My mission is to build and support a community of people committed to love, learning, accountability, and action on race in America. My particular focus is on helping individuals and organizations move forward from awareness of race, diversity, and inclusion to action and accountability. I have a strong and unwavering belief in people and that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve his or her highest potential.
I envision a future of abundance where all people in our society attain the highest level of professional and personal success and we happily live, study, work, worship, create, and celebrate together.
What I Believe
Racism is pervasive in all aspects of US society, but it is also a choice, learned behavior that can be unlearned. If we each work on dismantling our personal racism, we could end systemic racism, the underlying problem of many other problems in our country.
If we ended personal and systemic racism, millions of peoples' lives would dramatically improve- in fact, all of our lives would improve, because racism harms both the oppressor and the oppressed. And we would have momentum and a tremendous amount of newly freed talent, time, and energy to expend on solving enormous challenges, including income inequality and global warming.
Companies that engage and embrace diversity become more profitable and effective. Employees who feel respected and valued are more engaged, productive, and loyal.
Recruiting is only part of the diversity equation. Inclusion is equally if not more important or else the best employees will become entrepreneurs or find another employer where they feel valued.
For diversity and inclusion to produce desired results, leadership has to be deeply invested in its success, role model inclusionary culture, and declare inclusionary behavior a cultural norm.
Requiring a BA when college remains so far out of reach for so many virtually guarantees a workforce that is predominately privileged. Employers should consider hiring employees without a BA and provide tuition reimbursement and credentialing training.
Employees from underrepresented groups should be connected to mentors and sponsors and provided ample leadership development opportunities so that the company becomes diverse at all levels of the hierarchy.
Feedback is an essential building block of inclusion. Leaders and colleagues need to be open to receiving and learning from feedback from colleagues for inclusion to work.
Becoming more inclusive is a learnable skill, and one that will have increasing value in the marketplace.
People always want to know why as a white woman I am an outspoken advocate for racial equity. My activism for justice and equality began in elementary school. As an adult, I helped immigrants become citizens and urban young adults launch tech careers. I loved my work, especially the many hours I spent developing relationships based on trust with young people of color- people I met through work I otherwise would not have met.
My mentees became my best mentors, teaching me what it is like to be a young person of color in our society. They are very grateful for their tech careers and incomes, but nonetheless encounter tremendous discrimination. Their stories made me very upset, and raised my awareness of how different my life is from theirs. I spent a long time looking in the mirror asking myself what I was doing to contribute to racial inequity. Meanwhile, every time police kill another black or brown young person, it makes my heart hurt, because the victims could have easily been one of my mentees.
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 realized that most of my career had focussed on preparing people of color to thrive in largely white environments. 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 what we are doing. Especially now, we feel like we want to do something about racism, but we have no idea what to do 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."
My mission is to build and support a community of people committed to love, learning, accountability, and action on race in America. I hope you will join us!
BIO AND CREDENTIALS:
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.
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