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Podcast: The Experience of Black Social Media Managers with Christina Roach and Victor Henderson

Posted on June 5, 2020


Christina Roach Victor Henderson GovLove
Christina RoachVictor Henderson
Christina Roach
Digital Content Officer
City of Dallas, TX
LinkedIn | Twitter
Victor Henderson
Communications Specialist
North Central Texas
Council of Governments
LinkedIn | Twitter

“Y’all, I’m hurt.” Christina Roach, Digital Content Officer for the City of Dallas, Texas, and Victor Henderson, Communications Specialist for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, joined the podcast to talk about what it’s like working in communications right now. They shared what they deal with as black government social media managers and managing social feeds with nonstop reminders of unjust and lethal treatment of people of color. They discussed how coworkers can be supportive and what led them to share their experience in a post to other government communicators.

Host: Kirsten Wyatt

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The post shared by Christina and Victor:
Y’all, I’m hurt.
TLDR: Please be considerate of the persons of color in this group when you post.
I am a government social media communicator, yes, but I am a black woman first. Watching videos such as that of the officer in Minneapolis is painful. It’s traumatizing. I think sometimes this group forgets that.
Government communicators of color are constantly exposed to videos of people who look like us whose lives are taken on camera and have to continue to do the same work we do each day like nothing is wrong. We’re in a perpetual state of shock, grief and anger but have to put all of that away because we serve the people and there is work to be done.
Still, it feels like we can’t turn to this group for support. Imagine watching a traumatizing video of a man who looks like your father, brother or cousin being robbed of his breath and life and coming to this group and seeing other communicators — who can more easily escape this narrative, even if for a period of time, by simply logging off — talk about needing a beer.
It hurts. Honestly. Our community is in pain. That family is in pain.
Our jobs are hard. We all deal with trolls, difficult coworkers and bosses and being overworked. But some of us do this while black. In our professional lives, the racist comments online, the insensitive interactions and mounting pressures to perform during a time when our health and financial security are even less certain adds even more stress. In our personal lives, we see our brothers and sisters killed and wonder if today is the day going for a walk or jog around the neighborhood will get us killed because of the color of our skin. There is no break for us.
If I can make one request from all of this, it’s compassion. As communicators who have already been dealing with quite a bit these past few months, the cases of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery hit even harder than usual. I recognize the work you do is tough, but understand that some members of this group live with far more weight on their shoulders than a hard job.
I feel like I can be honest with you all, so I’m putting all of my feelings out there. I hope you will receive it well.

Learn More

North Central Texas Council of Governments Website

City of Dallas Public Information Office


Episode Transcript

Kirsten Wyatt

Coming to you from Portland, Oregon, this is GovLove, a podcast about local government. GovLove is produced by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. We engage the brightest minds in local government. I’m Kirsten Wyatt, the ELGL co-founder and executive director, and today I’m joined by Christina Roach, the Digital Content Officer for the City of Dallas, Texas, and Victor Henderson, the Communications Specialist for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Christina, Victor, welcome to GovLove. Today, we’re talking about a recent post that Christina and Victor co-authored in the government social media community group on Facebook. We’ll talk about their inspiration for writing this post and what they want their local government colleagues to know right now. But first, let’s get started with a lightning round and of course Christina, you are up first to answer this question. What is your favorite font?

Christina Roach

Hmm, I often lean towards script fonts. I really love script fonts or, not the main title, but the subtitle often, and so I just think they’re really pretty and usually I’ll go with something like Cornerstone J S, I think is my absolute favorite.

Kirsten Wyatt

Good. Okay. And Victor, what about you?

Victor Henderson

So I’m a huge fan of whatever the font is, in the Adidas logo and I say Adidas, I think most people in America say Adidas. But yeah, whatever it is that they use, that’s my absolute favorite.

Kirsten Wyatt

Got it. That is an answer to this question that we’ve never received. [Laughter] So cheers to you for that. Okay, Victor, you’re first on this next one. What is your most controversial non-political opinion?

Victor Henderson

Okay, see, I feel like you’re going to try to get me cancelled really early on in this podcast [laughter]. Let’s just get into it because mine is that peanut butter, it doesn’t go anywhere near jelly. I really find that that’s on taste, like that’s just……[laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

Do you pair it with anything?

Victor Henderson

No, you don’t put, well you can you can pair peanut butter with things, you can pair jelly with things, but you do not pair them together.

Kirsten Wyatt

Wow. All right, that’s bold. Christina, what about you? What is your most controversial non-political opinion?

Christina Roach

So I think I am one of the few people who actually like to say, and you may have gotten this before, but I say Jif instead of GIF, because I feel like the person who created it gets to name it. And so I say Jif.

Kirsten Wyatt

Wow!

Christina Roach

I hear a lot of people say GIF.

Kirsten Wyatt

That is controversial. I feel like, I feel like there’s gonna be some feedback on that one, too. All right. Last lightning round question, Christina, you’re up first, if you could have coffee or a drink with any historical figure, who would you select and why?

Christina Roach

Hmm. Uh, I think that’s really tough. But if I could pick someone who is alive, I probably would pick Michelle Obama. I think she has endured a lot while she was first lady. And she still came out very graceful. And so I really do idolize her for that.

Kirsten Wyatt

That’s a great pick. I might have to crash that party. Victor, your choice.

Victor Henderson

So I, I always tell people I spent two years in Egypt because I went on a trip back in  December of 2019 and left in January of this year. And so I guess because of that, I would like to talk to someone from the 19th dynasty probably Ramesses the Great, the Pharaoh. And just, you know, ask a few questions. I just just want to talk. If it’s really intriguing to me, of course, I would need I guess, a translator, by speaking who can miraculously speak English, or I can speak ancient Egyptian. But yeah, I think that’s who I would want to sit down and have a drink with.

Kirsten Wyatt

Another interesting pick. Well, thank you for that. Thanks for letting us know a little bit more about you. But I’d love for you to share more with our listeners about your professional background and your career path that led you to the positions that you’re holding today. Um, so Christina, why don’t you start and tell us more about your professional career.

Christina Roach

Okay, so I actually started my government career while I was still in college. I actually grew up with parents who served in the community and so I always knew that I would serve or be a public servant in some capacity. And so I started at the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which is where Victor also works, but in a different department. Then I briefly moved to my university and I loved COG so much that I went back and actually took a position in the transportation department, which is where I met Victor. Of course after college, once I graduated, I went to the Fort Worth Housing Authority, where I really enjoyed just telling the stories of all of the people that were helped by the many awesome programs that were offered by the Housing Authority, and loved that for as long as I was there. And then I joined the City of Dallas Public Affairs and Outreach department, which is now Communication Outreach and Marketing. And I’ve been the Digital Content Officer since July of 2019. Well, almost going to be a year really soon. And so I’ve just really been enjoying being a part of the City of Dallas staff and just helping the residents of Dallas, keep up with information from the city and participate in the public process.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and as I was researching today’s episode, I came across someone who described themselves as one of your fan girls, and said that your debrief, they say that your debrief is the best internal communications newsletter they’ve ever seen. So…

Christina Roach

Oh my god. [Laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

I thought, I thought what high praise and maybe in another episode, we could talk about internal communications, because I thought that was some very nice compliments for you out of your budget office.

Christina Roach

Wow, that’s great.

Kirsten Wyatt

And Victor, tell us more about your career path.

Victor Henderson

Sure. So I have a bachelor’s degree in film and television and a master’s in journalism. And when I was working on my bachelor’s degree, I quite literally said I want to get paid to be on Twitter all day. So moving on to grad school, I was working as a reporter. And we, myself and my team, we would go and talk to low income individuals and family and ask them what it was they felt like was being overlooked by people in positions of power or just in positions of privilege to be able to help ’em and outside of that also reported on public education. And I did that for two years, then wanted to move into managing social media. So I applied for the job here at COG. And I’ve been in this position managing social media, getting paid to be on Twitter, like I said, I wanted to, for three years now.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so both of you have brought up storytelling and you know, this idea of, of telling stories about these agencies and these programs that you’ve worked with, where did that come from in your lives? Is this something that, that you’ve been doing since you were kids or is this something that you know, was something later in life or in your career that, that attracted you to Government Communications?

Christina Roach

Um, I guess I will start. I actually, my mother was a PR consultant for all my life and she had her own business. And I think somewhat of her work sort of inspired me even as a young child. I think I tried to write my first book, I said I wanted to be the youngest published author ever. And so I started writing a book when I was nine years old. [Laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

Oh wow!

Christina Roach

Yes. So I’ve been doing storytelling for a long time and and so I knew that I had a passion for for writing and telling stories. So I made it my college degree and now my career so.

Kirsten Wyatt

And what was 10 year old Victor doing? Was he, was he storytelling or?

Victor Henderson

He was.

Kirsten Wyatt

Okay, tell us more.

Victor Henderson

Yeah, so when I was younger, it was pretty much the same as Christina. I had always had an interest in telling stories. That was my best subject in school. If you asked me what two plus two is, I’m going to try to, you know, carry the one and show my work. But I’m also going to need a calculator to double check. So I always lean toward writing and telling stories in any way. I wanted to study film and television in college, because that was another way that I could tell stories. I can write, but I can also tell stories visually. And that’s what I enjoy about my job currently.

Kirsten Wyatt

So let’s talk now about your recent posts in the government social media community Facebook group, and for our listeners who aren’t part of that group and didn’t see it firsthand, would you mind reading it for us, please?

Christina Roach

Okay. Y’all, I’m hurt. TLDR which means Too Long Didn’t Read. Please be considerate of the persons of color in this group when you post. I am a government social media communicator, yes, but I’m a black woman first. Watching videos such as that of the officer in Minneapolis is painful. It’s traumatizing. I think sometimes this group forgets that. Government communicators of color are constantly exposed to videos with people who look like us, whose lives are taken on camera and have to continue to do the same work we do each day like nothing is wrong. We’re in a perpetual state of shock, grief and anger, but have to put all of that away because we serve the people and there’s work to be done. Still, it feels like we can’t turn to this group for support. Imagine watching a traumatizing video of a man who looks like your father, brother or cousin being robbed of his breath and life and coming to this group, and seeing other communicators – who can more easily escape this narrative even if for a period of time by simply logging off – talk about needing a beer. It hurts. Honestly, our community is in pain, that family is in pain. Our jobs are hard. We all deal with trolls, difficult co-workers and bosses and being overworked. But some of us do this while black. In our professional lives, the racist comments online, the insensitive interactions and mounting pressures to perform during a time when our health and financial security are even less certain and even more stress in our personal lives. We see our brothers and sisters killed and wonder if today is going to be the day that going for a walk or a jog around the neighborhood will get us killed because of the color of our skin. There is no break for us. If I can make one request from all of this, it’s compassion. As communicators who have already been dealing with quite a bit these past few months, the cases of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery hit even harder than usual. I recognize the work you do is tough. But understand that some members of this group live with far more weight on their shoulders than a hard job. I feel like I can be honest with you all. So I’m putting all of my feelings out there. I hope you all will receive it well.

Kirsten Wyatt

It was such a moving and heartfelt post and your honesty came through, which is precisely why I wanted you to come on today and talk with us about what inspired you to write the post and what we can all be doing to support our public communicators during this time. So let’s start with the why, you know, why was this something that you felt needed to be shared when you posted it in the group?

Christina Roach

So it all started when, it was actually another member of the group who had shared a post out of concern for another communicator who worked for a city in which another black man was killed by a police officer, which I understand. I understood the reason for the post, but I started actually reading the comments. And I felt that the comments were of a very casual nature, when we were talking about something that was very serious, and very sad for a lot of members of the group. And so, another member of the group had actually commented and pointed out the, that it was a little insensitive, and it may alienate certain members of the group, particularly the people of color and even more particularly the black members of the group, who are probably grieving at this time. So, actually, her comment inspired me to comment under her post because I wanted to express my feelings. And that’s when I actually, I made my comment and I sent the post to Victor. And he actually encouraged me to make a post in the larger group for everyone to see. And I’ll let him tell you.

Kirsten Wyatt

Yeah, tell us more about how you work together and that encouragement to Christina.

Victor Henderson

Sure. So yes, Christina alerted me of the initial post, and I did read the comments. And I was talking to Christine and we both felt the same way that it, it just seemed to be the wrong time for those types of comments. And Christina told me how she felt, and that she wanted to comment on that post. And I told her that that was good. I thought it was good to respond to it, to the comments on the post. But I also felt like something needed to be said, more publicly, within the group. Something that can be seen by people without having to expand a comment section. And I was very frank with her. I said that I would do it, but I can’t. I don’t have the mental capacity to share that. I’ve had years of trying to appeal to people online, strangers, friends, whomever, and it takes a lot out of you to break things down and to hear people try to counter what your lived experience is. So I. not knowing people in the group, as well as some of the others. In the group, no others, I didn’t feel ready to share those thoughts. And I said, you know, it does need to be said, but I can’t do it, at least not today. And Christina said that she was ready. She was like, I can post it. No problem. And so I was like, okay, great. Then I will support you in whatever way you need. Just let me know how I can help. So she said that she would write a post in a draft, and she would send it to me, and I could provide my thoughts. So she did, I read over it, and I thought it was well written, but I and I just wanted to refine it a little bit and add a little bit more to it. And then I sent it back to her and then called her on the phone. And we went over it together. And I explained why I said what I wanted to say, what emotion I wanted to evoke. And she explained what she was trying to say, what she was wanting people to take from it. And that collaboration led to the post that was shared in the group.

Kirsten Wyatt

And what was your expectation for how it would be received? And, and what were your initial hopes for what would come from posting it?

Victor Henderson

I definitely, I think when we were talking about sharing something before anything was written, we already had an idea of what people might say, and this was all just based on our online interactions in the past, not necessarily because we said anything to anyone in this group before. So we were writing it knowing that okay, this saying it this way may cause this reaction versus saying it that way. It’ll cause that reaction. And so we kept kind of going back and forth between how do we address this? How do we say what we mean and say what we want without, it’s coming across as we’re attacking. So we expected to, since we felt like we were shaking the table, we expected that people would get on the defensive, we expected people to even say that they didn’t understand. And I told Christina, pretty plainly that if people commented that they didn’t understand where we were coming from, that that wasn’t a battle we should fight because what we wrote was clear, and it was thorough. And if we needed to do any further explanation or any further teaching, I say this all the time teachers get paid. So unless we were going to be paid to teach and and dig deeper into what we were trying to say, then it was probably best to allow people to figure things out on their own or let other commenters educate when and where they want.

Christina Roach

Yes, I would also like to add I was really nervous. I was so nervous about posting it, that I mentioned to Victor first that I said, I’m never going to get to speak at a GSM con ever again. [Laughter] I was concerned about that. But you know, also I really just, I felt like either way I wanted it to be said and but I was also really concerned that there would be a major backlash. And that kind of the comments would put me back in that mental space that was really just negative. And because you know, reading those comments, those types of comments, it hurts. I mean, you try not to let it hurt, but it does hurt. So I was afraid that I would have to just completely ignore the post forever because it could get potentially really negative, but we were, we were both actually hoping that maybe no one will comment, maybe people will just like or heart or even the angry emoji. We were like, that’s way better than having to read a whole lot of negative comments. But luckily, it didn’t go that way.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so what were some of the reactions that stood out to you from that group post?

Christina Roach

Honestly, everyone’s reaction was so positive. It was just, it was overwhelming. mean, just immediately after posting it so many people were really just compassionate, offering kind words and, and encouragement. A lot of people were trying to understand or wanting to know, like, what they could do better, how they could help. Most people were very, very sweet. And I was really, really pleasantly surprised by that.

Kirsten Wyatt

Any observations, from you Victor?

Victor Henderson

Yeah we both were just surprised at how well received the post was. And I think there was one comment that was left where someone didn’t understand what we were so bothered by. And I know that I expected more of that. I think Christina did too, which is why we kind of talked about it, we’re not going to respond, we’re not going to explain anything further. And we’re going to try to keep this just as a post meant to inform. And not, it’s not an attack. We didn’t mention anyone directly. I think if we did want a specific person to know, likely what would have happened is that it would have just been a message sent to that person directly. So it wasn’t us calling out any individual person. But we just wanted to make sure everyone knew what people were thinking. I think the fact that Christina and I both felt the same way showed that it’s not just one person feeling this way, it’s not just two people feeling this way. If two people feel this way, then it’s very likely more than that feels this way. So if no one else is going to say anything, then maybe we should. So I was overall surprised, but glad that we got the reaction that we did.

Kirsten Wyatt

And did any of your co-workers at the city or the COG, see the post and have any reaction or feedback for you?

Christina Roach

Go ahead, Victor.

Victor Henderson

That’s funny. I didn’t, I have one coworker who is in the group. And to my knowledge, she didn’t see it. I’m assuming that because she hasn’t said anything to me about seeing the post or, or anything and I haven’t said anything to her or anyone else. I’m not sure if I will. But it’s also one of those things that I don’t necessarily feel like I couldn’t mention, I couldn’t talk about at work.

 Kirsten Wyatt

Right. Right.

Christina Roach

My experience is slightly different, or my I should say, my my workplace is slightly different than Victor’s in that a lot of my or the majority of my department is comprised of people of color. And so I really was not concerned that even if people saw it in my department or even our city leadership is also primarily people of color. I wasn’t really concerned if they did see it, but we were also very careful when we were writing it to not be any thing that could potentially get us in trouble. So it was definitely a little nerve wracking, but I at least didn’t feel that it was going to be unsupported.

Kirsten Wyatt

And what struck me was the power and the value of creating authentic and real friendships. I mean, obviously the two of you sound like, like your great friends, but then you know the larger concept of having this government social media group to share information and and to share your feelings and it seems like it was just a reminder that these types of connections are so valuable for us to do our best work and to work in these really hard jobs. And I feel like your friendship and what I’m hearing from the two of you, but then even this larger group of being able to share is just a reminder of the power of those networks.

Christina Roach

Right. Definitely.

Kirsten Wyatt

As social media managers, you know, you’re on the front lines and you’re seeing community comments and reactions first, you know, before anyone in your agency and you’re doing a lot of listening, I mean, it’s not just telling stories, it’s listening and, and hearing from your community, and then how that affects your agency. Can you talk to us about this role and and you know, how much more difficult it’s become, you know, in the last two weeks, and then even in the last two months?

Victor Henderson

I will take this one first and just say that I, my organization is super obscure. So even though our region is about seven and a half million people strong, hardly anyone knows about it. So I find that it’s rare that we get comments. Any level of severity or like, we it’s very rare that we would receive comments on anything. We don’t since we don’t really do anything that ends up being breaking news or if there is breaking news, we’re not the ones that people turn to for information. I have a little bit more padding from the public. That’s not to say that I haven’t ever received racist comments or seen them, but it’s been easily two years since then. However, I love social media. It’s one of my favorite things to do both at work and when I’m not working. So I’m constantly seeing videos, articles, and hearing peoples thoughts and their grievances on both the news feeds and timelines on my professional pages that I manage, as well as on my personal pages. So it does get to be a little bit much at times. And it’s hard because social media used to be a place where I could turn to, to escape whatever was stressing me out and now I am having to try to find other ways that are productive.

Christina Roach

For myself, of course, as a as a city, we handled a lot of the communication for COVID-19 when it first started, and so when it first hit Dallas, particularly we started, you know, just chucking out as much messaging and information as we could about just everything COVID-19. And then there was a sudden shift, once shelter in place started happening and restaurants and bars and things started closing down, really everything is closing. And so then, of course, everything got political, and then wearing masks got political. And so then our comments started getting really coming from left field which is very interesting. And so of course, that was it was stressful, but that was everyone’s experience when they had to close places or they had to cancel events. But of course, once I think in May, maybe end of April when the Ahmaud Arbery video came out, that’s when it started really feeling heavy. And you know, you wake up and you’ve seen these videos, you’ve watched the videos overnight, and it’s like, I still have to go to work today, I still have to wake up and do all the work that I have to do because the people need their information. COVID-19 is still happening, and I have to do what I’m asked to do. But it’s hard. And then of course when George Floyd happened, and it just really became too much at that point. And so now not only are you dealing with the really negative comments on Facebook and Twitter and about having to wear masks or having to stay home, it’s also now I’m, I can’t escape the videos of Ahmaud Arbery, of George Floyd because of course as you probably know as a social media manager, you have to scroll down the timeline just to see what’s going on, what’s trending, you know, because you want to stay on top of those things. So it just feels especially as as a black person, you can’t escape that and so that weight just gets heavier and heavier. And of course with all the stress and just having to you just watch someone who you know, looks like your dad or looks like your brother, like, just be kids, like watching that video and then having to continue your workday, like everything’s normal and show to a meeting with a smile on your face. It’s been really rough in that regard, that’s for sure.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and the reason I wanted you to talk with our listeners today is because there are a lot of local government jobs where you aren’t plugged into the computer all day and you’re not scrolling for your job scrolling through timelines and and scrolling through feeds and seeing this and and that reminder of how, you know, seeing those videos and, you know, seeing it shown over and over again, it’s weighing on you in a different way than any other local government profession.

Christina Roach

Right. Right.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so for our listeners who don’t work in a social media role, what do you want them to know right now about, you know, what their social media contacts or their communications teams might need?

Christina Roach

Umm, I have a couple of things. I think the first thing is to just, number one, trying to understand, trying to understand first, the weight of everything. All the weight that you bear is, is our starting point. And then we have everything else. Just being a black person who feels like, you know, if my son leaves the house will he comes back, or if my dad gets pulled over, am I going to see him again. So understand that we have a lot of things to worry about on top of the regular stresses of our job. And so just like be compassionate and, and try to be caring and considerate toward us. And then secondly, one of the things that is always at the forefront whenever we see protests happening and and a lot of unrest is people not understanding white privilege. And so I’d say, to research that and learn everything you can. There are so many resources and you know, videos, if you’re more of a visual person, there are books but there there’s a lot of information out there for you to understand and and learn how you can use that privilege to help and to be an ally for us. And then I also wanted to just address my black brothers and sisters as well. Because I think that there’s this pressure to be strong and to sort of tough through it. And so I just wanted to say that it’s okay to not be okay. You do not have to be strong for your family, not for your people, not for your kids, your job. You do not have to be strong, it is okay to break down. Let all your feelings out. I always recommend to sit down with other people who understand and and grieve together especially men, I think a lot of men feel like they have to be tough and, and strong for their families and, or even just to not appear weak. But it’s not weak to feel, it’s not weak to cry. So that is, that is my primary message is to just please let your feelings out because unhealthy coping mechanisms can really be very dangerous. And so I just want everybody to be well and to be in a good mental space, because we already have so much to deal with.

Victor Henderson

I’m gonna try not to be I’ll try not to be super long winded, but this is a really good question. So I think I’d want people to know that there is a person behind the screen. So when you’re leaving your comments, or messages or whatever, just remember that someone is reading them and you never know what they’re dealing with. It could be something that day, that week, that month that year. So just be careful with how you interact with people. And it goes both ways, of course, but that’s what I would definitely want people to know. And then, especially during this time, we’re dealing with a virus, that it seemed like week after week, even really, day after day, there were new symptoms that you had to look for. And there were new reports and cases, and we don’t really know how people are contracting this virus. We don’t really know how well people are going to do once they’ve recovered if they recover, so that was stressful enough, that’s stressful for anyone. And when you’re looking at managing social media, you’re having to deal with comments from the public, and you’re having to continue doing the work that you would normally do in an office. Maybe you’ve got a full setup there that you don’t have at home. You’re having to readjust and learn how to do your job and be just as productive during a time when also we don’t know how the economy is going to fare and how our job security will be throughout this. So we’re all dealing with that. And then we start to report that black COVID-19 patients are dying at a much higher rate. And we know that there is a tendency in the healthcare system to overlook the needs of black patients. So, as black professionals, we’re hearing this and we’re thinking, okay, well, I’m black, if I get COVID-19, I could end up in the hospital and I could possibly not be taken care of the way that I need to which could possibly result in my death. So this is very real and very scary for us. So what I would want is it’s kind of a three fold answer here. To white people, I would want them to understand that the conversations have to be had. It’s uncomfortable for everyone, like Christina and I were uncomfortable. It’s the reason why I didn’t post the post that Christina ultimately ended up sharing. And it’s the reason why she and I went back and forth and we went through it with a fine, fine tooth comb to make sure that everything was said clearly and, and in ways that would not, hopefully not alienate anyone. So the conversations are uncomfortable, but they need to be had and you need to talk to the people in your circle, no matter how tightly or loosely, they are, family, friends, and it’s best to have conversations with people who are either teetering, so they may agree that racism is bad, but maybe they disagree with other parts. They’re not fully on the anti-racism side of the spectrum. So talk to those people and challenge their beliefs challenged. Ask them why a racist joke they thought was funny, is funny, or why they are acting on racism or ideas that are rooted in racism. Talk to them and have those uncomfortable conversations and make them uncomfortable to laugh at those jokes, to act on those prejudices. To non-black people of color, there is anti-black, there are anti black sentiments that are part of many of those communities. So recognize that, challenge that, and understand that we are all in this together to black people. I want you to know that we’re all here like, I struggle with this day to day I, some days I wake up, and I’m fine. Some days I wake up, and I’ve got a lump in my throat and I’ve got tears in my eyes and 15 minutes later, I have to click Join meeting. So I see you, I’m there with you. But I do believe we will get through this. So that’s what I want everyone listening to know.

Kirsten Wyatt

You raise an interesting point, and I’d love to know more about how you successfully be a social media manager, when there are issues that are so obvious. For example, you brought up the disproportionate number of black patients that get COVID, things related to police reform and excessive use of force. I mean, these are all issues that swirl around in all of our local governments and what are the solutions? How do you balance being a communicator for your government organization, when some of those issues have not been fully discussed or resolved or even sometimes are heading in a direction that’s completely contrary to what you believe in?

Victor Henderson

For me, I do everything with heart and mind. So I know that I don’t normally deal with, like I said breaking news. So we have had updates, COVID-19 updates, but since my department focuses specifically on transportation planning, we don’t necessarily deal with the cities and counties and state or with the state, on public health or on necessarily on public safety as it relates to the police. But there are maybe certain things that are tied into those, or there’s maybe a day that is typically celebrated. And I try to think about what from my heart, what we need to do, and I will, since I’m the person who all the posts go through, I will explain, I’ll just be quite frank with people if I need to explain to you that, you know, the reason we can’t say this, the reason we can’t post it this way is because this is happening or this is problematic, and it’s getting easier but I’m still having to learn how to do that.

Christina Roach

I also really struggle particularly on police related posts, especially during times like these because you know, of course as a, as a social communicator for your city, there’s a side you are expected to be on. And I think that it’s really difficult to be yourself, which is a a black person who you know, may have some struggles with how the police deal with things and treat people who look like me, while also communicating some of their initiatives. And so, I think that the, the idea is when you communicate things, is it for the overall safety of the people? And is it something that is healthy? I try to usually gauge it by that. And if and if it is something that I feel maybe an ethical lapse for me or something that I’m struggling with, I try to bring those concerns up with my boss and I and I do feel really blessed to have someone over me who understands those concerns. Because it has not always been like that for me. So I really feel blessed in in that regard, and usually we’re able to find a way to work it that, at least not alienate a certain part of our audience or, or sometimes that she will take over or we will find a way to work with someone else or retweet from the … or something like that. But it definitely is really tough to, to work as a communicator for your city, especially when things are not necessarily something that you agree with.

Kirsten Wyatt

And I think you bring up a great point for our listeners who might manage communication, communications departments or social media functions, about that giving of grace and of some conversation and discussion, especially when your black social media managers are dealing with so many other things on the timeline. It’s not the time to just be throwing messages out without having that communication and that conversation. Um, so I’m really glad that you brought that up.

Christina Roach

Mm hmm. Right.

Kirsten Wyatt

If you had to leave our listeners with some final thoughts, what might you share with them today?

Victor Henderson

Well, I would say okay, sorry.

Christina Roach

[Laughter] Go ahead, that is fine.

Victor Henderson

Okay. I would say that we all have a part that we can play, but our parts are different. So, when it comes and I, I want to say that when it comes to supporting people, especially black people, the number one thing that you can do is put your money where your mouth is. If you can’t, or don’t want to be on the front lines, if you don’t want to be out there physically, marching and protesting, then put your money where your mouth is. Donate to the organizations, and the funds that are helping black people and people of color. Make sure that the money is going to places where people are fighting for justice, equity, equality. If you are going to put yourself on a line, on the front lines, go out to these protests. Then connect with the organizer or the organizers and ask them what it is you can do. Ask them what it is they want you to do. I would say, do not go in with your own plan. Don’t go in trying to change the plan. Be someone who can help amplify whatever message is being spread instead of creating confusion because I promise you it’s going to end up being worse for the people that you’re trying to help.

Christina Roach

That was great. Um, I guess if I were to ask something I would say first, to check on your black friends and co-workers. I can personally say that when you don’t at least check in just to say, hey, I’m thinking of you, let me know if you need anything at all. It does feel like you don’t care or that it’s not important to you. And so I’d say at least just reach out, just to show that, that this person is of value to you and you, you care about their feelings and what they’re going through right now. But it’s important to offer support and not commentary. So, one of the things that, there’s a post going around on Facebook, and I really liked what it says. A lot of it is a really good guide on how to be emotionally supportive of your black friends. The essential tenets are to not ask this person to be a spokesperson for black people, not ask about the looting, don’t ask about the writing and don’t mention all lives matter. Don’t minimize the fear that they’re feeling. Because all of these things, just put them back into that negative space and take them back to the trauma that they were feeling when or that we always feel just having to read the comments under some of these videos and, and so it’s it’s really important that when you offer emotional support, that you are only offering support and not trying to lecture or say I support you, but… so that’s number one. Number two is, if you are a supervisor, or a director or some person who is in leadership, check in on your black employees. Offer them some time to regroup and recenter, just you know if you need to give them a day or extra break time, offer to lighten their load, just some sort of gesture to show that you want to support them and help them feel a little bit better and get back into a mental space where they can be fully present at work, instead of having to put on face which many of us feel like we have to do. And then lastly, vote, vote, vote, vote. Tell your kids who are eligible. Tell your friends, tell your family vote, because if we are going to bring about change and reform, we all have to participate. Voting is something I’m very passionate about. I’m a super nerd. So I became a voter, a deputy voter registrar. [Laughter] Yes, yes. very much a very, super nerd. So if you live in Dallas County, I can help you register to vote. But just, you know, go to vote.gov and or visit any website, visit your election, visit your city’s website or your County’s website and find out how you can vote or how you can register to vote. The deadline is coming up. And we want everybody to vote not only in the presidential elections, but your local election, the midterm election, just vote for everything that you can vote for.

Kirsten Wyatt

All the way down the ballot. That’s right, like those local offices are so important as well. So that’s that’s a great reminder. Well, I want to thank you both for coming on. But we have our last question, and it’s always tough when we have two guests. Because we will have to see which one of your answers wins out. So no pressure, but it’s kind of a competition. If you could be the GovLove DJ, what song would you pick as our exit music for this episode? And I think, Victor, it’s your turn to go first.

Victor Henderson

Oh goodness. So Christina and I talked about this together because it was really difficult. [Laughter] So I don’t know if there’s going to be much of a competition.

Kirsten Wyatt

Okay, good.

Victor Henderson

So I actually want to, I’ll talk to Christina since we left we talked about this and yeah. I will let her…[laughter]

Christina Roach

[Laughter] So I think after much thinking, we decided on This is America by Childish Gambino.

Kirsten Wyatt

Good choice, good choice. And I think that that’s a first for GovLove. [Laughter] So we’ll turn it over to our producer Ben Kittelson to make that happen. I want to thank you again for joining us today on GovLove.

Christina Roach & Victor Henderson

Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

Kirsten Wyatt

GovLove is produced by a rotating cast of ELGL volunteers. ELGL is the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. Our vision is to amplify the good in local government and we do this by engaging the brightest minds in local government. For our listeners, you can reach us at elgl.org/Govlove or on Twitter @Govlovepodcast. Thank you for listening. This has been GovLove, a podcast about local government.

 

 


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