The Language of Racism: Disrupting Passive Aggressive Communication Norms

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What does racism sound like? Is it subtle? Is it overt? Have I said something wrong? Have I been misunderstood? Why is racism so tricky to talk about?

This experiential engagement will explore the spoken and unspoken cultural norms of communication as key pieces to advancing racial equity in yourself and your workplace. Passive aggressive communication and conflict aversion are based on WASP (white, anglo, saxon Protestant and middle class) norms and values, which communicates an unclear and 'watered down' sharing of information. This is significant because it is hard to manage for something if you cannot name it clearly for everyone to understand.

During our session, we will explore how to understand and manage the following passive aggressive communication characteristics:

  • Tone policing

  • Vagueness

  • Deflecting

  • Blaming the messenger and avoiding the message,

  • Civility politics

  • Conflict aversion and more

Presenters Fleur Larsen and Jodi-Ann Burey, originally from Seattle and New York City respectively, will draw from their own lived experiences and invite you all to do the same. We will identify how passive aggressive communications norms impede our ability to address racial equity when people and institutions are not able to squarely name dynamics. Valued traditional professional standards (aka “‘professionalism”) are held together with the glue of a white dominant culture and passive aggressive communication norms, making it really sticky to pull apart and identify racism in situations or conflicts.

Together, we will name the ingredients needed to live into a better conversation and take racism head on.


This session will cover the following:

  • The nature and impact of passive aggressive communication

  • Skills to address personally communicate in a passive aggressive way

  • Strategies for interrupting bias in language and subtle racism in communication

  • Allyship and action tips for accountability

  • How to give language to your own lived experience and strategies for navigating racial dynamics in communication norms

About Fleur Larsen:

Fleur Larsen grew up in Seattle and learned how to relate to others based on the dominant identities she holds: white, protestant, working class, and socialized female. The norms of this region have a particular flavor of conflict aversion, indirectness and passive aggressiveness that are deeply ingrained in me from an early age. Unlearning these has been a HUGE place of personal and professional growth as she’s aimed herself at racial equity work.

Fleur started facilitating 20 years ago on challenge course programs with youth and adults. Currently, she works with several companies utilizing challenge and experiential facilitation with corporate and nonprofit groups. People often learn better by doing. Experiential facilitation engages and activates more parts of the brain. Her style is based on sharp analysis, flexible thinking, fun, purpose and results. Her work is relationship-based with connection, collaboration, and community as integral elements to reach results.

About Jodi-Ann Burey:

Jodi-Ann Burey's mission is to disrupt “business as usual” to achieve social change. She is a speaker, writer, racial equity + healthcare entrepreneur and a diversity + inclusion consultant. Her work is grounded in centering the experiences of historically underrepresented communities and the systemic intersectional approaches needed to address inequities. Jodi-Ann holds a Masters in Public Health from the University of Michigan. She prides herself on being a cool auntie, a twist-out queen, cancer survivor, adventurer and reluctant dog mom. She is currently working on her first book and podcast about women of color and the healthcare system.


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