The Whiteness Matrix™

2020 was an unprecedented year with Covid-19 and global increased awareness and consciousness around the Black Lives Matter Movement. This has led to many organisations giving increased priority and importance to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

It’s not a surprise that there can be mixed thoughts and emotions about how to navigate this space, on personal and professional levels. Knowing how best to translate good intentions into actions and everyday practise is also easier said than done. 

Consider whether if you’ve experienced, seen or heard any of these kinds of thoughts or questions :-  

  • I am unsure what the right thing to do is… I’m worried I may offend someone?
  • I’m not even sure if racism and discrimination are so relevant in Aotearoa, New Zealand?
  • Why isn’t the conversation ‘All Lives Matter’?
  • We all have the same opportunities in Aotearoa so what’s the problem?  
  • What is the relationship with Te Tiriti Waitangi?
  • I work hard and no-one gave me any extra help, so I don’t see the fairness?
  • People are becoming more and more sensitive day by day

All of the above are human reactions and can be reasonably expected from people, not just white people, who have been exposed to and socialised into Western countries and associated forms of media. 

At the same time, the ongoing discrimination and prejudice faced by the Global Majority (people of colour) and marginalised groups with it’s associated disparities across critical domains of life are indisputable. As is, the human right to be treated with dignity and respect and our basic emotional need to be seen, heard and valued.

So how can we identify and understand these reactions with compassion so we can mitigate ongoing disparities? And should we?

The Whiteness Matrix is a framework based upon science, theory and lived experience. It provides a tangible way of identifying the specific types of thoughts, feelings and actions that can be supporters or barriers to a healthy and inclusive culture. It also allows for the systematic assessment, understanding and identification of strategies for the individual, team or organisation.

The ongoing discrimination and prejudice faced by people of colour and marginalised groups in a daily basis is indisputable. The internalised Whiteness Matrix™ view facilitates an ongoing and dominant focus on binary groupings and symptoms of racism such as imposter syndrome and attainment gaps, rather than its root causes which requires the dismantling of social, political and cultural factors. We currently have a global system that encourages and thrives on the dominance of eurocentrism, colonialism and racism (to name a few) whilst being very cognisant of the cost to those of colour and marginalised groups, and worse still actively benefitting from it. 

I believe as citizens we all have a role to play in building families, teams, organisations and communities which support us being ready, willing and able to fulfil our potential. By actively identifying and addressing barriers to this we can ultimately ensure we all give each other a proper fair go.  

The How 

Any meaningful long term and sustained change requires the graft or ‘work’ and as a psychologist of 20 years I have seen first-hand that there is no way around this. This ‘work’ takes place on mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional levels and not in a vacuum. Social support and systems are fundamental, along with skills and confidence development. Of course, we also need to acknowledge that our motivation for any type of change will fluctuate over time and space.

Whilst there is a temptation for a quick ‘fix’, off the shelf, or tick box solutions, such as a few hours of unconscious bias training (face-to-face or online), the research is showing this is not effective. Indeed, it’s a poor use of valuable resources and can even make matters worse. To put it bluntly, it’s akin to placing a plaster on a broken leg.

What is the ‘The Whiteness Matrix™’?

The Whiteness Matrix™ is the ocean that we are all swimming in. Sure, we can introduce a higher number of diverse fish, and support the other fish, including the sharks to support inclusion, but we are all still playing by the rules of the ocean. These rules facilitate the ocean to perpetuate a way of thinking and being that values Whiteness above all. The diverse fish struggle to survive, let alone thrive and disparities remain. 

What we are doing now is clearly not working too well and if we continue to avoid specifying the underlying causes; don’t name them, specify and understand them, then we will remain within the Ocean’s status quo of inequality and get what we have always got.    

Why bother with The Whiteness Matrix™? 

It offers an approach which compliments and strengthens work in the areas of DE&I, Anti Racism and upholding of Te Tiriti.

It offers and understanding of how you see yourself, the world and others which has real world impacts on your personal and professional life. 

It supports your ability to connect with fellow humans and support healthy relationships.    

It provides benefits across all parts of the organisation or business; for example: 

  • Developing knowledge, skills and ability required to have critical conversations 
  • Deeping an understanding of the nuances involved in communication
  • Gaining insights into conflicts in the workplace
  • Planning a sustainable approach to connecting with stakeholders 
  • Supporting wellness 
  • Facilitating innovation and productivity

All content and delivery methodology is customised for individual and organisational needs. A workbook is provided, with the primary aim of the workshop centred around building a foundation of how The Matrix of Whiteness™ permeates our workplaces with some strategies to support the ongoing journey of supporting a proper fair go for all.