Anti-Racist Organizational Transformation: Questions and Answers with Mary Pender Greene, LCSW- R, CGP and Alan Siskind, PhD

Mary Pender Greene, LCSW-R, CGP, is a psychotherapist, career/executive coach, trainer, and consultant with
a private practice in Midtown Manhattan. She has 20+ years of experience helping individuals, couples, companies, and nonprofits. Mary is the President & CEO of MPG Consulting, a NYC-based consultant group with significant experience in providing capacity building services for organizations of various types and sizes.

Dr. Alan Siskind has enjoyed an extensive and distinguished career in social work, in private practice, and mental
health as a clinical practitioner, administrator, consultant, teacher, and author. He is also a senior consultant, an executive coach, and an anti-racist organizational and board consultant for MPG Consulting. Alan’s history includes 35+ years of service at The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in various leadership roles including Executive Vice President and CEO. Dr. Siskind is Founding Chair of the MHNE Board of Directors, publishers of this newspaper.

Q: Why Is Anti-Racist Work Important for Organizations?

A: Institutions are informed by and can be transformed by having a deep understanding of racism and oppression.
Racism shapes American institutions historically, culturally, and individually. Internalized racial oppression, power,
and privilege can lead to implicit and explicit bias. This is why just diversifying your staff or board is not enough. Organizations and their boards need to engage in meaningful, brave, and authentic conversations across differences, including how to strengthen the organization and begin implementing best practices in the pursuit of an inclusive, fair, and respectful workplace that values all individuals and embraces diversity – with the goal of eliminating barriers to workplace success. This can be accomplished by:

  • Creating a common language.
  • Learning to recognize white organizational culture and its manifestations.
  • Examining the value of relationship building in the workplace and everyday life.
  • Describing how socialization produces worldviews that limit our ability to undo racism and other forms of oppression.
  • Discussing socialization biases regarding issues of class, wealth, and poverty.
  • Examining institutional reasons for poverty focusing on relationships of institutions to poor communities
  • Discussing formulations and functions of race, prejudice, power, and racism within historical and present contexts.
  • Examining power, privilege, rank, and culture (PPRC), and the impact of their intersections on supervision, management, leadership, and staff relations.
  • Describing how individual, institutional, and cultural racism manifest today.
  • Discussing how Internalized Racial Oppression develops and operates within individuals and organizations.
  • Describing the development of “White” as a race in the U.S. in the context of establishing historical advantages.

Q: What Are the Goals for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Training?

A: Organizations often need consultation and training to establish and meet their DEI goals. Below are some possible goals:

  • Discussions about race are integrated into management decisions, supervision, and working meetings.
  • An anti-racist lens is used in interview and hiring practices, and guides leadership development and decision-making.
  • Working with staff and team to use a race lens particularly in understanding and responding to work styles, communication, conflict, and secondary trauma.
  • Increased capacity of staff to enter into productive discussions about race, oppression and all isms.
  • Specific initiatives around anti-racist organizational change are led by staff from different levels of the institution,
    and the results of those initiatives are shared across the organization.
  • Supporting effective leadership development, team building, and staff development, as well as examining policies
    and procedures focusing on self-awareness, authenticity, accountability, integrity, efficacy, and growth.

Q: What Is an Anti-Racist Bystander vs. an Upstander?

A: A Bystander will witness racist behavior in silence and an Upstander will take action. Kitty Genovese was murdered in a New York City street in the presence of 38 witnesses. None of them offered any assistance to Genovese or contacted police. This indicates that personal responsibility in bystander situations cannot be taken for granted. Research shows that behavior in situations of racism is often the same. One study of women’s responses to anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism, heterosexism, and sexism found that while ¾ of participants considered saying something only 40% in fact did so. Another study found that in 44% of incidents of race-based bullying at school, some or all of the bystanders did nothing, with ¼ encouraging the bullying.

Q: How Can We Interrupt Bystander Complacency?

A: “Structural Racism. It Stops with Me”: A Personal Campaign. The very message of “It Stops with Me” can be regarded as a direct response to bystander complacency. The idea is that we can and should do something when we witness racist incidents. Bystanders do, of course, evaluate the costs and benefits of an intervention. Many can quickly conclude that the potential price of speaking out against racism outweighs the benefits of doing so. However, when bystanders speak out against racism, it can have profound effects. Hearing or seeing an anti-racist upstander can foster more expressions and support of anti-racist behavior. It can also combat some of the conditions of structural racism. Silence may lead people who are against anti-racist work to believe that their attitudes are shared by those around them.

Anti-Racist Upstander action stops the offender from thinking that the community accepts their behavior. Below are possible actions:

  • Reporting of racist behavior
  • Calling the person “IN”
  • Strategizing with your network
  • Offering support and comfort to the injured party

As the debate about anti-racism continues, we should make sure we are asking the right questions. It is not, “Do you have a right not to participate?” The questions are rather:

  • “What kind of person are you?”
  • “What kind of co-worker do you want to be?”
  • “What kind of TEAM do you want to LEAD?”
  • “What kind of institution do you want to work for?”

Q: What Keeps People Silent?

A: Part of this work is developing the ability to recognize individual and institutional racism. Often, staff need training and support to develop the skills to intervene. People will only stand up when they believe they are well equipped to act. Things that keep people silent:

  • Lack of clarity about the best way to respond
  • No confidence or courage to respond appropriately
  • Fear of repercussions
  • An organizational culture that has not clearly stated their intolerance for institutional racism, racist or oppressive behavior

It is important to understand the psychology of racism. We often assume that motivation behind stereotypes, prejudice of racism, and discrimination is hatred. But not all racism stems from hatred. Most structural racism that I witness through my consultation and coaching isn’t because of hate. Rather, it’s usually due to: The desire to win; Addiction to power; Competition; The fear of losing influence with the majority group; Greed; and a Desire to maintain political capital

Q: What Is Political Capital and Why Is It Important?

A: Political Capital in the workplace is the accumulation of resources and power built through relationships, trust, and goodwill, which influence bosses and colleagues. It can be understood as a type of currency used to achieve personal or professional goals. It is often described as a type of credit, or a resource that can be banked, spent or misspent, invested, lost, and saved. Preserving their political capital is truly the core reason of why people do not stand up or speak out when they see an incident in the work environment.

Q: How Can Managers and Leaders Learn More About This Topic?

A: MPG Consulting and NYU Silver School of Social Work are proud to offer a presentation on April 1, 2020:
White Fragility and Racial Resiliency: Building Capacity Across the Racial Divide. How Developing Resilience Is for Both People of Color and White People featuring two compelling keynotes:

  • Ken Hardy (Voicelessness: Dilemmas of Silence, Dilemmas of Speaking) will explore the phenomena of Voicelessness and the pervasive impact it has on the lives of People of Color. Dr. Robin DiAngelo (Nothing to Add: Silence as
    a Function of White Fragility) will explain White Fragility and White Silence as obstacles that prevent racially conscious whites from taking firm and unyielding stances against racial injustice.
  • Hardy asserts that the false choice of either remaining silenced to “survive” or speaking and being punished often leaves People of Color mired in self-doubt, despair, and rage-masking powerlessness. He will examine the emotional, psychological, and spiritual effects of oppression-induced voicelessness on the everyday lives of the racially traumatized. Strategies for reclaiming one’s voice will be discussed. Dr. Hardy’s clinical work centers on issues including the anatomy of racial rage, learned voicelessness, and the invisible wounds of racial oppression.
  • Robin DiAngelo asserts that white people in the US live in a racially insular social environment. This insulation
    builds our expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering our stamina for enduring racial stress.
    This lack of racial stamina is “White Fragility.” Those of us who see ourselves as “the choir” can be particularly challenged, for we tend to focus on “evidence of our advancement” rather than reach for humility and continually grapple with how to engage in intentional action. This talk will overview the socialization that leads to White Fragility and focuses on one particular manifestation: silence in the face of racial injustice. Dr. DiAngelo will provide the perspectives and skills needed for white people to build their racial stamina and use the voice this position provides.

Q: How Can Someone Participate in the Event?

A: Individual tickets as well as several partnership and sponsor packages will be sold. For more information, contact Kayla Cordero at or (718) 664-4415.

  • Single Ticket – $150
  • Equity Seeker – $1,500: 10 tickets with Logo placement on digital banners which serve as backdrops at the event
  • Anti-Racist Change Agent – $3,750: 25 tickets with Logo placement on digital banners which serve as backdrops at the event
  • Anti-Racist Movement Maker – $7,500: 50 tickets with Name and logo placement on digital marketing materials related to the event and with Logo placement on digital banners which serve as backdrops at the event
  • Accountability Partner – $15,000: 100 tickets with Name and logo placement on digital marketing materials related to the event and with Logo placement on digital banners which serve as backdrops at the event
  • Continuing Education Credits: This event will offer 3 Continuing Education Credits.

The New York State Education Department recognizes MPG Consulting as an approved provider of continuing education credits for LCSWs, LMSWs, LCATs, LMHCs, LMFTs, and Licensed Psychoanalysts. MPG Consulting is committed to ensuring that organizations serving populations of color are prepared to provide transformative culturally and racially attuned clinical, programmatic, and administrative services. MPGC is certified as an M/WBE.

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