My name is Martha Brown, president of RJAE Consulting. This blog sheds light on the need to Speak Truth to Power (STTP) in AEA face-to-face and virtual spaces when racism, male supremacy, and other oppressive forces act to silence others. How do AEA members silence others? Here are two examples.
First, soon after subscribing to EVALTalk in 2016, I noticed sexism, misogyny and racism frequently present in the discussion threads. For instance, an African evaluator commented that requests for assistance and information made by African evaluators are often ignored. Many people were upset and sought to remedy the situation in various ways. A few men entered the conversation, exercising white male privilege in full force. First, they denied that racism was the problem. Worse yet, one man blamed the African evaluator for not doing more to be heard. According to Jones and Okum, a symptom of white supremacy culture is “to blame the person for raising the issue rather than to look at the issue which is actually causing the problem.” Yet so many of us stood by and said nothing.
At Evaluation 2017, I attended what was supposed to be a panel presentation by three women. However, for the first 10 minutes, all we heard was the lone voice of a man in the front row who seemed to think that what he had to say was far more important than what the three female panelists had to say. Privilege normalizes silencing tactics, as “those with power assume they have the best interests of the organization at heart and assume those wanting change are ill-informed (stupid), emotional, inexperienced” (Jones & Okun, 2001). Yet not one person – not even the session moderator – intervened and returned the session to the presenters.
If others have similar stories, please share in the comments. No longer can we permit anyone to degrade, diminish or dismiss someone else’s work in AEA spaces. When it happens, we must lean into the discomfort and shine light onto the dark veil of sexism, racism, elitism, etc. right then and there. If we don’t, then we are complicit in allowing the abuse of power to continue.
Personally, I can no longer carry the burden of guilt and shame for allowing myself or my fellow evaluators to be silenced while I say nothing. Enough is enough. A new day is dawning, and it is time to speak truth to power in the moment when power is attempting to silence someone. Will you join me?
Jones & Okun’s: White supremacy culture. From Dismantling racism: A workbook for social change groups.
Gary Howard’s: We can’t teach what we don’t know.
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