Black Leadership and Trauma

Neil and Michelle Howard have an open conversation about the impact Black trauma has on relationships between Black and white people. Michelle offers a meaningful distinction to illustrate why Black trauma is important to acknowledge in workplaces that seek to be inclusive, and where Black people can feel a sense of belonging. Neil and Michelle share stories of their own traumas, and offer specific actions for white and Black leaders who might want to improve the dynamics in their relationships with colleagues and friends.

Michelle’s on LinkedIn – click here to network with her.

You can connect with Neil on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. You can email him by clicking here.


Neil: I am Neil Edwards, and this is The Leadership Range, where we elevate the voices of Black and brown coaches, leaders and allies, and have soulful conversations about all things at the intersections of leadership, relationships and teams, well-being and inclusion. Today’s episode features Michelle Davis Howard. Michelle is a licensed mental health professional, professional coach, coach trainer, and a Brene Brown Dare to Lead Facilitator. Michelle and I have a real conversation about Black trauma, how this trauma lives in Black bodies, and the impact it has on relationships. I am reminded of Brene Brown’s work as I sit down for this introduction. She uses a quote, “Soft front, hard back, wild heart,” as an approach to wholeheartedness and leadership. She also talks about the impact trauma has on people and how it can become an impediment to the notions in the quote and when and what leaders need to do to create safety. You are going to hear Michelle and I, a Black brother and sister, share not only what this Black trauma is, but how it has personally entered our lives and bodies. Black folks listening, you might hear yourself in our stories. I hope you know you’re not alone. We talk about signals to notice the kind of awareness you need to have if you’re white and offer simple direction on what you can do in the moment to be a good ally to Black colleagues. We also share what you can do to bolster existing relationships with Black friends and colleagues so you have something in the friendship and colleague bank when the next inevitable horror story hits the news. For our Black brothers and sisters, you to have work to do to strengthen relationships with white friends and colleagues, because although asymmetrical, there is a degree of reciprocity necessary for interracial friendships and colleague relationships to grow, become more inclusive, and to thrive. This really was a great conversation. Imagine yourself hanging out with us as you listen. I hope you feel like you too are in community, because that’s what this conversation was really about.

Neil: Michelle, hello, and thank you for joining me on The Leadership Range. I’m so thankful that you decided to say yes and join me in this conversation. I think everybody’s going to be in for a great treat, because I know, a little bit–or a little more–about you. So I’m excited about what we’re going to talk about today, but just thank you for being here. Welcome.

Michelle: Thank you for asking.

Neil: Of course. So before we get into our topic for today, I want people to get to know you a little bit. So I know that you’re a coach, right? We do some similar work. We’re both organization and relationship systems coaches, and we both train coaches in that with CRR Global, but you’re much more than that. You are a therapist, counselor – you got all sorts of things. So why don’t you tell people who you are professionally?

Michelle: Professionally, I am a trained relationship and systems coach. I am also a licensed therapist. I am also a director of a learning and development team, because learning I think, and growing, is–like, that’s part of my passion. I’m also a certified Dare to Lead Facilitator with Brene Brown, so that’s exciting work as well, and it all sort of connects interweaves together. So much power in all of it.

Neil: Yeah. Now I know that you do and you have done some work with what some might call the least of us, or young folks, and you have a passion. Why don’t you share a little bit about that?

Michelle: Young people to me are–it’s like they’re the jewels. They come out. They don’t have choices about how they’re brought into this world, the parents that they have, how they’re brought up, all of those things. So we have a responsibility as adults to give them the best of who we are, and if we’re not doing that, then we’re creating greater challenges for them. And it’s kind of like visiting all these difficulties that may have existed in a parent’s life or a mother’s life or a father’s life, visiting that upon a child and then visiting that once more, and then once more, then once more. Breaking that cycle by helping the helpers work with people differently, working with people through relationship and connection, blending in empathy in a way that breaks that exterior, that walled off, tough exterior, lack of emotion, kind of thing. Breaking that up to give kids more of what what they deserve, that’s a passion of mine. Yeah.

Neil: How long have you been doing that work?

Michelle: Oh, my gosh, now you’re trying to age me?

Neil: No, I’m trying to elevate you. [both laugh]

Michelle: My journey has been–it’s been kind of strange. I first started off as a juvenile probation officer, and it might surprise people – Omaha, Nebraska, is where I came from. As a juvenile probation officer, started off there, and then I decided to go and get my master’s degree. And then I moved to Denver, Colorado, and that’s where I ultimately got my license. I got my master’s in Omaha, but I got my licensure for counseling in Denver and started working in the field of human services sort of by accident. I wanted to start counseling and it was an opportunity to get my license, and that’s kind of how I landed, and then it just sort of started to flow from there.

Neil: One thing on top of another. Coach, Dare to Lead Facilitator, leader in an organization.

Michelle: Yeah, and it all feels so–a lot of what was happening before, you know, it was kind of, like, the thing that I wanted to do. I was guiding it. But the coaching–I’ve gone through CTI, so I’ve been trained in Co-Active, but I didn’t get certified there. There was something about [?] that really kind of filled my spirit and, like, “I have to have more of this.” All of that felt purposeful. It’s like leading into CTI, going into there, going into ORSC, coming upon the work of Brene Brown. All of that sort of, like, led and guided me into, I feel, the reason why I’m here.

Neil: Mm-hmm. Yeah, full circle. So, ORSC is an acronym, ORSC, that’s Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching. We mentioned that earlier. So if you hear ORSC, that’s what we’re talking about. So Michelle is a trained coach two times over and a trained Brene Brown Dare to Lead Facilitator and a licensed professional, a licensed counselor or a licensed therapist, and a master’s degree trained therapist. So, you know, she’s bringing the credentials along with her. So Michelle, you’ve been at this for a while, and you’re a little shy about how long you’ve been doing it, but–

Michelle: 1995.

Neil: 1995, all right. Look at that. That’s a professional. All right, so what I’m interested in capturing for folks is, you know, I’ve said this–I think on the first couple of episodes–I believe everybody is a leader, and we are always expanding if we’re doing the work in our leadership. And there’s an edge–we all have edges that we need to get beyond to continue to expand our leadership, and this happens over time, and I like to start by having folks share a little bit about how their leadership has evolved and how that range has expanded over time. So if you could take us on a little bit of a journey, perhaps a story of your life, and contextualize it based on you as a leader, based on what you know and what you’ve noticed about yourself.

Michelle: Yeah, I love that question, Neil, because I do believe everybody’s a leader, and I felt that way with myself, and it’s almost, like, an excuse that kept me safe, because I would lead but I didn’t want to lead people. So it kept me safe and contained without being front-facing. You know, no one could judge me. No one could kind of see what I’m doing. I was leading an effort. I was leading, like, an [?]. I would do those kinds of things, and that felt safe and contained. I felt like I can do that because I did that work well, and it got really great reviews. I remember–one of the things that I like to brag a little bit about is I wrote this curriculum that got recognized by the Obama White House, it was a fatherhood curriculum, and they vetted it for potential use in their fatherhood program. So, like–

Neil: You have to big up yourself. The Obama administration?!

Michelle: So that was exciting. So I felt like I was living in those spaces, but when it came to leading in a way that people could see me, that was edgy for me, because that meant that people would judge me in terms of whether or not I was good or bad, effective or ineffective. And that was the edge. So my journey in doing that wasn’t that long ago, I’m going to say maybe about six or seven years ago I started into that. And I had this imposter syndrome, and I think in part, the imposter syndrome and the judgment piece does come in when you are a leader of color. As a leader of color, it’s not just you that’s showing up. It’s your color that’s showing up with you, and all of that gets judged at the same time, and you’ve got to work harder, and there’s more of you on stage. And I didn’t want that. And I was pretty shy as a kid, and, you know, being on stage was scary. Having all eyes on me was not the thing that I ever wanted to do, wanted to have happen. So that was really edgy for me, but there was somebody in my life that sort of was calling me forth and seeing something in me that needed to come out come out of the shadows come forward, and I’m grateful to her and seeing that. So my journey started there, and just a little bit at a time I started to become more comfortable in myself as a leader. I mean, it was a journey. There were moments when I didn’t feel confident, having imposter syndrome, conversations I would even have about the impact I was having on certain team members being a leader of color. Like, where was that coming from? Because you feel that challenge, and you question in your head, “Is this because of me, Michelle? Or is this because of me, Michelle as a Black person?” That question is, you know, always there, and how do you confront that without feeling like you’re playing the race card? So it’s been a journey. I feel like I’m definitely much more comfortable now than I was, but it took a while for me to get there and actually feel like, “Okay, maybe I can do this. Maybe I’m okay.”

Neil: Now you speak and train people. You’re in front of audiences, and you were not–you were shy. I was shy too. Yeah, I would not go on stage. I would not speak in front of crowds. I remember–and I’m gonna just gonna say this, because when I met you, we were doing the same thing. We were auditioning.

Michelle: I know.

Neil: Which we had to compete for and show up–without preparation. We just had to perform, and we did crazy things. I remember seeing you in that room dancing, doing improv, doing it alongside someone else and co-creating, and I thought, “Wow, she’s massive. She’s a bigger energy that’s filling the room. She’s definitely in.” That’s what was in my mind. I saw you showing up and shining, you know, rocking the space. So yeah, it’s wonderful to hear the story from the shy girl, the young professional working on it, not with people hiding behind the initiatives and the projects. Yeah, I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that. I know I can, because that was also me, and the work that we do now, the work I do as a coach as a facilitator, you know, when I speak in front of crowds, the work itself is always immediate and right in front of people all the time. Judging is real-time. Even now on a podcast, even though this is recording.

Michelle: Yeah, exactly. I’m glad you bring up that audition piece because that was another edge for me. Twice I was like, “I’m not gonna go, not gonna do it. They’re gonna get it,” and the deadline passed by, and then I was like, “Oh,” and then we got extended. “I’ll just apply,” and I was shocked that actually got the invite. So even that, that edge in that reluctance to be called into that space was still there. But again, it was, like, on purpose.

Neil: Yeah, you showed up,

Michelle: I showed up.

Neil: And you shone. So let’s get into it, this topic, and this is a topic that you brought, and this is amazing. Yeah, this is an amazing topic. I think a lot of folks are gonna be fascinated, and they will want more. So what we’re talking about today is the lack of leadership and trauma and contextually the impact of trauma on people who are Black getting into relationship with people who are white. Yeah. So, you know, that’s just, like, a lot right away. So let’s unpack that a little bit. First of all, can you help us with making sure we understand what you mean by trauma?

Michelle: Yes, there is trauma–and I don’t want to minimize or negate trauma that people actually feel when something really horrible happens to them. I don’t want to use the word lightly is what I’m trying to say. There’s a form of historical trauma that I think exists within the Black community, particularly in the United States, where you sort of hold yourself–it’s like you’re holding it in your body, and you’re waiting for that other thing to sort of snap or capture you or hit you or hurt you. All of that is a form of trauma. It’s like–you know, i’s been coined, like, post-traumatic slave trauma, historical trauma, but it’s, like, the thing that you’re waiting for the other thing to happen, and you’re always on edge about it. You’re just always on the cusp of the thing that’s gonna take you out.

Neil: Mm-hmm.

Michelle: So it’s that kind of trauma, and I want to say that not to minimize the horrific things that maybe other people have experienced that, you know, is really traumatizing.

Neil: Yeah. So this is very specific to the Black experience, right, in particular, because we’re in the United States right now, we’re talking about the Black experience in the United States, based on history, right, over the relationship between the United States and people who are Black, the descendants of former enslaved people. All right, so let’s go further now. So we’re talking about this. There’s something here about Black people getting into relationships with white people. What’s going on? What is the story that you want us to get our head around here?

Michelle: So as a leader, when you walk into–it’s like Black faces in white spaces–when you’re walking into those spaces, you might be invited into a relationship with a white person. And I’m thinking of, like, an office or organization, invited into a relationship with a white person. But there’s often a reluctance, I think, in many Black people, and I’ll talk from my perspective, and the question that goes off in my mind is, “But can I trust you?” “Can I trust you not to hurt me?” Not a physical hurt. “Can I trust you not to betray me?” “Can I trust you not to dismiss me?” “Can I trust you not to retraumatize me by not acknowledging the hurt and the pain that I and the people that look like me go through?” Those actually hurt. When you walk into work after an incident like George Floyd–and he wasn’t the first–and it’s unacknowledged, no one pays attention to it, but your heart is hurting. That’s traumatic. So when you walk into a space and you get invited into relationship with white people, and that goes unacknowledged, they might be looking at you like, “Why is it that you don’t want to be in relationship with me? Why don’t you want to go to happy hour on Friday? Why don’t you come to our home for the Christmas party?” Without any understanding that I don’t know that I can trust you. We haven’t built enough of a relationship yet where I know that I can trust you to see all of me, all of me, not just the parts of me that I let you see when I show up in front of you in those white spaces. So often times, I think the trauma comes before the relationship, and that does not get acknowledged by white people because they don’t see it. It goes unacknowledged. It’s almost like there’s this invisible. I shouldn’t say invis–no, it isn’t visible to them. I think it’s kind of, like, you know, we’re getting rained on and we’re getting wet. They’re not getting wet. They’re not getting impacted by the same things that we see day in and day out. So everything looks great for them, but it doesn’t look great for us, yet they’re still trying to be in relationship with us. And I’m looking at them like, “Do you know I’m hurting? Do you know that my soul is dying inside because I just saw an 11 year old that was just playing with a gun in a park get shot, and I walk in and you smile at me as if that did not happen. How can I be in relationship with you?”

Neil: Yeah, yeah. I’m feeling that, and I feel an urge to share a story, and I may share it a little bit later, but a question that I have is that I’m imagining for people who are white listening to this or, you know, white allies, taking this in, they might be thinking, “How am I to know? And what am I to do?” How do you respond to that?

Michelle: Make it your business to know. Make it your business to know, because it’s available. That information is available, and make it your business to know, and if you’re not knowing, ask the question – “How are you doing today? You know, you seem a little sad. What’s going on?” Don’t assume a familiarity that I have not yet been able to offer to you. And get curious about that. Maybe it has nothing to do with me being aggressive and, you know, an angry Black woman. Maybe it has nothing to do with me being unfriendly or standoffish. Maybe I’m just hurting, and maybe if you got curious about that and patient and waited and just kind of leaned in with empathy and got curious and made it your business to kind of know what might be going on in the world that might be impacting Michelle today, that would go a long way, for me to see that you care. You care.

Neil: I love that, “Make it your business to know.” What that says to me, people who are white and listening to this, when you walk in the room, and you see Michelle, and she is sad, what I think I’m hearing is notice that Michelle is sad and put on your courage pants and name it. “You look sad. What’s going on?” That’s what I think I’m hearing, check in with the human being who looks sad. And the courageous part of this is checking in with yourself and noticing if you are reluctant to ask that question. And why? What [?] from checking in?” You know, there could be a lot, and we can we can make them up, but it’s important to check in with yourself. And in conversations I’ve had with white friends, I’ve heard this time and time again – “I don’t know if I should. I don’t know if I could.” And what I’m hearing is, you know, do it. Just do it. Just do it and be empathetic, and if you have to develop those empathy skills, do the work. Develop those those skills around empathy.

Michelle: I recently said to someone, “Make the purpose”–and I’m going to name the purpose as healing–“more important than the person,” because the person that you’re making it your business to know something more about or what might be going on with them, they may reject you. They may say something that you get offended by, because that could happen, but don’t let go of the purpose. The purpose is to lean into the intention to heal the division that we come up against, that, you know, we can’t reach across and bridge. If the healing is more important than the person, you’re going to keep going.

Neil: This sounds like something in the neighborhood of relationships, Michelle.

Michelle: Yeah.

Neil: The healing lives in the relationship. That’s the thing that’s between you and I. The division is the wound, and leaders take responsibility for their world, and there’s a relationship here that has this something in it that is wounded, and if I am a leader, I have a leadership obligation, a responsibility, to heal where there seems to be a wound. And there’s a sign that there’s something here, at least a signal that tells me something’s off, and that’s that Michelle is sad. So let me check.

Michelle: Yes, there’s so much truth in that. Because often times when, you know, we get into the routine of just our work and our lives, we don’t take the time to notice that those that we are leading may be experiencing something that we need to tap into. And part of that to me–I don’t know if this is the classical definition of servant leadership, but that’s how I serve in my leadership is just a check in on you, see how you are doing, “How can I help? What can I do for you? How can I support you? How can I be of assistance to you?” That to me is, like, reciprocal. It’s a reciprocal relationship. If I’m leaning in as a leader in that way to you, I’m going to feel heard, I’m going to feel the empathy coming from that, and that’s going to come in, give me the desire to kind of lean in even more, and back and forth, and that trauma that I’m speaking of can start to recede. I’m not saying leave, but the relationship comes forward.

Neil: The relationship begins to hold it, the relationship begins to form. You know, there’s something I want to throw in here. This isn’t a transaction. “How are you doing? I want to check in with you. I came here to help you.” It is a requirement of empathy. So if you don’t mean it, you’re better off not showing them.

Michelle: Exactly.

Neil: ‘Cause you’re probably gonna piss off some Black people.

Michelle: Yes.

Neil: Yeah, you know, it has to be authentic. You know, you have to want relationship. This relationship has to mean something. So Michelle, what do we say to folks who think that this is nonsense in business, in corporate America. When we take that attitude that this has no place in business, what does that do? What does that do to the work environment? What does that do to the Black body?

Michelle: You just basically cut everything off. You cut people off at the knees, because we’re not automatons. We’re not robots. We’re people, and people have emotions. We’re complex human beings, and we come in with everything that we existed with prior to walking in that door. So it’s an impossible thing to do. It’s impossible for us to shut that off. When we walk in the door, it’s coming in with us. We can hide from it, we can try to shut it off, but it’s still there, and it’s going to show up in the way that, you know, when we’re talking about the emotional field, it’ll show up in a way–it’ll show up some kind of way. So what I would say is it depends on what you’re wanting. If you want the kind of work environment, the kind of culture that feels safe and is authentic and is trusting, then you have to allow that to come in, because that’s how you’re going to foster authentic relationships. Without having that come in it’s just performative.

Neil: Just performative. You know, we hear about, and people talk about often in teams, and at work, the need for psychological safety, and what was occurring to me right now is that there are some additional things necessary in order to create psychological safety in the workplace where there’s mixed company, and everybody has a role to play in that, right? So when you have a diverse team, and there are people on that team who may have experiences, will have this historical trauma in their body, and specifically we’re talking about today Black trauma, there’s work to do there, there’s something to recognize about that. And there’s a role that leaders need to play in creating that psychological safety. And, you know, as a leader, beyond the one on one relationship, I’m hearing if you have a team and your team is mixed, right, or it has one Black person on it or whatever, you might even have a role with the team to make sure the team recognizes the need to work with the potential or the reality of this Black trauma. Someone here is struggling with something. Someone here on our team is having a difficult day or a difficult week or difficult six months or a year, or life, you know? Not to be coddled, but to name what is true and to make that a part of the system within which the team exists. So you continue to grow and strengthen the relationships on the team and of the team in and of itself as a whole.

Michelle: Absolutely. I think it’s also important to know that we and I, as a Black person, also have a responsibility to–if this is what I’m wanting, then I have to create the opportunity for that to come in. If I’m holding a steel door up against my heart and the opportunity for relationship to come in, then it’s going to be hard for it to come in. I have to create pathways for what’s being [?] to actually come in. And what I mean by that is they’re often times, you know, that–you know, the tough exterior, the bridges, basically, you know, creating those bridges, creating the opportunity for those bridges to be built. That’s the healing that takes needs to take place. If I’m feeling it from my team [?], I get it, I see it, I feel that you’re hurting. If I get that, that to me is like a pathway. “Oh, okay, there’s an entry there that you’re trying at least. I want you to at least try.”

Neil: It may just be I have a needle that you need to thread, but some path through in order to connect in relationship. You know, I already mentioned this here on the podcast, but, you know, I didn’t grow up in the United States. I came to the United States for college and graduate school. And, you know, I had all my various experiences, but it wasn’t until graduate school where I think I experienced, at least in the United States, something that was traumatizing, because I’m Black, that I still carry. And so I can relate to this in a lot of ways since then, but that was my first experience, and here’s what happened. I was driving into town in a Southern state on the first day of the legislative session. And there was a debate and a protest going on that day for the maintenance, securing a spot or the right or the privilege to fly and hoist the Confederate battle fly on state grounds around the statehouse. And so I’m driving into town, and there’s all these people out there dressed in Confederate battle attire and guns and trucks and flags hoisted on cranes, and there’s a lot of traffic, and there’s a large median in the middle of the road and dual lanes on either side, and I’m driving in the left lane of this dual carriageway, and there’s people on the median to my left on the driver side, and I’m going slow, and I don’t really know what’s going on, and these people are yelling and screaming, and I look out my side window, and I just look into the eyes of this person, and this face was just mashed up in hate and anger. And their eyes were peering into my car, and I just saw hate for the first time. I’ve seen bias and bigotry, but I saw hate. I wasn’t human to that person, and that struck me. It just went right into my core. And as I turned to look through my windshield, someone spat on my windshield, spitting at my car. So basically spitting at me, and I have to tell you that, you know, you feel that in your body. Yeah, and that never went away, and I know that I was once a very trusting person up to that point. Everybody got the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t even have the benefit of the doubt wasn’t even a thing. I was just trusting in new relationships, but as I spent more time in that city, in that region, I found myself beginning not to trust new people who are white that came into my space because this behavior and this attitude was ubiquitous, and it stole something from me. What it also did was it stole something from the people who were white, who were open-hearted. But I couldn’t give them my trust right away, so it hurt them too, and these things live in our bodies, and I still carry that. I am away from it geographically. I am trusting, but I have not forgotten. Because it’s in my body.

Michelle: Mm-hmm.

Neil: So now relationships have to get formed in a slightly different way, and I’m very careful not to carry that steel wall with me, but I can’t undo having hate looking at me and someone seeing me, like, basically a cockroach and spitting at me because my skin is Black. I can’t undo that. That’s just a fact that happened. So, you know, I’m not a therapist, and you are. Is that trauma?

Michelle: Yes, absolutely it is. I mean, it’s still there.

Neil: Wow.

Michelle: The first experience that I had with anything racist, and I don’t even know what it was, was in the second grade with someone calling me a nigger on the school bus. I still remember that. I still remember, from that day forward, my dad meeting me at the bus stop every single day after. Because I was no longer safe.

Neil: Yeah, like I said, it steals something from the body. It steals something from the system that we live in. It steals something that’s life-affirming from our body and from the existence of our communities. It’s harmful to everybody. So this is probably a tough conversation for people who are white to get into, to say, “Hey, you know, I notice you’re sad,” and then they’re probably like, “I’m afraid of what I might hear.” So I want to pull back a little bit. I’m thinking about friendships or relationships at work that already exist where there’s some resonance in that relationship.

Michelle: Mm-hmm.

Neil: I feel the urge to say this – that is a place to practice, you know? And I’m speaking specifically to people who are white listening to this, right? Go to those Black colleagues, and I think it’s okay to say, “Hey, I heard this podcast, I was listening to Neil and Michelle, and I really want to be better, and I’m wondering if we could design something around this.” And to do that without expectation, yeah, because you might get rejected. Patience.

Michelle: Exactly. patience. Patience. And I want to say that sadness was my example, but it may not just be sadness. It might be hesitance. It might just be reluctance. And, you know, just a reluctance to lean in. Don’t make up a story about why they’re not doing it. Check it out. That’s the practice.

Neil: I wonder if you have, Michelle, a line, a question, a thing that they could ask to enter this conversation. I’m putting you on the spot a little bit. What might be the question that they ask?

Michelle: I don’t know if it’s so much a question as it’s an acknowledgement. I feel like an acknowledgment goes a long way, because historically–not even just historically, it’s happening now. There’s been such such denial of the Black experience that it’s become two worlds. Such absolute denial. I would say, “Believe the expert.” They’re an expert of their experience. Believe them. If you can convey that you believe that their experience is their truth–it may not be yours, but it is their truth, and honor that.

Neil: I love where this is pointing. So, you know, you said acknowledgement, and I want to share a little bit more about that for folks for clarity, because I’d like people to have a tip or something that they could take away and use. And that might be, “Hey, Michelle, I noticed that you seem sad today. I just want you to know that I see you, and if you need anything, let me know.” That’s an acknowledgement, folks.

Michelle: That’s good.

Neil: Yeah, you don’t need to ask if she’s okay. You know, yeah, she’s sad. You can see it. You’re intelligent.

Michelle: Yes, yes. If you know something has happened in the world, and you don’t even know–like, “I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure how to approach.” What you just offered there now is just enough. I believe that’s just enough. Yeah.

Neil: Yeah. It’s that simple, folks. Acknowledgement. People want to be seen, and sometimes they don’t want to speak and they don’t feel like they want to be heard in the moment. They just want to be seen, and acknowledgement demonstrates that. That is perhaps one of the easiest, simplest demonstrations of empathy that you can offer. So I think that’s a good place for us to begin to close this down. Michelle, how can people connect with you?

Michelle: Well, I am on LinkedIn, and that would be slash in slash Michelle dash Howard dash reveal.

Neil: All right, we’ll make sure that that is in the show notes so if folks want to connect with you and get close to you, they’ll know how to find you on LinkedIn. Thank you so much for bringing this important topic to the conversation today, Black leadership and trauma, the impact on people who are Black getting into relationship with people who are white. Thank you for your time today, Michelle.

Neil: Black trauma lives in Black bodies. The baseline on trust in Black and white relationships may be negatively impacted, and this creeps into the work environment. There is no one in particular to blame. It is simply part of the American experience and therefore the corporate experience. It might be one of the deepest, shadowy aspects of U.S. culture that remains unacknowledged and unaddressed. It affects everyone. It harms most of us. In particular, it impedes and harms relationships between Black and white friends and colleagues. All leaders have a role in operating in this massive set of embedded relationship systems that we who live today did not create. We may perpetuate it if we are not careful. White leaders have a responsibility to make it their business to notice. Black leaders are called to open pathways for relationship entry. White leaders have a responsibility to be patient and to stay. Black leaders are called to work towards softening the front. White leaders have a responsibility to acknowledge, and Black leaders have a call to accept acknowledgement. I hope you enjoyed sitting with me and Michelle today. You can listen to new episodes of The Leadership Range every Monday. Connect with me on LinkedIn at backslash in backslash N Edwards. You can also connect with me on Twitter or Instagram. If you have a topic suggestion or want to join a conversation here with me, send an email to I look forward to you listening to future episodes.

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