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June 4, 2020

Conscious Activism

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The three of us who lead CLG are white. We are aware that being white creates a very different experience of reality than people of color experience, especially black people. We practice and teach that our results—not our words or intentions or even our actions—demonstrate what we're committed to. Based on the reality that systemic racism exists, we want to acknowledge that we are (unconsciously) committed to it existing. We are consciously committed to taking responsibility for our part in creating these results. 

We are practicing conscious activism by listening to people of all colors and perspectives, educating ourselves about racism, and facing how we are creating a shared reality where systemic deep-rooted racism continues to exist.

We invite you to join us in facing, practicing, and taking action through the steps we outline below to apply and practice conscious leadership around the issue of race. Do your work, then educate yourself and take action (using the resources below, or others.) 

Jim wrote about his personal experience being white and facing his own racism. His perspective dovetails with how we’re practicing conscious leadership around the topic of racism at CLG.

We are uncomfortable. We are devoted to staying with our discomfort and learning from it.

With love,

Jim Dethmer & Diana Chapman, Erica Schreiber
CLG Partners


We appreciate contributions to this article from Lauren Henley, activist, educator (former KIPP principal), and certified 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership coach, and CLG team members Deb Katz and Bethany Davis.

Context Comes First: The 4 Questions of Conscious Leadership

To create sustainable change, focusing on context is key. 

Before beginning the process below, clearly identify the issue you’re addressing. It might be: racism (yours, ours, someone else’s), the police’s treatment of black people, politicians and racism, the justice system’s relationship to racism, etc.

1. Locate Yourself

Are you above the line or below the line related to the issue you identified?

Pro tip 1: We recommend that you assume that you’re below the line. Use this handout to locate yourself.

2. Accept Yourself

Can you accept yourself for being below the line and scared?
You’re not asking yourself to accept racism, but to accept yourself for your fear related to racism.
Pro tip 2:
If you’re below the line, you’re scared (because your identity is threatened).
Pro tip 3: Acceptance isn’t just with your head. Can you also open your heart and accept your scared, reactive self?

3. Are you Willing to Shift

Around the issue you identified, are you willing to shift from being in a state of threat to a state of trust? Ask the willingness questions below to see if you’re genuinely willing to shift. Find willingness questions we curated for the topic of racism below. Here’s a complete list of the willingness questions.

Pro tip 4: Saying no is just as transformational as saying yes. When your answer is no, go back to step 1.

Key Willingness Questions for the Topic of Race

Are you willing to take 100% responsibility (not more or less) for racism by ending blame and criticism for others and yourself? 

If you’re willing…

  • Identify everyone and everything you’re blaming for racism. Make sure to include self-blame, which can look like guilt or shame.

  • Use this handout to learn about your part in creating racism.
    Examples: I don’t interrupt racist jokes. I don’t vote. I make quick assumptions based on skin color. My inner circle looks like me. 

Are you willing to let go of being right and get more interested in learning than defending your ego? 
During conversations about race, notice if you’re withdrawing, judging, or trying to manipulate an outcome. If so, see if you’re willing to shift from defending your point of view and genuinely get curious about what you can learn

Are you willing to feel all of your authentic feelings (fear, anger, sadness, joy, sexual feelings)? 
When we aren’t willing to be with the discomfort of the sensations that arise when we have feelings, we suppress them. We may know that we have a feeling, but we’re not willing to feel it all the way through to completion

Are you willing to allow others to have all of their feelings? 
Can you be a space where others can feel and express whatever they feel without taking it personally or needing to fix or change anything? This often requires you to feel all of your feelings that arise when others express theirs.

Are you willing to listen consciously to others?
Listening consciously is listening to not only the words being spoken, but to the feelings and the deepest want or desire, which is what most wants to be heard. In order to listen in this way, the listener needs to stay connected to their own open mind, open heart, and open body. 

Are you willing to be the resolution that you are seeking regarding this issue? 
“I commit to being the resolution that is needed: seeing what is missing as an invitation to become what is required.” 

  • Rather than complaining that others are not listening, will you listen more deeply?
  • Instead of trying to control other people to be less violent, will you be less violent in your thinking? 
  • When you want others to stop looting, will you look to see how you’re looting in your own way and address the pattern in yourself first?

4. How Will You Shift?

This is where you take action

(1) Educate Yourself about Racism 

Here are a few resources to get you started:

(2) Take Aligned Action

What does aligned and alive action look like for you? Challenge yourself to take action from a whole body yes, rather than from shoulds. When creating next action steps, make sure you have clear agreements. Clear agreements include WHO, DOES WHAT, BY WHEN.

To spark your creativity, check out this list of 75 things white people can do for racial justice. 


Remember that focusing on context first is what changes the game by creating sustainable transformation. Be kind to yourself and others; when you catch yourself and others reacting to content, know it’s normal and human. And once you become aware that you’re below the line, use it as an invitation to come back to your practice.

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