Week Four: Site Culture – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week Four: Site Culture

The culture at my site seems relaxed but focused. My coworkers seem close; they know each other’s kids, they go out to eat with one another on the weekends, and they share their personal goals and struggles. Concurrently, there rarely seems to be a time when no one is working or trying to problem-solve (except for lunch, but it’s never drawn out). The ages within the group range from late-twenties to early-fifties, but age is also somewhat in line with the position hierarchy. The eldest women (and I keep saying women in my posts because I only work with women) are the directors and assistant directors while the younger members are managers and associates. Just today, one of my coworkers was discussing how she prefers the current director’s leadership over that of the previous director, but she was very emphatic about her respect for the previous director. I may not be super integrated into the workplace culture, but there seems to be no over-the-top workplace drama present like in some of the jobs I’ve worked at.

Regarding race at my site, all but two of the women on this team are Black/African American. My site coordinator/primary contact is Asian American. In fact, this week is the Pre-Service Institute training week for pre-service teachers in On the Rise Academy (an alternate certification route through DPSCD for new and current teachers), and is the first time I have seen other white people at my site. No matter their race, everyone I’ve interacted with and seen in other interactions so far has been kind and welcoming. Something that brings me a lot of comfort being around these people (both my coworkers and the pre-service teachers) is that mutual respect is always ensured and at the forefront of our conversations and class sessions.

**Digression from the Prompt**

I want to be totally open right now; I’ve been feeling white guilt regarding the hope that my coworkers and some of the other Black people I interact with aren’t changing the way they act around me because I’m white (like being overly friendly or outright avoiding me). I’m currently deconstructing this thought and reflecting on how this selfishly centers me at the expense of the people I interact with at my site (and if you’d like to share any other reason that this is harmful thinking, please do). I know that all I can do is be genuinely respectful and welcoming myself, and not expect others to act a certain way around me or otherwise. In reflecting upon this, however, it’s become super clear how some white people allow their white guilt to turn into unjust defensiveness and anger. Instead of telling themselves that since they can’t control how people (re)act to them all they need to do is be mutually respectful and listen when corrected, they make themselves feel like they’re “walking on eggshells” when interacting with marginalized communities, trying to not “offend” people. Then, when they say something outdated and/or hurtful they take it as a personal offense and blame the other person for correcting them for making them “walk on eggshells.” This, of course, isn’t anything mind-blowing as many people have discussed the causes and effects of white guilt before– but I’m finally able to connect why some of the people in my home community were/are so hateful towards marginalized peoples. They just need to stop walking on eggshells that aren’t even there and just listen to people.


1 thought on “Week Four: Site Culture”

  1. Hi Cynthia,
    It sounds like you are doing a whole lot of meaningful reflection about your workplace’s culture and your place in it. As I white person entering into a predominately black workplace too, I have had some similar reflections. I had a conversation with a co-worker today about the way she sees race as being weaponized to divide people inside and outside of the American workplace. I really appreciate the way she was willing to have that conversation with us interns. I appreciate that talking it out and putting it all out in the open seems to be the culture at my site. I agree with you that we all have a wonderful opportunity to listen and learn.

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