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Two Masks

University of North America

By Deirdre L. Jones-Lowman

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about masks–psychological and physical masks as we adjust to our new normal. I posit that masks are worn for safety, protection and to disguise racism and implicit biases.  Wearing masks to protect and cover is not new, however, mask wearing has evolved into political statements about freedom, liberty, equity and the right to choose. Masks are often used to cover, protect, or hide.  However, in today’s current climate, the symbolism of not wearing a mask has become synonymous with patriotism and liberties.  The United States historically has attempted to mask the truth, surrounding the transmission of the Coronavirus as well as the truth about racism and implicit biases in the country.

There is a paradigm shift happening.  Change is inevitable and not everyone is amenable to change. The use of masks has been distorted to represent a divisiveness in personal and American values similar to the misconstructions about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The movement does not negate ALL LIVES.  Because of course, all lives matter! BLM illuminates the struggles, mistreatment, and the lack of human respect and dignity, deprived of persons of color—black and brown.   The BLM movement emphasizes the importance of, the regard for and safety of black and brown bodies. The lack of privilege and protection of black and brown equates to White privilege or White supremacy when viewed through the eyes of the oppressed. These are not my words; the statement is backed by research from the American Psychology Association.  Research posits White people are allowed to enjoy the benefits that accrue to them by virtue of their skin color. Thus, Whiteness, White supremacy, and White privilege are three interlocking forces that disguise racism so it may allow White people to oppress and harm persons of color while maintaining their individual and collective advantage and innocence (Sue, 2006).

Currently, major corporations and non-Black allies are standing in solidarity and allegiance with the Black Lives Matter movement.  They are attempting to remove the masks of exclusion and divisiveness eschewed in predominantly White company cultures and communities. Understanding how to properly wear and dispose of a mask is critical to changing individual and organizational behavior on a sustainable level. The effectiveness or ineffectiveness of mask wearing is predicated on the mask being worn or removed properly but also requires additional steps to improve effectiveness:

1) Mutual Respect

2) Mutual Consideration

3) Collaboration

4) Ownership

5) Mutual Accountability

6) Relinquishment of Privilege

As a coach, it is my responsibility to address both masks:  the physical mask of self-preservation and psychological mask of prejudice and privilege.  My coaching obligation is not to condemn or judge but to increase self-awareness around actions and attitudes that impede growth—personally and organizationally. Coaching is a partnership where you must be ready to work co-actively with others as they transition from racist to anti-racist; or simply to what’s next. Ibrahim Kendi, in his book, How to be an Antiracist, describes antiracism as the idea that racial groups are equal; none need developing, and, are supporting policies that reduce racial inequity. In six months, will companies and allies still be standing up and pivoting their cultures and attitudes to support social and financial equity and investment in Black communities, Black executives, Black-owned small businesses, and Black healthcare? I sure hope so.

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#takechargemoveforward #hirealifecoach #twomasks #blacklivesmatter #

Deirdre L. Jones-Lowman, Ph.D (Cand), M.B.A. is the Founder and Managing Director of the Pay It Forward Initiative, a Career and Life Management Company.  She is a self-care advocate,  professional life coach, motivational speaker, and contributing writer on mental health and wellness for women.

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Fact Check

Kendi, I. Retrieved from, How to be an Antiracist. https://www.ibramxkendi.com/how-to-be-an-antiracist

Sue, D. W. (2006). The Invisible Whiteness of Being: Whiteness, White Supremacy, White Privilege, and Racism. In M. G. Constantine & D. W. Sue (Eds.), Addressing racism: Facilitating cultural competence in mental health and educational settings (p. 15–30). John Wiley & Sons Inc.

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