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HomeICF Cleveland Statement On Racism and Systemic Inequality

Statement On Racism and Systemic Inequality

ICF Cleveland
As delivered by Chapter President Jonathan Reitz, MCC

June 19, 2020


This is not an easy time to be an American, or a Clevelander.   We've seen global sickness, record unemployment in a short time, senseless death, racial unrest, and a questioning of everything that on which this country was built. 


Here in Cleveland, we have not gone untouched.  Tamir Rice died here in our city, at the hands of police.  It's easy to forget that we have had a similar event to what happened to George Floyd on May 25.  This is not an isolated problem.  It hits close to home for us.  This is real.


ICF Cleveland holds inclusivity as one of our values.  To this point we have mainly attached that to coaches of all skill levels.  From now on, we declare that our inclusivity also means coaches of every ethnic and cultural group, without bias or exception.

CLE Sign


But at the same time, I am filled with hope that this moment will be a turning point.   The last three months have been a time of unprecedented change and grief, and it's shaken us to our collective core. 


In a statement the ICF released on May 31, Magdalena Mook, ICF CEO, Sara Smith, the Chair of the Professional Coaches Global Board, and Rajat Garg, the ICF Global Board Chair said:


"The continued perpetuation of systemic inequality is at odds with our shared values and vision as ICF. As coaches, we know that change often begins in moments of discomfort. Change begins with tough conversations. Change begins when we open ourselves to feedback about where we are getting it wrong and to guidance on what we can do to get it right. We must act."


This is inspiring.  And this is what coaches are capable of.   Coaches, and coaching, can be a part of the solution.


I want to push us, the members of ICF Cleveland to not just act, but also to speak out when we see moments of systemic racism or other miscarriages of justice.  We can be a part of a new normal that is better than anything that has come before.


Generations of pain end now.  Culture is not inherited, it is learned.  Let us commit to a culture that includes all, and makes the best opportunities available to all.  Now is the time, and coaches are the people.  We can be the guardians and caretakers of a new and better way forward.


This is the pledge the ICF has made to our members.

"As One ICF, we stand together. We stand for greater diversity and inclusion. We stand against racism. We stand against violence. We stand for respect, dignity and integrity."


There are two specific challenges I want to invite you into this morning.  First, I invite you as a member of this community to look unblinkingly into the mirror and take in everything you see.  It is impossible to change our response to racism without first examining ourselves.


I invite you to examine your world view, mental models, and frame of reference.  You are a professional coach.  You already know how to ask powerful questions and listen closely to the answers.  Ask yourself:

  • What preconceived ideas do you hold about people of other races or cultures?
  • What incorrect assumptions are you pursuing that affect others--intentionally or by accident?
  • How can you invite feedback into how you think about race?
  • How can you partner with someone else to learn new skills that will help you react differently to questions about race?


This won't be easy, and it won't always be fun.  But it will be worth it.  You've heard the quote "We don't see the world as it is.  We see the world as we are."  To see the world differently, we have to be different.  Now is the time for action.  And it starts with us.


Second, I invite you to speak up.  Evoke awareness, like coaches do, in every situation...even, no especially, where it would be easier to stay quiet.    Educate yourself through reading and conversation.  Call out those situations where inequality and injustice become accepted.  It doesn't have to be the way it has been.  It can't continue.


I think we coaches are positioned to be agents for change.  Can you make the commitment?  As a chapter, today we are making the following commitments:

  • We commit to being advocates for change, to ask the hard question and to listen deeply to the answer.
  • We commit to growing partnerships that eliminate social and racial inequality.
  • We commit, individually and collectively, to living with eyes and hearts that are wide open to the times when talented people, without regard to their skin color, have the support and opportunity to make the maximum impact in their professional and personal lives.
  • We commit to doing as the ICF Code of Ethics says, and living into the "awareness of my and my clients’ impact on society and adhering to the philosophy of "doing good," versus "avoiding bad.""


If you are willing to join these commitments, please put your name and "I commit!" in the chat area.  We can be a part of the solution.  We can't stay the same.  Let's see what coaching--and coaches--can do.


Adopted this day, June 19, 2020
Juneteenth 2020

ICF Cleveland Board