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Yesterday I sat, like so many of you watching the events of the day unfold in disbelief and horror as I navigated my work day. Zoom meetings and the crafting of coach training materials were punctuated by scenes of chaos and disorder. I was working on a deck of ethical considerations -- and I felt deep sadness as I recorded definitions listed in the ICF code of ethics, notably:
- Equality: represents a situation in which all people experience inclusion, access to resources and opportunity, regardless of their race, ethnicity, national origin, color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, immigration status, mental or physical disability, and other areas of human difference.
- Systemic Equality: is gender equality, race equality and other forms of equality that are institutionalized in the ethics, core values, policies, structures, and cultures of communities, organizations, nations and society.
The work of coaching believes that all people are capable of achieving their best life through accessing personal strengths and self-determination. In order for this to be true the conditions of both equality and systemic equality must be present in society.
The work of coaches calls for us to use our senses, to listen deeply, to see, feel intuitively and mirror an honest and accurate reflection of the world around us as an offering for those seeking transformation and the bold calling of our highest self.
It was hot in Philadelphia this past June. I remember feeling the sun beating the back of my neck as I stood masked and uneasy with thousands and thousands of my neighbors protesting the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black citizens murdered at the hands of police or vigilantes without cause, due process, or consequence.
Earlier in the week I received a panicked phone call from my best friend, a first grade teacher as she was running through our streets while tear gas was deployed. She was with another teacher, forced to seek cover. The following day my therapist was one of the hundreds of demonstrators that was cornered by police and teargassed. She was forced to hop a fence over a highway. Many protestors were arrested.
As the days wore on we all grew weary of the circling helicopters at all hours, constant sirens and explosions, the incredible displays of military presence -- especially as it seemed to come without justice for those who needed it most.
I lived this.
My senses remember.
Yesterday, I observed, too, with my senses of sight and hearing, individuals storm the Capitol Building of the United States. They were not cornered or gassed. They were not shot with rubber bullets. They roamed freely. There were no barricades preventing them from walking. Similarly to Philadelphia in June, the protest was planned, publicised and expected. However, this time, force to quell, abate and discourage was not deployed.
As a coach it is my responsibility to champion equality and systemic equality by using my senses to listen deeply, look deeply and mirror what I see for consideration.
I see grave inequality. I see the hand of white supremacy gripping our state institutions, setting unacceptable double standards for access and inclusion; double standards for those who face violence and force at the hands of the state and those who do not.
I also see opportunity. We all share the power of observation. We must observe and mirror what is real and true and we must all begin to speak up, consciously and consistently with an unrelenting cadence to point out inequality, systemic inequality and call for the reverse of the wrong that troubles and wounds our nation and society.
This conversation can not be had without clearly stating that white supremacy, racism and anti-Blackness lives at the root of systemic inequality in America. This is a hard conversation. This is a conversation that we need to learn to have with intention.
All of us are products of our lens, our geography, our upbringing, education and so many other factors. As we approach these topics many of us experience pain and uncertainty. This is normal and it is appropriate. We experience pain because we too have been subject to systems, institutions, and messaging that have very insidiously promoted inequality as an antidote to life’s troubles.
Our power of observation can overcome untruth.
Our power of observation can provide us with a clear compass towards new understanding.
Our power of observation can give us new insights.
We can grow, we can transform and we can mirror our own experience of finding peace through virtue and championing a new way.
When I train coaches I tell them that in order to do this work you will need a mirror and a flashlight. The mirror is to look at yourself clearly and the flashlight will shine light on the dark places where it is painful to look. Today it has been painful to look. For months and months it has been painful to look. We must keep looking. We must not turn away and then individually, especially as coaches, we must come together to find ways to end systemic racism.
In its place, we have the opportunity to become equalized in ways that give all of us the freedom to pursue a life of our own choosing. This includes wealth, ableism, racism, gender and sexuality discrimination, access to jobs, education, healthcare services, chronic illness and overall quality of life. As coaches, our work is centered around helping people move forward in life. Therefore, it is essential to hold a clear view of the barriers that exist. It is essential that shine a light on them and it essential that we spend the work of our lifetimes removing them.
This feels hard, big and scary, and it is.
I feel scared.
I feel ill equipped.
I feel unsure and I feel uncertain, but I also know what I have seen and I know what I can no longer accept in any measure as the status quo. I am writing as an invitation to join me in doing this work.
One day at a time, one step at a time; just as in basic goal setting, many small steps make the journey of a lifetime. This is your one precious life. Please do your part to help.
-- Noelle Cordeaux, Head of JRNI Coaching