Communities around the world have been stunned, outraged, and angered by the anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and anti-Indigenous statements made on a leaked audio by three Latinx Los Angeles City Council Members and the President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
As a therapist helping BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, immigrant, and other marginalized communities heal from institutional trauma (and as a queer child of immigrants myself) I am in solidarity with the communities who have been negatively impacted by this incident.
Furthermore, this article presents three keys to leadership that can reduce the likelihood of similar incidents in the future.
Politics can mean the difference between life and death for marginalized and deliberately unheard communities. When public officials dehumanize the communities they were elected to serve, the well-being of those communities is in danger.
It’s important that voters choose wisely and know the signs of a leader who truly advocates for them.
Key One: Cultural Humility
The solution is not about getting more education.
Four individuals with college degrees—who knew better—chose to gleefully dehumanize their constituents in a blatant power grab. We have seen other incidents where highly educated individuals have put Black and Brown people in danger to exert power under white supremacy.
Electing leaders with cultural humility can minimize the chance of these scandals from happening in the first place.
Culturally humble leaders are aware that they don’t know everything, that they will make mistakes even if they have the best intentions, and commit to continuous learning from their mistakes so that marginalized people do not face further harm.
Culturally humble leaders put their egos aside for the causes of justice and service to all humanity—not just service to themselves and those who share their identity.
As Los Angeles City Council Member Mike Bonin said in his statement to the public days after hearing the racist attacks on his son:
“As the white father of a black child, you stumble, and you fuck up, and you try to do your best to be a parent and an ally. I get it wrong a lot. I get it right sometimes. I knew that I did not want this story about virulent anti-Black racism to be centered upon an angry white dad…I know that I can never really know, or comprehend, or feel, the weight of the daily, relentless anti-Black racism that my son is gonna face. But man…I know the fire that you feel when someone tries to destroy Black Boy Joy.”
Bonin’s statement exemplifies cultural humility. As a clinician who helped shape and evaluate professional training for the Center for Adoption Support and Education, I am confident that he and his husband are raising their son to be proud of his Black identity. The dehumanization of Bonin and his family is even more heartbreaking knowing that clinically, he has the compassionate approach recommended for white parents who want to raise a happy, healthy adopted Black child.
Leadership Assessment Questions: Do your leaders display an attitude of learning when corrected or confronted by those of less privilege? Why or why not? (If not, why do they deserve to be in leadership?)
Key Two: Wise Mind
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the best decisions are made in wise mind—a combination of emotional and rational mind.
According to this framework, the best leaders genuinely care about all their constituents (emotional mind) while having the skills to effectively get the job done (rational mind).
During the Los Angeles City Council meeting on October 11, a concerned citizen quoted Dr. Cornel West:
“You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”
As a clinician helping marginalized leaders and high achievers heal from unhealthy work environments, I remind my therapy clients that the worst work environments lack both humanity (emotional mind) and logic (rational mind). The leaked audio revealed both cruelty to others and potentially illegal acts.
If a therapy client revealed to me that they were working in a position with cruel and ethically questionable leadership, I would be discussing the pros and cons of leaving, the negative mental health impacts of staying, and harm reduction/self-care strategies if they choose to stay.
Leadership Assessment Questions: Do your leaders demonstrate the use of wise mind? Why or why not?
Key Three: Identifying Covert Narcissism
As I wrote in a previous blog post,
Narcissists, psychopaths, and other highly toxic personalities are of all colors, sexes, shapes, sizes, ability levels, ages, and sexual orientations.
Covert narcissists are harder to recognize due to their humble mask and appearance. They gravitate towards fields like health care, public service, and nonprofit work. They appear saintly but are only out for themselves.
I’m not stating that the four people heard on the leaked audio are narcissists—but they displayed the narcissistic traits of entitlement, interpersonal exploitation, and lack of empathy.
Dr. Karyl McBride, an expert on healing narcissistic abuse survivors, states that it only takes one narcissistic trait to ruin a relationship. Similarly, it takes one narcissistic action to taint the integrity of a leader.
Although narcissistic traits are not always indicative of pure narcissism, it is important that leaders be aware of situations where they might display these traits—and do the personal work to make sure they do not harm others. An unwillingness to do this work displays a lack of cultural humility, a lack of wise mind, and a lack of fitness for any leadership or managerial position that involves caring for human beings.
We don’t need more people in power only out for themselves.
Leadership Assessment Questions: What narcissistic traits have your leaders displayed? Do they demonstrate any effort to keep these traits under control—or do they flaunt them?
On October 21, 2022 at 10 am PST, I will be holding my inaugural Leadership Roundtable on the topic “3 Keys to Leading Diverse Communities.”
Leadership Roundtable is for you if:
- You are a manager or high achiever of a marginalized (or multiply marginalized) identity looking for an expert to affirm your experiences.
- You are a manager or high achiever who wants to support your marginalized—and multiply marginalized—employees and colleagues.
- You/your organization are committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts that help level the playing field. (Period.)
You must be a member of my mailing list to receive an invitation. Join below:
Disclaimer:This blog does not replace in-depth, individualized help from a health professional or provide any diagnosis or treatment. By reading, you understand this statement and commit to seeking psychotherapy or medication support if needed. You also understand that Mari Verano, LLC will not be able to intervene in a crisis or court situation. Please seek your own legal and/or crisis resources.