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Leaders, Know Your Words Matter

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  1. Be purposeful in your communication. Make a habit of scrolling sentences in your head or on paper before speaking. Be conscious of how, even when you don't mean to, words privilege one group over another.

  2. Recognize that silence also communicates. If you hear something that's offensive, stand up for your staff and your colleagues. Not speaking up normalizes a destructive narrative.

  3. Your life isn't the Hallmark channel and nobody will change in 45 minutes. Challenging a narrative is a reminder that needs to happen repeatedly before behavior changes.

  4. Learn to listen. Ask for help. Grow your understanding of the people you work for and with.

  5. Use your position. As Franklin Vagnone says: "It’s important to utilize privilege in ways that expand equity."

  6. And if you're a person of color, queer, transgender, listen back. Understand that for a tiny second someone who frequently has all the power and privilege needs your help, and is asking for some support and context, however awkwardly.  Be kind if you can. This is Black History Month. Next month is Women's History Month. Maybe in addition to the proverbial Instagram posts about the achievements of women of color, for example, you could make an institutional commitment to eliminating bias from hiring, HR policies, exhibit text, and your Web presence. There are a lot of words out there. Perfection is difficult, but a statement about how your institution feels about bias says volumes. Still learning, Joan Baldwin

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