Balance of Air Time as a White Facilitator
Question: How do I find a balance between sharing my observations as a white male facilitator and having participants engage? As a white male facilitator, I want to be sure not to take up an unfair amount of airtime.
I agree! What I love about your question is when we have one or more privileged identities, we have to be very careful in workshops to have people teaching each other.
In the course I’m developing, I’ll talk about three ways to think about design. Is the activity coming from the presenter to the whole group? This means I’m directing it and so I’m usually introducing it, debriefing it, and talking in-between participant comments. Having some of this type of engagement is useful, but given all your privileged identities, you may want to minimize these. so you avoid the common trap of people asking you questions, and you answering.
So, (a) when people ask questions, throw it out to the group, “What do others think?” Or you can engage the person who asked the question, “What do you think?” or “Tell me more about what’s underneath the question.” And/or you can have all participants write down a response and share in pairs or small groups before discussing in the large group. This would be a style called participant-to-participant. I’m still holding the learning container, but they’re sharing and teaching each other.
So, you as you intentionally thinking about using small group activities, you may develop a worksheet that folks do individually, and then they share in a dyad before debriefing in large group. This way you can still add a point and highlight key comments as you decenter yourself.
Now, a caveat is when you have them do an activity that may be more moderate risk, like sharing early socialization experiences. In this case, I believe as facilitators we need to model, briefly, what we want people to do and the depth of authenticity we are hoping for. So, early on in the workshop I might have people think about four to six of their group memberships and how they were treated based on their identities.: in ways that may have open doors or created barriers, felt respectful or disrespectful, etc. I encourage people to usually choose some privileged and marginalized identities to discuss. By then we’ve talked about these concepts.
Before they have time to reflect, I quickly model the activity. I’ll give headlines how as a white, middle/professional class young girl I experiences some barriers but also, looking back, now can see how many doors were opened for me, given my privileged identities. I invite them to choose bravery as they then reflect, and then each have 5 minutes to share stories with a partner.
This is an example of how I intentionally use my airtime to set the frame for an activity, and model the depth of honesty I’m hoping for. Think critically about how you use airtime. Are you modeling vulnerability? Are you telling stories of when you messed up and what you learned and what you do now? Are you modeling how to be a white male advocate, ally, accomplice? Through short personal stories and not using the “telling” style.
All of us with 1+ privileged identity need to be careful to not fall into the potholes of taking up lots of airtime, using mostly a teaching/telling style, but instead work to be engaging dialogue and modeling/ inviting short storytelling. To help get participants out of their heads and into their hearts/full body, we can strategically use our airtime to model 1-2 deeper levels of authenticity than we want them to go.