In addition to sharing their personal story at the All-Community Reads, Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton advocated for reforms of the criminal justice system. “Exonerations are not the criminal justice system getting it right,” said Jennifer. “It’s a miracle and we shouldn’t rely on a miracle to get it right.”

She continued about how the criminal justice system was created and designed to protect white, land-owning males and how it makes us uncomfortable that we have never done anything different to a system that was designed to be racist.

“We have to get uncomfortable first to acknowledge it before we can change it,” she said. “ I appreciate the fact that you’re struggling with it and want to have the hard conversation.”

It reminded me of the work being done in the child welfare arena where people are also having the uncomfortable conversations about the role of race, the impact of trauma caused by the current system and the need to change an entire system that has been embedded in our culture for decades.

We often avoid uncomfortable conversations because, well, they make us uncomfortable. It’s easier to ignore the topic, only scratch the surface or make light of the root causes. But to truly create the change we need to address that which is hardest to discuss.

Aim not for comfort, but instead seek to create an environment where people can be what Alia describes as “safe but uncomfortable”. Make your culture civil, respectful and open – so that discomfort can be put on the table and deliberated, not so it can be hidden away.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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