On a clarity of belief

Knowing your beliefs and helping people around you get clear on their beliefs is critical for multiracial institution building

Karla L. Monterroso
4 min readOct 18, 2023

I tend to think that folks have a directional inclination to what they believe. This feels good, this feels bad, this feels gross, this feels joyful are about as close as most of us get to the core of our beliefs.

Most institutions do not encourage us having our own beliefs, they encourage us to defer to their beliefs and perform fealty to them. That performance of fealty then becomes the way you get social capital and power inside of those institutions.

Pre-internet — access to community was the only lever of power you could get outside of institutions and that carries a lot of muscle memory. So in essence, we’re trained to defer beliefs to others who “know more”. But it is often hard for folks to distinguish between people who know more and people who are putting on the best most vibrant performance.

We tend to defer our beliefs to the places we are most desperate to belong to. It manifests in us choosing our deference along the lines of people who we think make us good, smart, successful, desirable, patriotic, or faithful to be in alignment with. It becomes about an identity instead of belief.

This becomes dangerous inside of institutions once they aren’t homogeneous because to be in multiracial/cultural relationships you have to build across difference. It’s hard to build across difference if you’re talking about deferred belief.

Have you ever been in conversation and find a person won’t go deeper than a talking point they heard, so it becomes hard to build relationship? That is the impact of deferring belief. The defensiveness we see or experience comes from protecting an identity rather than sharing a belief.

When I engage in a question of belief before having examined my own – it is sooo tempting to defend who I want to be even at the sacrifice of further clarifying who I am. I’m a good person and good people believe X. So I can’t examine this or it threatens me being a good human. I’m a good Christian and good Christians believe X so I can’t examine this or it threatens me being a good Christian. I’m a good activist, I’m a good business person, I’m a good family member, I’m a good friend, I’m a good American, and on and on and on.

In multiracial institutions and society we will have to do the work of getting each other to understand our beliefs and the institutions beliefs. This way we can see the tradeoffs we are making to be a part of this particular place in this particular moment. We understand when those tradeoffs are minimal to us or too broad to continue. This gives us true choices.

Deference is the bread and butter of homogeneity. A group of folks lock step and not made uncomfortable because of a lack of sameness. Construction of the tools for self-knowledge and the tools to be in community has to be the domain of multiracial/cultural institution building.

The difficulty of our moment is how many “leaders” we have that don’t actually have their own set of beliefs. They have power but use that power in deference to an identity that gives them social capital. We want leaders with beliefs. We will also have to contend that when people have beliefs, not every belief will be the same as our own, nor does it completely allow us to extrapolate the entirety of their beliefs from this one thing. It means we will have to learn to respect difference in a world that has trained us that a lack of homogeny MUST mean something is wrong and should be eliminated. We will have to build muscles for that. Muscles we clearly don’t have.

In the coming years we will have to come up with beliefs for our relationship to money, violence, capitalism, professional partnership, pace of change, information, decision making rights, access to decision makers, privacy — just to name a few. If the entirety of the belief is — that thing bad — we haven’t dug far enough. We will have to ask ourselves — why do we believe it is bad? Where does that belief come from? What does that tell me about the core of my worries? What does that tell me of the core of my hope? How would I have structured it differently? What do I need to know to get a better sense of the limitations or opportunities. There is so much there for us to mine and understand. We will be better together if we can do that work for ourselves and push our communities to have conversations about where our personal and community beliefs diverge but why community together is still meaningful and worthwile investment.



Karla L. Monterroso

Leadership coach, strategist, racial equity advocate, Covid survivor, long covid, former CEO @Code2040, former @HealthLeadsNatl, @PeerForward, @CollegeTrack.