Gracious Space and undoing white supremacy culture

December 1, 2020

Last month’s Equity IRL talked about white supremacy culture and if you read further, the accompanying article also offered some antidotes. Several years ago, Neighborhood House adopted Gracious Space, which is based on Gracious Space: A Practical Guide for Working Better Together written by Pat Hughes and published by the Center for Ethical Leadership. Gracious Space, when done with intentionality, can also serve as an antidote to white supremacy culture. Gracious Space has four main components:

Spirit: Intentionally bring your best self, such as compassion, curiosity and listening. The three dimensions of spirit include the spirit you bring, the spirit the group creates together, and the greater spirit or purpose of the work itself.

Setting: Pay attention to the physical environment. By paying attention to simple hospitality, room arrangement, comfort, and the meaning of a place, we can create a thoughtful setting of Gracious Space.

Invite the ‘Stranger’: This is the willingness and ability to welcome perspectives different from your own, by seeking out diverse people, ideas, and perspectives – even if inconvenient or uncomfortable.

Learn in Public: Learning with others asks us to suspend judgment, take risks, pay attention to our learning, and share lessons learned. It asks us to let go of being right, to be vulnerable, to learn from difference, and become a learning community.

As we embark on a journey to become a truly anti-racist multicultural organization, we can build on our culture of Gracious Space. The benefits conversation gave us an opportunity to “invite the stranger” and “learn in public.” Other opportunities to create Gracious Space could look like:

  • Spirit – Raising difficult issues with compassion and a positive spirit with the intent of creating a  better or more equitable organization/community. Listening to difficult issues with openness and curiosity.
  • Setting – Offering food, starting meetings with a land acknowledgement, arranging the room in a circle, and spending time to check in with the people you’re meeting with
  • Invite the stranger – Engaging and empowering our clients and community to get involved in important decisions, policies and investments that impact their lives. Inviting and considering different perspectives to provide input into the conversation or decision.
  • Learn in public – Admitting mistakes, learning from them, and sharing what we learn.

Gracious Spaces will NOT always be comfortable. But Gracious Space provides one tool for us to use to dismantle white supremacy culture on our journey to becoming a truly Antiracist Multicultural Organization in a transformed society.

When you attend your next meeting, think about how Gracious Space shows up (or not). What can you do or suggest to the meeting organizer to incorporate more Gracious Space?

By Janice Deguchi, Executive Director