Ep: 23: Fleur Larsen: The Language of Racism

On this episode of Marketing for Good, Fleur and Erica talk about key terms like racism, anti-blackness, equity, and white fragility and how these terms, and the concepts and actions behind them, influence marketing. They discuss woke-washing and how external messaging needs to be backed up by an internal culture that walks the talk. They explore how individuals can align action with values to live in integrity and with humility.


This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Fleur Larsen on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


people, racism, marketing, power, communication, white fragility, learned, passive aggressiveness, bias

Erica Barnhart  00:41

Welcome to the show, Fleur. I’m super glad to have you here.

Fleur Larsen  00:49

Yeah, thank you for inviting me on.

Erica Barnhart  00:51

Yeah, I was looking on your website in preparation for this, and I learned something about language that I didn’t know prior. Which is that because well, on your homepage, you shared that the root of the word facilitation is from the Latin word, facilis, meaning to make easy. So it’s fun to learn that, that feels particularly meaningful, given the work you do. Since a lot of that is not easy. And just one that was a fun fact. I you know, I love etymology. Did you pick that word intentionally because of that?

Fleur Larsen  01:29

No, probably just reverse of like, I got my origin, my start facilitation when I was doing outdoor Ed and we were called facilitators, challenge course facilitator, and then I learned the origin of the word and, you know, less of the focus of like to make it the experience easy, but to make it easy to do the work that we need to be doing.

Erica Barnhart  01:51

Ah, oh, okay. Well, that makes sense. Okay, one thing I noticed in your bio, that you don’t mention, is that you’re the founder of Skate Like a Girl. I understand why it doesn’t make it into the short bio, I get it. You’ve done a lot of things. But it made me a little sad, because let’s be honest, that’s still like, very, very cool.

Fleur Larsen  02:11

Yeah. Thank you for bringing that up. Yeah, Co-Founder with a couple other folks and people that are running it now are doing amazing things. So I’m excited that they’re still into it. So yeah, it was a great chapter in my life was I’m like, so grateful I got to be a part of it.

Erica Barnhart  02:24

Yeah, very cool. You sent out an email recently about a workshop you’re hosting called the language of racism and the subject line obviously, captured my attention. And I want to get to talking about the like, substantively, the workshop. Before we get there, though, it’s so important to have shared vocabulary in general, but especially for some of the stuff that we’re gonna be talking about in this episode. And so I was hoping we could start by going through some, just walking through some key terms, and that are going to come up and that all of us have probably heard, but it’s possible, we have different definitions, and that’s fine. I’m not saying there’s like one definition for any of these things. But just to offer a way that you as somebody who works deeply in this field, thinks about them. So and just so the folks know where we’re coming from as we move through the conversation. Does that sound okay?

Fleur Larsen  03:16

Yeah, absolutely.

Erica Barnhart  03:17

Okay, let’s start with racism.

Fleur Larsen  03:20

Yeah. See, one thing that’s important to notice about the word racism, and the definition is, it’s really been about power plus prejudice. Right, or prejudice plus power. So anyone can discriminate against anyone, anyone can be an asshole to anyone, right? Like, equal opportunity. It’s really about when you map it to power and in, so there’s institutional power, and then systemic power. So when we have prejudice plus power, then that helps us understand why there isn’t reverse racism towards white people.

Erica Barnhart  03:53

Oh, okay.

Fleur Larsen  03:58

So it’s not just like one race of a person discriminating against another race, like, you know, equal discrimination. It’s really about power and prejudice mapping there together. In today’s context, that means white people being racist against people of color and not the reverse. There’s no reverse racism against white people.

Erica Barnhart  04:20

Because it’s at the individual level and there isn’t power associated with that necessarily.

Fleur Larsen  04:27

No, I mean, at any level, individual institutional, whatever. So you know, we’re talking about prejudice plus power, meaning that at any level, so when we, yeah, that’s I guess, like it can really be at any level and thinking about when people are moving forward with something or you know, something’s happening. I think the reason the using those two words, prejudice plus power, is so important is because so many other folks will be like, well, what about when I was discriminated against, a white person will say that and you’re like, okay, well, let’s think about the whole context here. Historical and current, let’s be clear that anyone can just like be mean to somebody else or discriminate against somebody else, but it’s not actually racism. Right?

Erica Barnhart  05:14

Okay. I feel like that’s an important distinction. You mentioned historical and current. And so I feel like from racism, I also want to talk about anti-blackness.

Fleur Larsen  05:24

Yeah, yeah, specifically, black folks, you know, the, the history, the origin story of the United States can start there. Like, it’s part of the origin story, and obviously, very closely related to, you know, native folks oppression, and currently, and then in all of our laws, and historically, and currently looking at how black folks are just really targeted in a very, very dramatic way. We’ve all the data and numbers. And I think anti-blackness, you know, it’s so insidious, it’s like, just in all of our minds, I mean, I just, anyone grew up watching the show cops, right, like, it was just like, it’s everywhere. It’s just in everything and I think in particular, for me, as a white woman, the way white women have been really socialized to be afraid of like black men, for instance, it was just Emmett Till’s birthday, would have been his birthday a few days ago. You know, he was lynched and murdered for being accused of whistling at a white woman. And and she later came out and said, he didn’t do it.

Erica Barnhart  06:31

It goes deep.

Fleur Larsen  06:32

Yeah. So so we have like, really intense stories like that and then there’s all the everyday narratives around how anti-blackness is manifesting and so insidious.

Erica Barnhart  06:44

Yeah. So I’m gonna get through the definitions. Let’s get through the definitions. And then we’ll come back to these things. Okay.

Fleur Larsen  06:50

Definitions are like books and books.

Erica Barnhart  06:53

Yes. Yeah, I know, this is all just like, here’s just a little dollop. Yeah. What about the difference between equity and equality?

Fleur Larsen  07:03

Yeah. People use those words interchangeably a lot. I think that it’s, so equality, everyone gets the same. There’s a great image actually and you can you know, we can find it in your show notes of equity in equality, the bicycle image. So equality is everyone gets whatever size bike like the same size bike equity is people get the bike that fits their body. Yeah, that works, that’s what they need.

Erica Barnhart  07:29

I love that image, because for a long time, the image was the one of the boxes and people trying to look at a, I think it’s meant to be a baseball game. And there’s different you know, if everybody gets the same height box, a shorter person that doesn’t give them the same access, but I love the the evolution to bicycles versus different things. What about bias?

Fleur Larsen  07:50

Yeah, so we all have it. That’s the important thing about bias. Like I’m not a neuroscientist, right. But so my definition will be like, you know, won’t be the most scientific one out there, but this thing of like, everyone has it. And then I guess another added one is neuroplasticity is actually a super cool term.

Erica Barnhart  08:09

I know it sounds like painful, but it’s wonderful.

Fleur Larsen  08:12

It’s a really good concept. I’ll take it right?

Erica Barnhart  08:15

Yes, neuroplasticity.

Fleur Larsen  08:16

I can learn something new. The kicker is really that we usually feelings about that process, feelings come up, as I unlearn like, maybe shame or guilt or humiliation or defensiveness. And then feelings when I learned something new, like, wait a minute, this isn’t what I thought or you know, cognitive dissonance. This is hard or I don’t know how to do it, now I’m embarrassed or whatever, like, so all that stuff comes up around, unlearning our bias and learning a new way of relating to people.

Erica Barnhart  08:47

Yeah, yeah. Okay. We’re gonna use the term white dominant culture as we go through this conversation. However, I feel like it’s incumbent on me as the host, to say that’s a pretty conscious choice, because I know that most listeners to this podcast are white, and that’s a comfier term than white supremacist culture. However, in the spirit of unlearning, and relearning some things, can you help us understand the difference between white supremacy culture and white dominant culture?

Fleur Larsen  09:18

I don’t think there is one.

Erica Barnhart  09:19

Okay. One just makes us feel better?

Fleur Larsen  09:21


Erica Barnhart  09:22

Yeah. I mean, I think white supremacy as a, as a term has such close association with things like the Ku Klux Klan. It’s just almost impossible for us to decouple to uncouple those things, whichever term is correct. So okay, but there is no, I think importantly, though, as we go forward, just knowing that if somebody uses that term, to pay attention to what it like, really listen to your body, listen to the emotions, why does that make me feel a certain way? Those are really important questions to be asking. Yeah, and to welcome all the emotions I just read this book called The Language of Emotions. That is a fantastic book. I think I’ve already talked about it before on the podcast, I can’t remember. But basically the premise is like, emotions are teachers. Right? And our, in our culture, it’s like, anger is bad sadness is bad. Those are negative. She’s like there are negative like anger helps you set boundaries, sadness grounds you. Do they kind of suck to go through? Heck yeah, they suck to go through, but you know, joy sounds so much more fun. But anyway, it’s all good. You know, all the emotions serve a purpose, some, some vilify someone and not others, and in that the emotions are teachers, if it brings something up for you, looking at you, listeners right now, even though you can’t see me looking at you, you know, be open to that and let it teach you something. Okay, so often we think of, I am thinking of your workshop title, the Language of Racism, and I think often, we think of racist language as being obvious or overt, you know, things that we would never say. But it’s much more nuanced than that. And the session description that you offered, really gets at that. So I want to just read that so that listeners can hear  what I mean. And then we’ll, I’m hoping you can unpack for us, like, why this workshop, and why this is such an important topic. So the description says this experiential engagement will explore the spoken and unspoken cultural norms of communication as key pieces to advancing racial equity in yourself and your workplace. Passive aggressive communication, and conflict aversion are based in WASP, White, Anglo Saxon, Protestant and Middle Class norms and values, which communicates an unclear and watered down sharing of information. This is significant, because it is hard to manage for something if you cannot name it clearly for everyone to understand. Okay. Can you unpack that for us? And are there, do you have specific examples of this type of communication so that we can become aware of it? Because I think you know, you were the one who use that the first time I heard the expression of fish doesn’t know it is in water, wasn’t that from you? And I think it’s so helpful. So yeah, help us understand.

Fleur Larsen  12:11

Sure. Yeah, that and I’ll just name that that workshop, I’m co facilitating with Jodi-Ann Burey, so-

Erica Barnhart  12:18


Fleur Larsen  12:18

Yeah, local here in Seattle, and does a lot of phenomenal work. You can follow her.

Erica Barnhart  12:22

And we’ll put her information in the show notes as well.

Fleur Larsen  12:24

Yeah. And so the other part of the workshop, I don’t know if it’s in the title there explicitly, but it’s about the language of racism and passive aggressive communication, specifically, is what we’re focusing on. And so that was probably that’s where we’re going with this. But like, that would be a definition to ground ourselves into. So I’m going to read it. I pulled up my slide deck real quick, so I can-

Erica Barnhart  12:48

Oh good, I was going off of what’s on your website.

Fleur Larsen  12:50

Yeah. Great. Good. Good. Yeah. So passive aggressive communication, indirect resistance to the demands, or communications of others.

Erica Barnhart  13:02

Okay, just because people are gonna be hearing this indirect one word not in space, direct two words, right? Because that would be a totally different meaning.

Fleur Larsen  13:10


Erica Barnhart  13:12

Okay, indirect, all one word.

Fleur Larsen  13:14

Um, indirect resistance and then an avoidance of direct communication. Okay, so the key pieces there that want to just name because it you know, then right now we’re doing you know, so that’s passive aggressiveness. Being an indirect communicator is not the same thing. Right? So passive aggressiveness, the opposite isn’t just direct communication, that’s one piece of it. Because the important part inside this definition is that you’re really like, indirect resistance and the avoidance part.

Erica Barnhart  13:48

Yeah, I was wondering, yeah, it’s the avoidance of conflict.

Fleur Larsen  13:52

Conflict, of clarity, of engagement. And so where we go, how we bring this together with the language of racism is really looking at the way the impact is on the other person. And in particular, when in passive aggressive communication is also almost normalized in a professional setting in particular, I’ll just keep things focused here in Seattle, because thats where I spend most of my time, where we are known for our passive aggressive communication norms, our conflict aversion, our dancing around topics, and here’s what I noticed about working with majority white organizations and companies, so it’s cross sector, is that an organization’s ability to engage in healthy conflict correlates to retaining staff for color.

Erica Barnhart  14:44

Oh, that’s interesting.

Fleur Larsen  14:46

Because when people raise an issue-

Erica Barnhart  14:50

Right, yep.

Fleur Larsen  14:51

Don’t shoot the messenger or shoot the messenger is what comes into play because people are not playing the game of passive aggressiveness. They’re raising an issue. Talking about racism is an explicit issue. Right? And when there’s a commitment to staying comfortable, right, and passive aggressiveness is about preferencing someone’s comfort over the content.

Erica Barnhart  15:15

Will you say that one more time?

Fleur Larsen  15:17

Passive aggressive communication preferences the comfort over the content, the comfort of receiving them-

Erica Barnhart  15:24

The comfort  of the receiver.

Fleur Larsen  15:26

Or even the comfort of delivering something like I’m not comfortable talking about this, I don’t feel safe, like we’ll hear all these things all the time, particularly from white folks. And we do want to be, this is that part that I think about the spirit of equity, it matters who we’re talking about. So if folks of color say they don’t feel safe, that is a woah, everything needs to stop and we have to change or do something different. When folks when white folks say they don’t feel safe talking about something, I always want to check in, hmm is white fragility at play? What do you mean you don’t feel safe is it’s just awkward, or, you know, like, the exploration there and be like, maybe it’s okay, that you don’t feel comfortable and really distinguishing also, between comfort and safety, white folks are safe. You know, I do want to acknowledge like, with white women, gender based violence is real and we’re seeing a myriad of examples of white women thinking they can just call up our institutional criminal system to protect them on a whim, right, Central Park Karen, as my friend Jody Ann calls Amy Cooper, and all the other white women that are calling the manager wanting to be protected, because they don’t like what’s happening, right? I know there’s a lot there that just got impacted.

Erica Barnhart  16:34

Well, I think one of the words, the terms I think it’s important and might not be familiar to everybody is white fragility. Yeah. And what that means. And I’ll say, so as you’re taking a sip of water, one of the most eye opening pieces, and also to offer concrete examples of how this shows up, is so I’m a teaching professor at University of Washington and that comes with a really interesting combination of power and privilege and one of the things is, is physical, I’m standing in front of the classroom, okay. And then I also, of course, do consulting. In all of these contexts, if I talk over somebody, no one’s gonna say a thing and it was one of the most, the moments that I’m like, once I heard it, I was like, like, what, I, oh, shit. I do that. And personally, I’m, you know, I’m an impatient person, I things fast and so differentiate between like, you know, whatever, I’m talking to my daughter about like, the grocery list, and I’m like, let’s move on. Okay. That’s the one we’re both white. But also that’s different than me really having to realize like, I’m doing that because I can, and then it may not be my intent to make whoever’s on the receiving end, feel a certain way and yet the impact is there. I would say that is one of the things that has influenced my teaching, you know, from my work, which is ongoing, and will be life work around white fragility and all of this is just it seems so small, but talking over people is really the impact of it is big, especially the cumulative impact. So that’s one example of white fragility. Are there others that you can offer?

Fleur Larsen  18:25

Yeah, and it’s, it can be internal or external meaning it can be out in the world or just something you feel inside. And a key piece of white fragility is the inability for white folks to engage around race or racism, particularly theirs, or what, you know, the way we perpetrate racism, and like, the intolerance to even entertain that thought. So an antidote to white fragility is humility. Right? And if we know that all people have bias, and therefore no one, you know, we didn’t escape learning all the things about anti-blackness. So that must mean that I have anti-black racism, deep in the recesses of my mind, just the way we know, you know, learning and neurology works, then I can be like, oh, I’m really uncomfortable maybe this is like my white fragility like I’m like having a hard time even sitting with this concept, or someone telling me something about myself, right, as a white person. Often it might be in the form of direct feedback, or like to give you some feedback about how you’re showing up but usually it’s not that way. It’s not that gracious. Yeah, so I think it really is this thing of sounds like you probably inside your example got some feedback about how you were as a professor who you also mapped with power right?

Erica Barnhart  19:45

Do you know, it’s horrifying? I’ve never gotten that feedback. And why I say that’s horrifying is because, you know, and I tend to have like, you know, pretty friendly, approachable environment, I’m not like, I’m your professor, you know, I’m the only one talking, and even in that context, and I have many students of color, I just didn’t even see it. Like the power, the power imbalance in that scenario is so vast that I never even got the feedback.

Fleur Larsen  20:17

Right. Right. Yeah.

Erica Barnhart  20:20

And in academia, I don’t, I think more so now, certainly, yeah, probably more. So now, you know, it’s just a realizing of how much I do it.

Fleur Larsen  20:31

Sure, sure. One thing I want to say about Robin DiAngelo‘s body of work, which is her term white fragility, and her book and all this stuff. So speaking of power words, and folks that are writers, one thing that’s happening right now is people are like going out and buying a ton of books or wanting resources. That’s great. People should do that. And we want to think about where the money is going. So, what I recommend to white folks in particular, but just anyone is, go buy books, or move your money to support black authors, right? Ijeoma Oluo, Ibram Kendi, a bunch of others. And you can watch, Robin DiAngelo’s video clips on her website, you can there’s lots of articles online. But there’s something a little bit funny about her making a ton of money off of the book, which you know, so that it’s mostly in this moment, I bought the book. And so let’s not, I don’t want to mince words around this. But she’s really like, if everyone’s throwing their money in different places, we really want it to go towards our values. So a way to combat anti-blackness is to really make sure that we’re supporting black authors, right, you can still get the learning of Robin D’Angelo, you know, from her, all of her work on there’s great videos and TED talks and things like that, so that’s a strategy and way we can support kind of like how the flow of information is mapped also to money.

Erica Barnhart  21:49

Mmhmm. I would also say I’ve learned a lot from Rachel Cargle.

Fleur Larsen  21:52

Yes, absolutely.

Erica Barnhart  21:53

There’s so many we can I mean, there’s so much but but one of the things she does, which I think is brilliant, is she will take example. So on Instagram, you know, she’ll take examples of things that people have said to her on Instagram, and she unpacks them line by line, word by word. And it’s just, it’s and she has this beautiful, beautiful way of being like, Okay, I’m gonna paraphrase just by saying like this, but like, well, that sucked. And that didn’t go very well, let’s stop that, but I love you all, and like, you know, and she’s, I just, I think her combination of things. She’s tough love. Yeah. And she, she does not pull punches, and there’s no malice in it. I think it, it just creates an openness, which is, I think remarkable to have. All right, let’s see. So when I teach, I teach marketing at the University of Washington, marketing for social impact, and I on the first day of class, I think somewhat to too many students surprise, on the first day class, we talked about implicit bias, and the importance of understanding implicit bias and your lived experience in the context of marketing. Because unless you’re aware of it, you actually run the risk of really perpetuating white dominant paradigms. And, you know, again, I’ll speak to personal experience a couple years ago, one of my students of color pointed out and again, with so much kindness, so I’m like, forever grateful to the student. She said, Hey, I don’t know if you noticed this, but there, every single one of the readings was a white author. Every single one, and I like, I get like, emotional every time to talk about it. Because again, I just, I’m white, and I didn’t notice. And so then, so so I’ve been working on that one. It’s, there’s so little, that isn’t written by white authors that is in the like, approved marketing space. So if you’re looking for, like textbooks or anything, I don’t even use textbooks, I stopped doing that. But just like how white dominant even the literature around it, and especially the academic literature is, so I rely now increasingly much more on what we refer to as grey literature, right? So articles, blog posts, podcasts, videos, all sorts of that. It was really eye opening, because it meant that I was perpetuating it, right? Unwittingly, and this happens all the time. So you’ve joined me a few times on the first day of class after I go through some stuff. And you’ve done a beautiful job of facilitating an exercise that kind of helps students orient to what is implicit bias, and how might that show up for them and what that might mean for marketing. And I’m wondering if you can speak to that because I think this idea of implicit bias is so important for marketing, and yet a little bit, possibly uncomfortable and maybe a little nebulous, so I’m hoping you can make it a bit more concrete.

Fleur Larsen  24:53

Sure, yeah. A couple things that are, to frame this, is that it’s really hard to manage for something if you can’t name it, so that’s what we’re starting with. And if we start with the premise that everyone is bias, so we all have it, no one escaped it. It’s not like there’s bad people somewhere else that have it, but I’m a good person, although that trope is very present here in liberal, white Seattle, right? And so if we all have bias, then that means we all you know, also there is racial bias. And if we can’t name it, then we can’t manage for it. And so part of the thing that is in your class is to bring awareness shine a light on okay, if this is true, how am I going to manage for this moving forward? When that there is a responsibility in marketing and and as a human, but this piece, especially if you’re, you’re doing communications for your job, or trying to represent ideas and people and things like that. And partly, one of the exercises we do is looking at this idea does the fish know it’s wet, right? Like, I’m just swimming around, and whatever I grew up with as normal, wherever it was, and and that really is, you know, what we all learned as young ones is, here’s what’s normal, some of us learned as young ones, how to code switch, here’s what’s normal at home, but when you leave home, you have to go do this. So that’s like assimilation. But some identities have been preferenced to have their normal be than normal, ie white dominant culture, right? It’s been kind of carted out as what’s normal. And not only just that some normals are some normals, like white normal, are what should be everyone’s normal. It’s also right. That’s how it’s, you know, propped up is that this is what’s normal and it’s what’s right. And so when we see that in terms of like education, here’s what studious, we see that in the professional world around professional standards, and the fact that we just have had to have passed the crown act in California, so that no one can actually be fired because of their hair, which primarily had been was is now to protect black women, right? Like those,  the most cases have been about black woman’s hair. So the policing of what’s normal and i.e. professional, even in your hairstyle, and we, you know, there’s been lots of those videos of, I am thinking of one where the young man wanted to wrestle, and the ref made him well, in order to wrestle the person, he had to have his dreads cut off. And then if that video is fascinating to really look at the patriarchy was dictating what’s normal. And who did it, who did his bidding, who carried it out was this white woman. She went up and cut his his dreads off some black boy. And so that is, you know, there’s that that is like the narrative for all of white supremacy culture, white dominant culture, especially how that maps to nonprofits, right, which mostly has white women delivering a lot of the work.

Erica Barnhart  27:54

Yeah, definitely. And in leadership positions, until you get to the tippy top.

Fleur Larsen  28:00

Or until you get to large budgets or but, you know, and that is the scene where patriarchy and economics really like are at play there. The way sexism is limiting, and, so most, many impressions are at play, a lot of things are going on.

Erica Barnhart  28:15

Yes. Well summarized. Yeah, I think the thing that I’m hoping listeners are hearing and I hoping their ears are still open because some of this I just want to acknowledge may be new to folks may be hard to hear, so just hoping that people that you’re keeping your ears open to it, is that if you’re white, that your normal is the normal, and so we’re trying to bridge, you know, is we are trying to bridge into, as we’re thinking about marketing, okay, so if that’s the normal and that’s off, because it’s not representative of all cultures, okay, how can we be proactive about that? And that’s the thing you know, if my students I’m like, you know, we’re you have to be so proactive about this, while also, kind of hitting the mark in terms of target audience and messaging I just had Elizabeth Ralston on and she’s deaf and so we were talking about marketing that’s inclusive for all and thinking, you know, through that perspective, so you know, like this is it’s a lot it’s a high bar it’s a high bar for sure. Now speaking of high bars, I mean not so much I want to talk about woke-washing. So, I don’t know if you saw it really recently there was a Harvard Business Review article okay called, the title was Woke-Washing Your Company Won’t Cut It. And this references actually an article that came from the Guardian written by Arwa Mahdawi, I think I am saying that right-ish, a couple years ago, actually. So it’s kind of it’s coming around. But anyway, they give some examples so of woke-washing as being appropriate the language of social activism into marketing materials, okay. So this happens all the time. Right? Basically companies saying they are in solid with, for instance, the Black Lives Matter movement, and yet not having very many, or any black leaders, or very few even staff, things like that, you know, being committed to anti racism, etc. So saying these things externally while not really addressing internal power dynamics, imbalances, you know, and really having practices that perpetuate racism. So it’s akin to green washing. Right? I’m curious, because you do so much work on this internal piece. Right, and we’ve talked on the show a lot a part of marketing for good is, you have to have internal alignment, before you can have excellent external execution. How do folks, you know, are you seeing a lot of woke-washing just as a consumer, but the consumer the specific perspective and how can, how can organizations and companies do that internal work to get there that is not woke-washing?

Fleur Larsen  30:58

Yeah. At the core, all this is about integrity. Right? Like, am I walking my talk? Am I doing what I say I’m going to do? So having that as our internal guide, and then, you know, obviously, that can be at the company wide level and the other thing that is a part of this is, you know, in particular here in this region where people just say the right words, but they don’t know what they mean. People are introducing equity and equality interchangeably and they mean fundamentally different things. And if you know, really, really dropping down, what’s an example of equality in your organization, internally, right, how you, what happens with the staff. One classic examples, we all get the same PD money, professional development money. Now, what would, how would you do that in the spirit of equity? It might be like, Oh, well, I have a Master’s, I’ve had tons of resources and access to advancement, someone who hasn’t had those opportunities should get more money.

Erica Barnhart  32:04

Oh, that’s a great way to go. Yeah.

Fleur Larsen  32:07

So and what’s important here is that people are just using terms and jargon. It’s a great exercise, like, how do we talk about this without using the latest terms and jargon, in vernacular, and especially in a culture that is committed to pretense in such an intense way that we are here in our provincial Northwest, I grew up here. So I get criticized, I grew up in QueenAnn and Ballard I’m squarely a white Seattlelite in a very waspy way, right.

Erica Barnhart  32:34

I mean, East Coast listeners are gonna hear this really differently. Yeah, cuz it is different.

Fleur Larsen  32:41

Although waspiness is not, and it’s even more intense in the East Coast in some ways. I mean, depend on it for you know, we’re talking about like, classic New York or something. New York direct, right? Yeah. New York direct. Yeah. And so this thing of really like, what are you talking about? Like, what is the what that you’re even talking about? Do you even know? Do you know, when you say equity, you’re committed to equity work? Well, that would, that would probably look like reparations internally. Right?

Erica Barnhart  33:06

That just made some listeners real uncomfy.

Fleur Larsen  33:09

Yeah, we don’t even we don’t even have paid equality. You know, we have our like, we don’t actually have equality yet.

Erica Barnhart  33:18

We’re not even there.

Fleur Larsen  33:19

No, we have tons of gender pay gaps, which is just literally companies stealing money from their employees, who happened to be socialized female, gendered female, right?And the way that looks, you know, in a racial context is there’s not advancement, there’s no opportunity to you know, for positions of leadership. So going back to your original question around woke-washing, or, you know, another way to think about is performative allyship. And I think what’s important to think about this is it’s like arriving late to a party and then wanting to change the music. Or wanting like kudos for your arrival, right? And so, it’s okay, if you’re late, it’s okay if you’re like, gosh, like I, you know, this is, you know, everyone is at a different place in their journey and all of that is okay. And what’s really, really useful is to have humility. And that doesn’t mean throwing yourself under the bus. It doesn’t mean being a doormat, like I’m not you know, this isn’t about, the shame spiral is not abuse. Feelings are meant to be felt there’s nothing to do but feel them but you don’t just stay there. Right? Right. Shame and guilt can be helpful motivators to be like, whoa, and want to be clear about when you think someone’s shaming you versus when you have feelings of being ashamed of feeling ashamed. Those are those are different things and often, naming is equated with blaming. Right, so naming the dynamic, naming the racism is experienced and heard by white folks as you’re blaming me, versus well, actually, I’m just naming that racism is in existence and you might have feelings of shame that come up but like oh my god, I’m ashamed that that’s happening. I’m ashamed that I’m just now learning this. I didn’t know it or I didn’t see it, I had no idea. Like your example with both of your examples, right? Yeah. Like and it’s just you know, so all that stuff like the emotional intelligence of this is like a poor competency.

Erica Barnhart  35:15

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,

Fleur Larsen  35:16

Like a hot furnace, I’m having all these feelings, I’m really triggered and is something bad happening? Or am I just having a whole bunch of feelings? And that is, can be very confusing when you’re accustomed to privilege.

Erica Barnhart  35:28

And that feelings are meant to be like clouds, right? Constantly shifting, constantly moving, we don’t accuse, like different types of clouds of being good or bad. We don’t judge the clouds for their shape. They just serve different purposes. Yeah, I think that I want to underscore for listeners this point about the conflating of naming and blaming, and how important it’s, it really sounds like for quite a while, I think we’ve been hearing in terms of organizational development, you know, which feeds right into marketing a lot of different ways, the need for higher emotional intelligence, and how much more important that is going to be going forward and then also a piece, you know, we’re just, you know, coming out of a fleeting moments, it would seem that there were there were protests, you know, after George Floyd was killed, and already, like, three months after that, nope, two months, that’s already kind of fading a little bit. So and there was all you know, all these companies coming out with their statements of solidarity and all the rest of it and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when things are really appreciated in that Harvard Business Review article, about woke-washing is them saying that’s great and, and I’m going to paraphrase, they did not say it this way, this is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. And if you treat it like a sprint, you’re all at a steam and you’re not going to get to the finish line, if it’s a marathon. And I mentioned that partially because there is a sequencing of events, to your point about this is about integrity. So if the internal work hasn’t happened, that external statement is super great and maybe the way in which you do it is part of the internal work around integrity. But a lot of them felt like they were very quickly slapdash together and thrown out there.

Fleur Larsen  37:21

Yeah, I mean, it was clear with lots of folks, it was more about not wanting to be seen having not made one. Right? My work with middle school girls, greatly informs a lot of my work with this around equity.

Erica Barnhart  37:34

Oh, that’s interesting.

Fleur Larsen  37:36

FOMO fear of missing out, I want to be seen, I don’t want to be the last one to arrive into the party, because I’m not pushed, like whatever. So basically, it’s about not based, but it’s it’s like fear or insecurities, or, you know, just trying to be seen as doing the right thing without actually doing it.

Erica Barnhart  37:53

Yeah, I mean, we have so many examples of this, that predate any of this. I mean, let’s see, Audi’s equal pay for equal work the Super Bowl ad from a couple years ago, and then it turned out, they didn’t have a single woman on their leadership team. You know, this list goes on, Pepsi and the Kendall Jenner ad. And then there’s sort of lesser known ones that are a bit more poignant. I’m thinking of the founder and CEO of Feminist Apparel, who’s a man Alan Martofel, admitting to a history of abusing women, the female employees then said, you should resign and instead of resigning, he fired them all. Feminists apparel, right, like this is, so you’re not that’s not that’s not being an integrity if there was any question about that. And then even Nike, right, which, you know, ran the Colin Kaepernick ads, and then it came out that less than 10% of its 300 plus vice presidents-ish were black. You know, so I think, you know, Nike, I would say they’re doing the work, they keep, you know, trying. And this is it’s hard, and it’s complicated. But just just like dashing off the statement isn’t doing the work necessarily. And I think on a podcast about marketing, and so so much of marketing is external messaging and proclamations, announcements and statements. I just feel like that’s really important to say.

Fleur Larsen  39:13

It is and it what’s tricky, or just complicated as well is we also can’t wait for everyone to have an aha moment.

Erica Barnhart  39:23

Say more about that Fleur. Yeah, well, reading books is phenomenal. We need to do that, we need to unlearn, we need to process, we need to talk about stuff, we need to go to trainings, and basically, this moment is calling for like enough with that there has to be action people are begging to not be murdered. So you can’t wait for each person to feel comfortable and relaxed enough and have an aha about their alignment with racial equity or their commitment to racial equity. It just, the stakes are too high. And so, there’s both like you need to do the internal work and we can’t wait. We don’t wait to try things until everyone is arrived at a certain critical mass of commitment because we could just keep waiting, right? Similar to think about, like the labor movement, like, the boss didn’t just give people their rights, because they were like ah I had a change of heart. Right? Yeah, the people to fight really hard and, like, still I mean, that’s a continued thing with, you know, workers rights anyway now. So that’s what I mean by there’s, there’s a impatience, because things really came to a head recently, partly because of long, long movement work that people have been preparing and doing for a long long time, particularly communities of color have been leading movement work for for a really long time. And this moment, really kind of was able to galvanize enough people. And I think what statements you know, the best ones I’ve seen are, we are new to this. Yes. Like, acknowledge, like, that’s an integral thing to say is, we’re new, we have not centered racial equity and that was a mistake and now we’re going to move forward and try to figure out how to do it. Yep. And that gets back to your point about humility.

Fleur Larsen  41:18

Yeah. Yeah.

Erica Barnhart  41:19

Right, humility. Marketing so much is in an institutional context and I think that there are a variety of factors around organizational dynamics, that, you know, we’ve talked about and so I want to transition here to make sure that we touch on kind of the individual opportunity arounds, pushing some of these issues forward which has to do with consumerism. And then on the other side of marketing is always a consumer or a client or a donor or volunteer, or whoever it may be, but there’s an individual there. And, you know, I just, I think that there’s so much opportunity now and millennials and Zoomers are definitely leading the charge on this. You know, they’re demanding more accountability and, and they’re, they’re putting their money where their mouth is, to a great extent. And so a little bit of this is generational, but I guess just, you know, and also acknowledging that, yes, some of this can be really overwhelming. And yet it is urgent. And so as individuals, and you know, I don’t listeners are going to be in all sorts of different organizational contexts and they’re going to have this sense of personal agency around every single time they make a purchasing decision. So a little bit of a call to action around that. But I would love you know, your thoughts on the importance of the consumer side of things, versus the organizational and institutional side of things that we’ve been talking about?

Fleur Larsen  42:46

Yeah, absolutely. I feel like one key aspect around thinking about my individual actions or contribution is knowing my significance, right, for everyone to actually really get in touch with our significance. What we’ve been seeing the past few months is enough people feeling like they wanted to contribute in a, you know, critical mass type of way, you know, protests and lots of other organizing and all of that really requires folks to know that you matter. Like over a third of people didn’t vote in 2016 election for lots of reasons, it might not have been connected to them knowing their significance might have to do with literally voter resist, what’s the word to keep people from voting?

Erica Barnhart  43:30


Fleur Larsen  43:31

Suppression. And so I think if you know, really, especially as I think about power with, not power over is like a sentiment I work with white women a lot on and the first part invites us to really know our power, then it’s easy to share power. Once I am clear on my power and my significance on the planet is not related to how helpful I am or how well like I am right? And so then I can really be in alignment with right action with my values. Moving from, with right action, or into right action in right relationship and ingrain all this into relationship. This isn’t a solo thing being connected, connected to myself, connected to each other. I mean, that’s what is really, that’s the intrinsic motivation for me and what I try to invite other white folks into there has to be an intrinsic motivation because otherwise this works too hard. You’re gonna feel too bad. And what’s in it for me is I get my humanity, more access to my humanity.

Erica Barnhart  44:39

So actually the last question which you just walked into that I am, I’m gonna say you segwayed right into. Last question I asked every guest is based on the words inspiration and motivation, etymological root circle, come full circle, go back to that, of inspiration has to do with breathing in, so breath in and motivation has to do with taking action, so you need both breath and we need breath to take action and you were speaking to this, but what inspires you and what keeps you motivated to do this work, that can be tough work?

Fleur Larsen  45:08

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’ll kind of map two questions together a little bit. You know, if enough people, if we all moved our money, where are our values are and what’s helpful to me is like really knowing that a lot of people can make a big difference with our individual actions, right? So you know, intentionalist.com is a great place to go and figure out, hey, I want to buy from black or you know, POC owned, or women owned businesses, and like really move our money to match our values for organizations or companies, you open up the budget, and find what people value based on where they put their money, right. I mean, that’s true for humans too, but also just connecting it to organizations. And so I think that kind of bridging off of if I’m really connected to my significance, and also my influence my sphere of influence, not like being influenced or not like that way of the term but just like, someone that interacts with another human, then we really can invite people into liberation work, right? And I think especially for white folks, where there’s just there’s a disconnect, and so part of this is connection, connection to myself, and, and a reconnection to information that I have been cut off of because of privilege, right? Like, that’s where, again, bias and blinders come up. I don’t, I didn’t even know that there was something else that I’m missing here. You know. So, you know, like, if everyone moved their money into black owned banks, for instance, that would be huge right, or just really, you know, so there’s a lot here, individual and small micro moments, you know, certainly how you interact with another human, but also huge, large scale.

Erica Barnhart  46:47

Yeah, I mean, to go back to your example, as well, of where you buy your books. Yeah, and buying from black owned bookstores. And yes, more complicated than ordering from Amazon and, you know, not judging if somebody does that, just if you’re interested, right, in these micro moments, micro actions, because they add up.

Fleur Larsen  47:06

They do and those it’s like, there’s a lot of like, the kind of non-sexy work of liberation or racial work, is that moment where you’re like, I’ll order from this thing, and it’ll take longer, it’s not the like, I’m out at a protest. I mean, it can be but that that’s one version, and it’s not what I posted on my Instagram, it’s all these little moments of really the fabric of how you live your life and each moment is an invitation to be in alignment with your values and integrity.

Erica Barnhart  47:34

Mmhmm. Yeah, so liberation work ain’t sexy. Is that what I’m hearing you say?

Fleur Larsen  47:39

Not all of it.

Erica Barnhart  47:40

Not super sexy.

Fleur Larsen  47:42

Some of it’s really hot and steamy and fun, and not all of it.

Erica Barnhart  47:48 That’s, that’s great. It’s a great, a great place to end. I do want to encourage listeners, we will put in the to, you know, do the work, obviously, I’m just hoping nobody heard like, oh, well, I don’t have to do the work. But what we are saying is do the work, yes, so that you can take action in a way that is in alignment with your integrity and who you are because every single one of you matters. And I really hope you’ll hear that I really love, Fleur, your invitation to think about significance and your significance and and then when mapping that to all of this work and then for those of you that are doing the marketing, the communications, just becoming, you know, ever more attentive to the language you’re using the lenses, this idea of implicit bias itself is so important. It’s so important. So thank you Fleur for being here. Thank you listeners for sticking with this. Like I said, we’ll put the resources in the show notes. Let’s all keep learning and keep doing. Do good. Be well and we will see you next time.

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?