Skills for a multiracial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multicultural world

Karla L. Monterroso
5 min readNov 28, 2023
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

I cannot tell you how deeply I believe this moment in time is what it is because we are trying to build a multiracial, multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural society with the same systems, skills, and norms of a homogeneous society. That for us to solve these painful issues, we will have to divorce ourselves from those practices and build something new.

Yesterday, I wrote a Twitter thread about skills for a multicultural world, I went to go get a tattoo, and came back to hundreds of people engaging with it. It was yet another reminder of the thirst I have seen for tools for multiracial institution building and society. Below, I have brought the thread here and added to it based both on feedback and reflection.

On a skill level, I believe these are some of the skills we will have to get really good at:

  1. Identifying how power is moving. Having a power analysis is critical. We habitually place disproportionate risk on the most vulnerable in order to “function” by default. The way power moves right now is a current that distributes risk to the most disenfranchised, and we move with that current comfortably, and it demolishes our ability to build strategically.
  2. Having clear beliefs. For many of us, we do not define our beliefs, we defer to individuals or institutions we trust. This makes negotiating tough situations impossible because instead of sifting through beliefs many people are protecting the relationship they have to the individual or institution they defer to. We must not demand deference as a condition of participation and we must understand that deference dismantles negotiation.
  3. A deep relationship with conflict is important. Conflict cannot be the indicator something bad is happening, it must be transformed into a place of refinement. We must admit to ourselves our previous experiences and the histories that sit in the room with us while we negotiate and discover the way pain has been created. Only then can conflict be used to heal rather than divide.
  4. We need to name broken and/or assumed commitments. Often relationship with an individual or an institution is broken because we assume they have made a commitment they have not once made. Sometimes they break commitments that have absolutely been made. We must spend time defining commitments and build practices for doing so in perpetuity. When a commitment has been broken, repair is necessary.
  5. Understanding and embracing tradeoffs. Sometimes all the choices are shitty, and we can’t keep hating each other for making those choices. Not embracing tradeoffs causes us to put pain on flippin layaway, in doing so we create bigger and bigger tradeoffs that need to be made. We also can’t pretend that the tradeoffs that are made don’t exist. The space to grieve what we’ve traded away for all the right reasons should be sacred and honored.
  6. Grieving rituals and communal expressions of grief for more than death. We are carrying immense grief as a society. We must have our individual grieving practices. We must also insist on having communal grieving practices. This will allow us access to each other and allow us to move forward with reverence. Grief is not something that should be left to individuals and therapists alone.
  7. An acceptance of our personal annoyances and a discipline to not elevate annoyance into transgressions. Being in community is messy and is not always 100% easy. Even so, the sum of our parts can do more than the individual ever can. We will have to get real good at accepting annoyance or even inconvenience when in community. This does not make community any less important or valuable. Annoyance is not transgression. Even if it feels good to make someone who annoyed you a bad person for doing it.
  8. A relationship with and introspection of anti-Blackness, such that tradeoffs or pain aren’t ALWAYS being incurred by one community in order to be in coalition. Anti-Blackness is where we LEARNED to make the most vulnerable human disposable. It is the root of the root. We often make accepting anti-Blackness a condition of Black participation. There is no freedom or liberation that comes from that. We will have to learn how to question our reactions and behaviors to make coalition work. A centering of Black life is not a forgetting of everyone else. It is an acknowledgement of how deeply engrained this “logic” is in our lives.
  9. A relationship with and introspection of misogyny and the ways that our expectations of care create impossible conditions for women and femmes to participate and lead in our society. I have watched our resentment of women and femmes permeate every single multiracial space I have ever been a part of. Women who do not play support roles, who are not gifted at emotional labor, who refuse to be invisible — are disproportionately punished for their humanity, questioned and censured for the temerity to hold decision making rights, and resented for any emotion that isn’t “pleasant”.
  10. A relationship with and introspection of ableism. Ableism requires disability to feign ability, endanger themselves, or stay as invisible as humanly possible to participate in communal life. Even the slightest accommodations are seen as “extras” instead of table stakes. Ableism’s attachment to productivity as worth frames how we structure day to day life. Worth as innate to every being is critical for the building of multiracial/multicultural society.
  11. Decision making strategy and clarity, such that we give labor to the best possible way and place decisions are made. Decisions can be made through democratic vote, consent, consensus in smaller representative groups, or by representatives being selected to make choices. For all the work that has gone into decision making systems — they often deal with the execution of decisions that have already been made — not the context we used to make them. Being deliberative about that context will be necessary for more people to thrive in multiracial/multicultural community.

While these skills are eleven skills I’ve identified, there are of course, many more. They are not the default in our norms and some will actually require quite a bit of self-awareness and courage to adopt. One of the most gratifying parts of writing that thread was watching a bunch of people quote tweet a skill and say something like “oof, I need to work on this one”. I’m not laying out a perfect person we should expect to show up in the mirror or our lives on day 1. I’m laying out a journey we will all have to be on to create healthier, responsive, joyful, and interdependent community.

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Karla L. Monterroso

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