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Calling in the Culture of Calling Out

Loretta Ross, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Commemorative Speaker

“Everyone you meet is as complicated as you are.”

Loretta Ross '07, 1.19.2021

Yesterday I was treated to a keynote talk from Loretta Ross ’07 who illuminated for me some calm, poetic and firm truth. She said: To build a human rights movement requires a common culture. We can disagree, but we must privilege civil and human rights above all differences.

Martin Luther King didn't just have a dream, he had a plan.

It’s impossible to build a united cultural movement while immersed in call-out culture. We lose sight of one another and we lose sight of the prize. Calling out results in separation, factions and chaos. Instead, we can create and practice a call-in culture, where we extend an invitation for discourse and enfranchisement. We can, and must, invest in being effective over being right.

The science of calling in:

Assess the situational issue

Do you have the space to invite them in? (You have no obligation! Always take care of yourself first and primarily. If you don’t have the capacity, you are not doing anyone good)

A good phrase to employ: You know, I expect more from you in this moment." Another idea: “I beg your pardon” gives the person a chance to think and regroup/rephrase, and gives you a chance to decide to call out or call in.

Ask yourself: Will my action make things better or worse?

Calling out makes an instant magnification. It might blow up their lives. You go from a bad idea to judging this person as having bad moral character. You must be careful not to become an ideological bully. What will be most effective in the moment? What is the long term effect? Think about the vision of building a human rights movement. Calling in may be harder than calling out. By calling in you may be giving a person a chance to (re)consider and learn–a chance to do better, to be better

Discern the difference between blame and responsibility

None of us are responsible for building the system, so remove yourself from the public therapy of guilt and blame, and instead know that we can, and we must take responsibility for fixing it. When you move into a house with bad plumbing, you don’t complain about who broke it, you fix it.

Written by Nell Ruby, Professor of Art Chair, Department of Art and Art History

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