looking at people who resist brings in a structural distance Me over here and them over there.  A form of othering.

We can “Look As” them – this is taking their perspective, bringing curiosity, imagination, empathy.

People who resist D and I have different perspectives than we tend to have as supporters of D & I.  And they are also responding to what they feel from us.

This kind of perspective taking is a known skill for D and I practitioners.  So why don’t we do it with people who resist?

Cheryl shared a couple of possibilities which could explain this:

  1. Looking at this topic is also looking at the space where what we do in our D and I work doesn’t work. This could change our state – how we feel (e.g. shame, desire to blame others for resisting).
  2. It is harder to use our abilities for empathy, for curiosity when we encounter opposition. Harder to use the power we have in the face of opposition.
  3. We can feel outrage – outrage is good for spreading a message on social media, to energize, galvanize action, social movements, political change. The limits of outrage – create space where the people we want to influence tune us out.  What conversations are we not having while we are outraged?

Relationships move at the speed of trust.  Social change moves at the speed of relationships. (An Invitation to Brave Space, Jennifer Bailey and Lemon Flowers).

Cheryl also provided a strategy to deal with this – shifting from Calling Out to Calling In.   While there are contexts that Calling Out is appropriate, Calling In offers an opportunity to stay in relationship with the person while discussing the issue, the behavior, the situation in question.   What is key in having Calling In work is self-composure, knowing your why, assessing when you can have this conversation.

Resources on Calling In are included in the resource list below.

Cheryl closed with a video using Aikido, a Japanese martial art, to illustrate the kind of power, centeredness, groundedness quality that is helpful to maintain connection with your own values, beliefs and perspectives while in conflict with someone who opposes you.

Senshin Center


In watching the first 4 minutes of the video, watch the person with a black top.  Does he look grounded? Strong?  Who is controlling this interaction?  Who is the attacker?

It is this quality of internal strength, power and integrity that is needed to humanize interactions with people who resist D and I.

2020-04 Cheryl Zoom

Resistance to Diversity and Inclusion – Resources

Befriending Radical Disagreement


Calling In

Looking at people who resist diversity and inclusion

Why Unconscious Bias Training Doesn’t Work

Inclusion Continuum

Hot/Cold Empathy Gap





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s