People always want to know why as a white woman I am an outspoken advocate for racial equity. On November 24, 2014, when the grand jury announced Darren Wilson would not face trial for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, something in me shifted. I spent a long time looking in the mirror asking myself what I was doing to contribute to racial inequity.
In doing so, I realized that most of my career had focused on preparing people of color to thrive in largely white environments. Though grateful for those opportunities, they encountered tremendous discrimination and their stories raised my awareness of how different my life is from theirs.
I decided that going forward, I would focus on helping white people understand ourselves better, so that we could form authentic caring relationships with people of color and dismantle systemic racism.
There are many people like me who grew up in largely white communities and now live in very diverse cities where we enjoy limitless career opportunities while many people of color born and raised in these cities subsist in joblessness and underemployment. We believe that racism is wrong, and Dr. Martin Luther King is awesome, but almost all of our friends are either white or Asian American.
We have very little understanding of what racism is and how we contribute to it in our daily actions, often without recognizing it. Especially now, we feel like we want to do something about racism, but we either have no idea what to do or don’t feel empowered to anything and when we try, it often doesn’t go very well.
While my focus is on race, I am committed to ending all forms of marginalization- including marginalization of white people. I am proud of my heritage, proud of the values my family instilled in me, and not at all ashamed to be white. I want everyone in our society to thrive and to recognize the humanity in each other.
As Bobby Seale says, "you don't fight racism with racism. You fight racism with solidarity."
I hope you will join us!
Official Biography & Credentials
Karen Fleshman, Esq. is an attorney, activist, single soccer mom, and a nationally recognized expert on racism, feminism, workplace fair practices, police brutality, and politics.
Working at Year Up, a nonprofit that prepares young adults without a college degree for corporate careers in tech, Karen came to understand the harm caused by tokenized hiring and the racism and sexism pervasive in the workplace.
In 2014, Karen founded Racy Conversations, a workshop facilitation company, to help people feel more willing and able to communicate honestly with each other about racism, and to do so with increased empathy and understanding.
Racy Conversations' mission is to inspire the first antiracist generation. In workplaces, Racy Conversations change culture by creating a brave space to address unconscious bias, microaggressions, sexual harassment, and allyship. Organizations including the Sierra Club, the Wikimedia Foundation, Yahoo, Sony, Xero, Upwork, KARGO, Pixar, and the Fred Hutch Cancer Center have hired Karen to assess their culture and facilitate Racy Conversations.
Karen's passion project is to build interracial sisterhood and raise antiracist children. She is the author of "Racy Conversations for White Women: Practicing Inclusion, Allyship, and Intersectionality in Everyday Life" to be published by Sounds True in 2020 and is a Medium Top Voice on Racism, Feminism, and Politics. Karen cohosts Inclusive Conversations in cities across the United States, events designed to unite women across age, race, sexual orientation, and class. She frequently facilitates workshops on “How to Teach Your Kids About Race.”
Karen was arrested five times at the US Senate protesting the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh and once protesting family separation. She is a police accountability activist and volunteers on the workgroup overseeing implementation of the United States Department of Justice recommendations on ending bias in the San Francisco Police Department.
Karen is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, the University of Texas at Austin, and New York Law School, Evening Division cum laude, and is admitted to practice law in New York. She resides in San Francisco.
Prior to starting her consulting practice in the Bay Area, Karen was a founding team member of Year Up New York, where between 2007 and 2012 she led a fundraising team that fueled its growth from serving 27 students a year to 270 students a year. Previously, she served in the Bloomberg administration in the City of New York Department of Youth and Community Development in a variety of capacities, including Assistant General Counsel and Director of Internal Review.
She is a cofounder of Citizenship NYC, a city service that assisted 50,000 New Yorkers to apply for naturalization, and of Ladders for Leaders, a city service that connects low-income high school students to corporate internships and college. Karen began her professional career as an immigrant community organizer in Austin, Texas.
Juris Doctor cum laude New York Law School, 2003
Recipient of Evening Division Student Writing Award, Ralph Terhune Memorial Scholar, Mayor's Graduate Scholar, Notes and Comments Editor, New York Law School Journal of Human Rights
Article: Abrazando Mexicanos: The United States Should Recognize Mexican Workers' Contributions to its Economy by Allowing Them to Work Legally Spring, 2002 18 N.Y.L. Sch. J. Hum. Rts. 237
Master of Arts, Radio-TV-Film, College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin, 1995
Thesis: Comparing Communications Practices Between Authorized and Unauthorized Latino Immigrants, 1995
Bachelor of Arts, Mount Holyoke College, 1991
Study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Quito, Ecuador