Tag Archives: power dynamics

The “Where Are You Really From” Power Dynamic

by Guest Contributor Ramesh Fernandez

Two days ago I was walking on my way to work and, as always, I have my coffee on Flinders Lane in central Melbourne. While waiting for my coffee, a well-meaning Australian came up to me and asked me what my ethnicity was. I had no idea who he was nor did I know what he wanted. Who is he, and why is he so enthusiastic to ascertain my identity–where I come from?

Did I find him racist and condescending? Yes.

Was there a power dynamic inherent to this question? Yes, there was.

On this occasion, I pondered the situation silently, which put the questioner in an awkward position. “Here we go again,” I told myself. Do I answer this, or tell him what I think, that he is just another racist trying to judge people by where they come from or what they look like? If I were to question or argue with him, would my actions be interpreted as reverse racism on my part? I chose to simply walk away rather than answer the question. Continue reading

Broken System IV: An Open Letter to the Powers-that-Be

by Anonymous Guest Contributor

To Whom it May Concern,

Hi. You may not know me – at least, not very well. You probably are not familiar with my experience, qualifications, or accomplishments. Which is ironic, to say the least, because I have worked for your organization for many years. What’s more ironic is that – at this point – a large portion of our policies, systems, and even curriculum have been created by me, and all the kids we work for know me by name; and yet – we have likely never even exchanged names or a handshake.

So you wouldn’t know that I’ve been working with youth professionally since I was a youth (over 15 years, to be more precise). That I have over six years of formal classroom teaching experience. That I train and mentor other teachers and youth workers (most importantly – your organization’s staff). That I have coordinated programs and workshops for groups ranging from 10 to 500 youth, covering topics from Identity, Culture, and Diversity to Conflict Resolution. That I have taught art, music, math, psychology, public speaking, English and many other subjects (with curriculum of my own design) to middle school and high school students. That I have been a case manager and family contact and support specialist. That I was managing a middle-school arts after-school program in my early twenties. That mentoring youth is just what I do.

Oh – and that I have dedicated myself to your organization for almost seven years.

All that said, though – you still don’t know me. And so it will be hard for you to know where I’m coming from with what I’m about to say. You don’t know how seriously I take my work, and how I’ve dedicated my life to doing it better. That I am willing to get over myself on any number of levels if it means better serving the youth I work for.

And that I speak to you now out of full respect for who you are and the good intentions I believe we all share.

But you don’t know these things, because you’re not involved at my level (nor I at yours). We do not interact. Your role on the board is not your main priority, as you hold other full-time positions. You just make some decisions from time to time about where the money goes, what programs we should be running, things like that. I get it. You’re not in the thick of it – you’ve got a lot of other things going on – so you just haven’t had the time to meet me, officially. That actually all makes sense to me. It does.

But this is where my problem lies – you have veto power over me and my peers. When it comes to the big decisions, you have final say. And that makes so little sense, it kind of blows my mind. Continue reading