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Brene Brown: Not Everyone Has the Privilege of Vulnerability

by Confluence
Reading Time: 3 minutes

By: Iyabo Onipede: Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.

I watched Brene Brown’s Netflix special and I had a couple of thoughts. I want to start out by saying I absolutely adore Brene and everything that she stands for. I have followed her work for many years and I expect that I will continue to follow her work. I respect her and admire her.

But there are some holes in the Netflix special that we should ALL be aware of as we listen to it.

Spoiler alert: She talks about not sending her Op-Ed price to the New York Times but instead to the local paper. My question is why did she think that the NYT was the benchmark and that she really ought to have sent it there and anything else was “less than?” This is what unconscious privilege and structural racism look like. Don’t get me wrong….. I read the NYT daily.

Issue #1: Privilege begins at the top, the singular icon at the top, and looks downward on all the “others” as not reaching the standard. Privilege whispers that this is where you belong and what you are entitled to. It is the beginning point and the end point. It begins with comparison and you must always come out on top.

Issue #2: Whose arena? Brene talks about the Theodore Roosevelt quote on being in the arena. It occurred to me that she is speaking about the arena built by the white male leadership model. It is the energy of fighting to be seen and respected by the gaze of the white male. It is about approval by a former disapproval. It affirms the space constructed on the toxicity of racial and gender harms as normative and something to be desired.

Issue #3: When she says she does not respond to those who are in the arena, then she excludes from her process of feedback those who will never have access to the arena because they have systematically and historically been excluded. Most academics have this issue and don’t know it.

Y’all, we keep trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and we don’t even know it.

Y’all, we keep trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and we don’t even know it.

I can think of black women leaders who have told me that they cannot afford to be vulnerable at work because they would lose their jobs. When a black woman feels anger and expresses it at work, she is labeled an angry black woman. When a white woman does the same thing, it is called righteous indignation and the white makes support her.

At the end of the day, what my beloved Brene Brown is saying ( I am absolutely certain that it is unconscious on her part) is that we should liberate our vulnerabilities in a culturally white way to create deeper connections in a way that is appropriate is culturally white settings.


How does connection and vulnerability work for those of us from other cultures and ethnicities?

Are we really ready for intercultural vulnerability?


More by: Iyabo

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Iyabo is a Leadership Development Coach whose work focuses on the soul of the leader. She moves leaders from thriving careers into discovering, crafting and living into their life work. By helping successful people integrate spirituality into their leadership roles, they become more engaged with their work, expand the connection of their work to social justice issues and experience more satisfaction in their life work. Using the power of narrative and reflection, she helps leaders fine tune the sacred “work their souls must have” (Alice Walker).

Iyabo is located in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Goucher College (B.A.), Georgetown University Law School (J.D.) and Candler School of Theology at Emory University (M.Div.).

Iyabo’s home on the web is at http://www.coachiyabo.com


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