Tag Archives: racism

Understanding Racism: An Open Conversation

Top view of international business team showing cooperation with putting their hands together on top of each otherBy  Vanessa R. Cummings, CAPP, MDiv

Courageous conversations are key to leadership and IPMI is opening the door to offer us the opportunity to talk about a subject that, to some, may be hard to discuss: race. No, not race car driving, but understanding racism. What it is, what does it look like, and what does it feel like?

It’s time to have a conversation in a safe setting, respectfully moderated, with real-world examples. Of course, we will also include some humor and lots of discussion. I’m sure there are questions you’ve always wanted to ask. You can ask them here. There are viewpoints you want to share but didn’t have a proper place to share them. You can do it here.

You may wonder if this is worth the investment. I say absolutely. Not because I am facilitating the discussion, but because we cannot move forward without knowledge and understanding. Understanding Racism is a timely conversation based on where we are today–in what some call a “divided America.” We will discuss perception versus reality, the history of racism, racial micro-aggressions and their effects on human resources, team building, work relationships, customer service, and so much more. We’ll finish with a road map on where to go from here.

This course is relevant for every person in your organization, personally and professionally. Here’s the added benefit: You will get two CAPP points or .2 CEUs toward your initial application or recertification.

Join us for this important dialog Feb. 11. Sign up now.

Vanessa R. Cummings, CAPP, MDiv, is CEO of Ms. V Consulting, LLC. She’ll lead IPMI’s Understanding Racism course Feb. 11. Click here for details and to register.

Important Conversations

By Gary Means, CAPP

THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF CONVERSATIONS lately about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. If you didn’t get a chance to catch the Fireside Chat On Industry Inclusion back on August 20, 2020, I would encourage you to do so (click here).

I was joined by a fantastic panel:

  • Richard Easley, CAPP, president of E-Squared Engineering.
  • Keith Hutchings, director, municipal parking, City of Detroit.
  • Kim Jackson, CAPP, director, transportation and parking services, Princeton University.
  • Tiffany Smith, director, Parking Authority of River City, Ky.

I opened up the conversation with this statement: “As a result of the protests and news coverage in response to the very recent and preventable deaths of several Black Amer­icans, I did a little soul searching, listened to podcasts, read posts and articles, watched videos on YouTube and Facebook, and most importantly, had one-on-one conver­sations with several of my Black friends and associates. My eyes have been opened to a problem. I’ve learned a lot and while I’d love to change the world, I thought maybe focus­ing on my circles would be best.”

In this column, I want to expand a little more on my reasoning for asking IPMI if we could have an open conver­sation about inclusion. You see, until recently I understood very little about the challenges of the Black community in America and of our friends and colleagues in the parking and mobility industry. It took a horrible news story to really get my attention and for me to start digging deeper as I mentioned above. I now, more than ever, realize that things aren’t the way we think they are when we only look within our own circles, or when we look through our own lenses.

That is why I wanted to start this conversation. I’m sure I’m not the only white guy who hadn’t heard the term “driv­ing while Black.” Or if I had heard it, I must have ignored it. This phrase is just one of many things I’ve learned in my recent journey. The most important thing I’ve done is reach out to friends like the people on the panel listed above and asked difficult questions. I’ve specifically looked up Black acquaintances such as previous employees and leaders in my community. All have stories and all reinforce the fact that there is a deep-rooted issue in our society that needs to change.

A New Focus

So with the support of the leadership at IPMI, we will continue focusing on the topic of inclusion in the following ways:

  • Implementing this new column on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
  • Encouraging and establishing training sessions and courses.
  • Encouraging more open conversations that help us learn more about the needs of all of our members.

After our fireside chat, we were asked why did we not use the word “diversity” in the title or during our chat. Our answer centered around the idea that ”diversity” has been used a lot and folks might already have a preconceived idea about what it means—and that focusing on diversity alone might even water down the current issues of our day. We felt focusing on “inclusion” would be more powerful. Simply put, diversity re­fers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique while inclusion refers to the behaviors and social norms that ensure people feel welcome. The most powerful part of our fireside chat was hearing the experiences and stories of our esteemed panel. I hope it has encouraged or this column will encourage more courageous conversations within your organization.

Breaking it Down

To start off the first of many columns on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), I thought I might make an attempt to help break down some of the ideas and definitions of DEI.

Diversity vs. Inclusion: In simple terms, diversity is the mix and inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.1 Verna Myers says “Diversity is being asked to the party. In­clusion is being asked to dance.” In a recent blog post, Meg Bolger writes: If we aren’t clear on the words and ideas, (of DEI) how will we be clear on the solutions? Meg also included these definitions:

  • Diversity is the presence of difference within a given setting. Diversity is about a collective or a group and can only exist in relationship to others. A candidate is not diverse—they’re a unique, individual unit. They may bring diversity to your team or your hiring pool, but they themselves are not diverse.
  • Inclusion is about folks with different identities feeling and/or being valued, leveraged, and welcomed within a given setting (e.g., your team, workplace, or industry). You can have a diverse team of talent, but that doesn’t mean every­one feels welcome or are valued, is given opportunities to grow, or gets career support from a mentor.
  • Equity is an approach that ensures everyone access to the same opportunities. Equity recognizes that advantages and barriers exist, and that, as a result, we all don’t all start from the same place. Equity is a process that begins by acknowl­edging that unequal starting place and makes a commit­ment to correct and address the imbalance.2

I hope this first edition of our new diversity, equity, and inclusion column gives you some insight on what future col­umns may hold. If you have any ideas or questions, please feel free to reach out to me at gmeans@lexpark.org.

GARY MEANS, CAPP, is executive director of the Lexington& Fayette County, Ky., Parking Authority and chair-elect of IPMI’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at gmeans@lexpark.org.



Continuing the Conversation

By Kim Jackson, CAPP

GARY MEANS, CAPP, began the conversation for our industry of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the October issue of Parking and Mobility. I have the ex­treme pleasure of continuing the conversation for this issue.

DEI is a topic I am and have been passionate about throughout my career, mostly looking at the subject of equity. As a woman of color, I have never been afforded the same access as men or white women in parking and transportation and while breaking some barriers, I have had to make a conscious commitment to reduce those barriers for others, if at all possible along my journey.


Upon reflection when I think of having an even playing field of access, I reflect on all the microaggressions I have heard, have been directed my way and that I needed to respond to when appropriate.

Psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.” Microaggressions can come across as compliments, but they are not. They reveal the negative be­liefs or assumptions held by the individual and in our society. They are often connected to stereotypes.

Microaggressions happen below the level of awareness, often committed by well-meaning members of the dominant group or culture. Although there may be no intention of offense, the following examples are still problematic:

  • Statements that repeat or affirm stereotypes about a minority group or subtly demean that group.
  • Statements that position the dominant culture as nor­mal and the minority one as aberrant, or pathological.
  • Expression of disapproval or discomfort with a minority group; assuming all members of that group are the same.
  • Minimizing the existence of discrimination against a minority group.
  • Minimizing the real conflict between the dominant culture or group and a minority group.

Everyday examples many colleagues have faced:

  • Surprise that a person of African or Latino descent makes an insightful, profound, or intelligent remark. “She was really well spoken.”
  • Remarking how well-mannered or behaved a group of African-American children are.
  • Referring to how well persons of South East Asian “speak English.”

Moving Away from Bias

The question we need to begin asking ourselves is how we move away from bias and reduce microaggressions. Here are some possible approaches:

Become more culturally literate. Learn about people who are different from yourself—gender orientation, class status, culture, and ethnicity

Make the unconscious conscious—­increase your awareness:

  • Understand that bias is a normal part of the human experience; yet we do not need to wallow in it, nor do we need to carry inordinate shame about it.
  • Explore your own personal narrative. What values and behaviors did you learn growing up? How have those shaped how you see the world? What other cultures, classes, sexual orienta­tion, and genders were you exposed to as a child?
  • Develop the capacity for self-­observation. Compassionately see yourself in action, see yourself as oth­ers might. Share with others what your thoughts are (in a non-judgmental safe setting). Move away from knee-jerk reactions and habitual reactions
  • Create the PAUSE*, before you react:
    • Pay attention to what’s happening beneath the judgments and assess­ments. Slow down and really see what is happening.
    • Acknowledge your own reactions, interpretations, and judgments. Recognizing interpretations as in­terpretations moves you away from constructing them as fact.
    • Understand the other possible reactions, interpretations and judg­ments that are possible.
    • Search for the most constructive, empowering, or productive way to deal with a situation.
    • Execute your action plan.
  • Explore awkwardness or discomfort
  • Am I reacting to what is happening now? Is this person or situation cur­rently threatening to me? Is there any immediate action that needs to be taken? How do people or situa­tions like this affect my behavior on a regular basis? Is there somebody with whom I should talk about the circumstances?
  • Get out of your comfort zone and engage with people who are different from you.
  • Get feedback and information from others.

We are hopeful this column in the magazine is helping you think about and begin to conduct these conversations within your organization. Please send any feedback on this article to me—my email address is below.

Some of this information comes from Everyday Bias by Howard Ross.

KIM JACKSON, CAPP, is director of parking and transportation at Princeton University and former chair of IPMI’s Board of Directors. She can be reached at kimj@princeton.edu.