My Story

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.

Anthony Josey, my mentee and friend, NYC 2014

Anthony Josey, my mentee and friend, NYC 2014

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.jpg

Karen Fleshman, Esq. helps people and companies understand how conscious and unconscious biases work and develop an inclusive culture where all viewpoints are welcomed and valued. She speaks, writes, and offers training and coaching.

Karen dedicates much of her time to police accountability activism as a cofounder of San Franciscans for Police Accountability. She serves on the workgroup overseeing the implementation of the US Department of Justice recommendations for ending bias at the San Francisco Police Department.

Despite growing up in one of the least diverse regions in the country, Karen's commitment to equal opportunity began in elementary school.  She has worked for diverse, inclusive organizations throughout her career, where her mentors, mentees, colleagues, leaders, friends and most of all, the people she served helped her develop cultural competency skills. 

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. 

Academic Credentials

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