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Good Trouble PR: Inclusive Communication

Making strides towards a more equitable world sometimes means entering uncomfortable spaces and making good trouble. MinnSPRA held part two of its series, Good Trouble PR, in January to discuss inclusive communication. To check out a few key takeaways from part one of the series, visit our Good Trouble PR: Necessary Trouble blog.

“Being vulnerable and sharing our stories helps all of us grow together and individually in our workplaces. We can’t shy away from race and how it impacts us.” – Toya Stewart Downey

North High School principal Mauri Friestleben, Patrick Henry High School principal Yusuf Abdullah, Hmong Internal Academy principal Jamil Payton and South High School principal Brett Stringer led the conversation. The group discussed the process of systemic change—vulnerability and mindful listening must begin at the top and radiate outwards. They discussed the importance of sharing personal stories and reflections, education in an oppressive system, and tactics for more equitable approaches to school communication.

A few key takeaways:

Take risks together.

Bullies. Bystanders. Interrupters. Everyone learns from a young age that bullying in any form is unacceptable and that being a bystander only enables harmful behavior. Mauri Friestleben applies the concept of a bully, a bystander and an interrupter to race in America. Friestleben says, “The bully is an oppressive system or a white person, the bystander tends to be other white people or people continuing to uphold an oppressive system through avoidance and silence and the interrupter tends to be BIPOC.” 

Fill the silence. Friestleben mentions that it doesn’t have to be this way. Internal agitators, or those who experience the world as a BIPOC, do not have to stand alone, risking their safety every time they decide to speak up. External agitators, people who do not experience reality from a BIPOC perspective, can join and use their voice to disrupt the silence that keeps an oppressive system alive. Validate other’s lived-experiences even if they are not your own. It takes a team to bring change forward.

We all have to work together to solicit change. Real change comes when you have outsiders and insiders willing to take risks and doing it together

Model inclusive communication

Change the narrative. Do not write the same story over and over again about BIPOC students. It can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Yusuf Abdullah says, “When you’re trying to tell stories of students of colors, be mindful about which stories and images you put out.” He recommends telling a variety of stories and not sticking to one narrative. Allow students to speak their truths.

Use inclusive language. As a nation, BIPOC students experience criminalization from a young age. Jamil Payton says, “People call it insubordination when a black boy sags or if he wears a t-shirt that’s too big its gang activity, but don’t call it the same thing when white kids do it.” The language needs to be uplifting across the board. If you don’t know where to begin, Brett Stringer recommends “conducting an audit of your current communications and looking at it from a new resident perspective. Is it reflective of your community and its values? If not, it’s time for a change.”

Something we don't do enough in our lives is listening to stories

Remember, it takes time. Actively listening to other people’s stories creates an opportunity to challenge your preconceived ideas of social structures and biases. Listen for backgrounds different from your own. Allow for self-reflection and empathy. Social change grows through patience, individual and community mindfulness, conversations and vulnerability. 

We know change is slow, but that doesn't mean that change agents need to move slowly towards it

Published on: February 15, 2021

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