Bringing What You Have to the Table: How to Support Others and Confront Problems in the Workplace
Another week, another blog post! Welcome back to Mind Over Practice! Today I really wanted to harp on an important topic that is relevant in the music world, but also in the real world given the inauguration that took place in America this week. As a continuation of our work at Brass Out Loud, and mine at Mind Over Practice, it’s important to talk about equity and equality, and it’s also important for us to never give up even in the face of adversity.
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
It’s not a secret that the brass field is dominated by white men. It’s not a secret that it’s hard to break into the industry without help from someone more well-known than you. It’s not a secret that there are still crude jokes made in sections and unfair auditions being held. It’s not a secret that there needs to be a change. While strides have been made, it’s not enough. When does the inequality stop? When does hiring know abusers stop? When do the unfair auditions stop?
This quote by Shirely Chisholm is everything. I’ve been seeing this become more and more relevant day by day. There are so many amazing men, women, trans, lgbt, BIPOC people going out there and changing the world on the daily, but sometimes it’s still a fight. Sometimes you do have to show up with your own folding chair and demand to be a part of the conversation. The brass, and music community at large, need to get rid of this toxic hierarchy. If you put 5 people in a room with the same level of talent and ability, people of all genders, shapes and sizes, races, sexualities, etc. and you listened to each of them play, who would you say was best? Think about your answer to this question long and hard.
They’re all equally good, so why is it that there are a fair few in that group of 5 who will not receive the same opportunities as someone else?
This is where equity kicks in. Hold up, don’t know what equity is? Take a look at this picture.
In the image on the left, each person is given the same box of the same height. However, the person in red can very much see over the fence, the person in pink can barely see, and the person in blue can't see at all due to the fact that they are both in a wheelchair and cannot get on the box.
The right side is an example of equity. Sometimes, some people need more to be able to experience the same things at the same level. Instead of the person in the red using the box, it's given to the person in pink so that they have two and can now easily see over the fence. The person in blue was given a ramp that was high enough for them to be able to see over the fence as well. Now they are EQUALLY able to enjoy the game together.
The next time you need a sub for something, you could pick your best friend, or you could pick someone you know is reliable and you know is in need of an opportunity to network, play well, and impress the people surrounding them. This comes down to thinking about others. There are so many people that we overlook daily that have so many great things to offer. What blows my mind is that some people are more content hiring a known abuser because they have a good name, over someone who's still up and coming, but impressive and who SHOULD be known. Moral of the story, people are replaceable. There are so many amazing musicians out there if you just look past the front row. Make them known.
What can you do to advocate for yourself?
First, if ever faced with first hand problems, confronted with sexist, racist, discriminatory remarks, or feel like you’re being talked down to, ALWAYS handle it with grace. It’s really easy to feel that burning rage in your chest, but the more graceful and non-bothered you seem by it, the more that others will recognize your strength. Bring that chair, play that lick, confront those remarks by telling people they’re unacceptable in the workplace. Your strength and determination is what makes people stop in their tracks and listen. If you present yourself in a way that challenges those small minded people, they’ll back down. They won’t question your talent. They won't question your worth. They will back down and if they don’t, they aren’t worth anymore of your energy. Some people aren’t willing to listen or change, and we cannot save them from themselves.
Lastly, if you’re someone who may not be completely caught up with the times, may address a room as ladies and gentleman, or think that sexist jokes are funny, don’t be surprised if you get called out. If you are someone whose intentions weren’t to hurt any feelings, or maybe you just weren’t aware, the best thing you can do is accept the criticism and be willing to change. If you’re someone who jumps and gets defensive, or thinks that we’re the ones being sensitive, well… all we can do is hope that you get on board with the times.
To sum this all up, anyone who feels underrepresented in our community, unheard, or disrespected, please bring your folding chair to the table. Don’t be afraid of anything. You have something to offer and we want to hear it; we want to see it.
Reminder that I am offering coaching sessions and lessons! More information can be found on my website www.rebeccakaru.com. Any questions, comments, or if you need advice, please contact me through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on instagram @mindoverpractice. That’s it for this week! Have a productive week of positive practicing!