Cultivating agreements that support equitable spaces model the lessons that you would like for folks to learn. It also models the way you expect to be treated and how you expect others will support one another. Many call these agreements norms.
As in, what are we normalizing in this space, what can we agree on as a baseline?
These are the ones I use.
I did not create these norms, I am not sure where they came from but they provide an excellent framework for developing more cohesive and equitable spaces. They support a great opportunity for expansiveness while also provided a structure to hold one another accountable.
Speak your Truth. Know that we each have our own truth. That truth does not override someone else’s truth. In knowing that we observe and interpret the world in different ways, it allows us to stop having to convince others that our way is right.
Lean into discomfort and lean into each other. Learning new things is hard. Your brain itches. Your nervous system tells your body to run. You clench your teeth, or your fists. You breathe hard. We all do. You are not alone in this. In spaces where you are able, lean into this feeling and know that those around you are experiencing the same thing. If you meet people with the understanding that their physical and emotional actions might be the same as yours, it allows you to connect and focus on the connection to the challenge rather than allowing yourself to react and possibly make a situation worse. If you allow yourself to see the common humanity in one another, it makes it much harder to inflict harm.
Commit to non-disclosure. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Other people’s stories, feelings, reactions, hardships, challenges and breakthroughs are not yours. You have no right to them, they stay with the person that experienced them. You, of course, are able to examine your own reactions, but please reframe from absorbing other peoples experiences as your own.
Embrace paradox. Many things can be true at once. You can be awesome and thoughtful and still support a white supremacist paradigm. You can be a progressive liberal and at the same time center your own experience. MANY THINGS ARE TRUE AT ONCE. Repeat this.
Seek intentional learning. You may be a seasoned facilitator, or a person of color, or have a PhD in race theory and psychology. And, you can still learn something. So many of the interpersonal issues that we have are inflamed by expert mentality and not listening to one another. We can learn something in every interaction. What can you learn today? Find that morsel.
Usually, for good measure, I also point out that US born white people have different work to do than people of color and that non-black POC have different work than black folxs. And? That’s ok. We all have work to do. In order to make sustainable change, we all have to do our own work, while making room for others to do theirs.
Which of these norms are you working on today?