Generating ideas, connections, and action

Response to "Blind Spots (Part 2)" by Lisa Miller Mattsson

Dear Deborah,


Thanks so much for the powerful theme and the questions being raised by “Blind Spots: Are Leadership Development Programs Contributing to Greater Racial Equality or Inhibiting our Progress?”  Lots to think about!


I just wanted to share a thought regarding “worship of the written word” as a means of support for white supremacist culture.  It is definitely true that there are many valuable and powerful ways to communicate other than in writing. Personally, I believe effective oration to be more a powerful form of leadership communication than writing, as a general rule.  Even negative leaders know this, and use the spoken word to move people.  Hitler, the iconic example of white supremacist leadership, comes to mind.  He utilized the power of the spoken word as a means by which to stir and mobilize people.


As I mull over this particular topic, I am stumped as to how to address the value of documenting what has been agreed upon when people meet, talk, and arrive at consensus.  I am a committed believer in the power of authentic dialogue.  Unfortunately, if what has been agreed upon is not written down, we are all left to rely on our imperfect memories or scribbled notes.  In mediation, for example, an important final step after dialogue results in an agreement is to write it down so that all the parties have the same version of what was said and agreed to.  Documentation can prevent a great deal of confusion, frustration, conflict, and heartache.


I do believe that memos by themselves are an inadequate way to communicate important policy, changes, or other information that has significance to people.  Having said that, I think important information needs to be shared both verbally as well as in documented form.  The reason I say that is because dialogue provides opportunity for people to raise questions and express thoughts, and “the memo” provides clarification that can prevent confusion or unnecessary conflict.


The “White Supremacy Culture” article seems to be having internal conflict on this point, since the point “Either/Or Thinking” acknowledges the danger of good/bad, right/wrong thinking.  To imply that there is something inherently suspect about memos or documentation is overly rigid and simplistic.  I’d be much more comfortable with this particular topic if it were expanded to include a role for writing in a healthy and inclusive culture.


Thank you again for opening up an important topic!



Lisa Miller Mattsson