By Chris Talbot-Heindl, nonprofit laborer and born activist

…we, collectively, need to discuss how we are contributing to the burnout of the BIPOC women who serve as moderators in our movement and, more importantly, how we can conduct ourselves to match their intentionality.

Our dedicated Slack channel moderators are on a well-deserved break until June 30. I appreciate their service and wish them a restful and rejuvenating time.

In the meantime, I think we, collectively, need to discuss how we are contributing to the burnout of the BIPOC women who serve as moderators in our movement and, more importantly, how we can conduct ourselves to match their intentionality. We need to sort ourselves out so they can focus on imagining what our collective liberation could look like and building that world (instead of spending most of their time holding space for people behaving poorly and continually reminding us that they aren’t the Slack police).

Let’s spend these next two months figuring out how we are going to build this movement in solidarity with each other, how we intend to hold each other’s truths, how we will navigate tensions, and how we will push for transformational change in a way that is sustainable for the long term—both for ourselves and our moderation team.

(Side note: Some mistakenly believe that I’m on the Global Council or some sort of authority in the CCF space—maybe because I speak like an authority on things I choose to write and illustrate. But I am a member, just like everyone else. I just also edit The Content Hub, sit on the CCF Communications Team, and manage the CCF social media channels.)

Now that we have that level-setting out of the way, here are my individual, non-authority-figure thoughts that I hope people can riff off of, argue against, or otherwise start our movement-building conversation with.

We have to behave in a way that allows for growth, shows grace, and insists on accountability

In every justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) training I’ve ever done, I’ve always begun with a reminder that because we don’t live each others’ experiences, we will unintentionally and unwittingly harm. When existing in a community, it is our responsibility to be open to hearing about that harm and grow from the knowing.

Harm can look like inadvertently using a dog whistle or a biased or bigoted talking point we don’t understand the full meaning of. We must be open to hearing about it without trying to defend ourselves or center our intentions. We must be willing to learn better and do better. If we are to be in relationship, we must be (collectively, not necessarily individually) ready to conduct call-ins and have difficult conversations.

While many of us in the spaces the Founding Council and the Global Council have created for us are strangers, we have relational responsibilities to one another. Otherwise, we aren’t a community and will never build one. From Turn this world inside out: The emergence of nurturance culture: we need to create a “social fabric that fills the space between ‘the close intimate whom I have chosen to care about’ and ‘the complete stranger whom I have no obligations to whatsoever.’” 

The CCF Communications Team attempted to help create guardrails for this social fabric, outlining those responsibilities (towards the bottom of this document, under the header “Our Values and How We Embody Them While Interacting on Slack).

While we may not always live out our best selves in every interaction, we can try to embody this ideal and commit to true accountability and repair when we don’t. “…we have to push ourselves, collectively, to expand capacities for care and empathy, to learn how to listen to human beings who walk in the world with the physiological and neurological impacts of hidden forms of systemic violence.” (Turn this world inside out)

A few months ago, I posted about the importance of acknowledging the power differential when it came to Palestine and Israel. I used the phrase “the Zionist agenda.” Someone who recognized that phrase as a dog whistle was harmed by this phrase and went on the offensive in the comment section. 

My initial internal reaction was one of defense. My heart sank, my blood vessels pulsated. As someone who lives with anxiety, I recognized it as my fear response. But I took a breath, emotionally regulated, and instead asked them to say more. “I’d be interested in hearing more about how it is an antisemitic trope. I hadn’t heard that before, and I’d like to look into that more.” They then shared with me how people like Alex Jones have used it to claim that Jewish people have a plan for worldwide domination – something I was not privy to. 

After they shared that with me, I ensured that I had understood. “I think I understand. The phrase ‘the Zionist agenda’ could be problematic because people may conflate what I’m speaking about… with alt-right beliefs that Jewish people control the world because they conflate Judaism and Zionism. I will amend my statement. Thank you for sharing this with me.”

If harming parties can emotionally regulate like this and react with intentionality rather than reactivity, this type of exchange can be the norm. 

We need to continuously be doing our internal emotional work to be more receptive to correction

We can move from I did something terrible, so I must be horrible, to I am sorry for what I did, and I would like to repair our relationship and trust.

The reason I could emotionally regulate through the start of an anxiety attack in response to being called out on my ignorance is that I’ve spent years doing my internal emotional work and have learned grounding techniques to pull myself out of a shame-induced anxiety spiral. (Also, I take anti-anxiety medication, which is sometimes also necessary for those of us who have had traumatic pasts and developed a propensity towards anxiety. While it is not our fault, it is our responsibility to do what we need to not weaponize our dysfunctional emotions).

One of the internal things we should all be doing is healing from the shame and guilt that come from the white supremacist belief we’ve been indoctrinated with that having caused harm means that we are bad people. Until we let go of that belief, we won’t be receptive to correction or admitting fault and can’t build meaningful connections with others in our community. If we do our internal emotional work, we can remove shame and guilt from our lives and instead experience a more healthy and helpful emotion when called in or called out: remorse. 

We can move from I did something terrible, so I must be horrible, to I am sorry for what I did, and I would like to repair our relationship and trust.

If harmed parties have the emotional capacity to call in with grace, that is ideal. But truthfully, the best bet is if bystanders step in. Too often, in cultures of “nice,” we avoid getting involved when we see someone behaving in a way that is harmful to others in our community. 

Not speaking up harms everyone.

“…people—and systems that are theoretically meant to protect you, which may be actively perpetuating that violence instead—not naming it, normalizing it, make it as though you deserved the harm, or as though it is normal for that to happen to you and crazy to resist. That can cause very distinct trauma responses that are beyond the harm itself…taking clear action cuts down on the deep betrayal of bystanding that can cause such fundamental breaks in human trust.” (Turn this world inside out)

Call-ins and call-outs should be done in a way that doesn’t treat people who misstepped or messed up as disposable. Instead, a call-in can be done in a way that reminds the harming party of their humanity and inherent value and pulls them further into the community. 

“We like you. We are not going to shun you or turn away from you. You belong and have inherent worth as a human being. Also, this action, this ingrained entitlement and harmful behavior is not okay and needs to stop. We will turn toward you, connect with you, and tell you no.” (Turn this world inside out)

But any way we are called in or out, we must be emotionally regulated enough to consider it a gift. 

One way we can do that is through healing any insecure attachment styles we may have clung to in our childhood to survive it. From Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma, and Consensual Nonmonogamy, “Attachment styles are not static! If you experienced an insecurely attached childhood you can still go on to have healthy securely attached adult relationships, experiencing what is called an earned secure attachment. Your attachment styles are survival adaptations to your environment and since they were learned, they can also be unlearned.” When we heal from insecure attachment styles, we move out of believing that we are the worst things we have done, and we learn to accept criticism of our actions as an opportunity to do better and deepen our connection with folks in our community.

I personally believe that this type of inner work, while individual, should not be done alone. I recommend seeking counselors, therapists, support groups, affinity spaces, or joining an Anonymous group that best aligns with how you developed insecure attachment in the first place. For me, that is Adult Children from Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families Anonymous, and it’s been life-changing (although truthfully, I’m highly therapized and belong to multiple support groups and affinity spaces, so maybe it’s a combination of all of those methodologies).

We need to recognize when we are creating a culture where BIPOC folks do the work and white people are never expected to

We recently had two instances where white folks who had a different intersection of marginalization ran roughshod through the Slack channel, in the social media comments sections, and in the emails of members and especially the BIPOC leaders of Community-Centric Fundraising. 

There were numerous attempts at 1-on-1 conversations, a listening session, resource sharing, and more—all done with the goal of restoration and maintaining these people’s continued presence in the space. 

And it boils down to this: white people, in most spaces, are catered to in a way that they are never required to emotionally regulate and come to a table ready to build community. BIPOC folks in most spaces are constantly asked to be continually uncomfortable, sometimes traumatized, and perpetually emotionally regulated for the benefit of the community.

If BIPOC folks are coming to the table emotionally regulated and with humility to have an honest and truth-seeking conversation, and the white folks are using the BIPOC folks as a punching bag, we can’t be in true community.

White folks need to pay particular attention to how they are showing up because they have been centered as the default, and catering has become normalized for them. 

“As Black feminist thinkers such as Audre Lorde have observed and articulated, it is so taken for granted in our culture that those with marginal subjectivity will constantly placate those who are dominant, that this is seen as perfectly unremarkable by those with more power, while those doing the placating have silence—and exhaustion, and trauma’s many bodily impacts—as their shelter and companion.” (Turn this world inside out)

For white folks, I’d invite you to investigate how you’re showing up, especially when it comes to how you’re showing up in your communications with our Women of Color leadership and moderation team.

  1. Investigate what you are trying to get from the exchange and check in first to see if it’s a good time to have it. If someone isn’t in the headspace to deal with your concern at the moment, if you want to be centered by don’t want to recognize the other person’s humanity, or if you aren’t in true community and only reach out when you need someone to blame or a punching bag, what are you going to get out of the exchange? If it’s to be heard, is this person the best person to hear you right now? Are you emotionally regulated enough to recognize the other person’s humanity and treat them with dignity? If it’s to have a punching bag, is this multiply marginalized person of color the actual target, or someone you’re projecting your hurt onto because it’s safe and easy to do so?
  2. Investigate what you think you can get out of the exchange if the other person doesn’t have the expertise or spoons to help. A lot of the hurt in one of the exchanges had to deal with the fact that I had to create boundaries for my well-being because I experienced similar trauma and was not the right person to “fix the issue” for them we both experienced. The expectation often seems to be that I will understand the experience and be best equipped to help as a multiply marginalized person. And while it is true that I understand the experience, I’m also working on battling my oppressions and my mental wellness issues. Perhaps finding someone who is not working so hard to survive might be better equipped to help.
  3. Investigate if you are showing up in a way that builds community and is psychologically safe for the other person and yourself. In nearly all of the touchpoints I experienced with that person, it was clear that they didn’t have me or past conversations with me in mind, including boundaries and guardrails we agreed to regarding conversations. A psychologically safe environment would be one where we are given grace to make mistakes and learn, are valued for our contributions (even if the receiving party doesn’t find them helpful—they were provided from a place of deep care and should be valued as such), our lived experiences are respected, we’re able to ask questions, and we can point out harm and have it acknowledged when it happens. In my experience, these ways of being are assumed for the party weaponizing their hurt and failing to regulate emotionally, but not for the one receiving all this added emotional labor and, indeed, abuse.

We need to learn how to balance turning in toward someone harming while simultaneously protecting others in the community

This is where I get lost and need to do some more learning. I’m entirely unsure of how to protect myself while keeping the door open for those who have harmed me in case they want to take accountability and do repair work. I have gone no-contact with members of my family and have had accomplices send thanks, but no thanks emails to antagonistically transphobic volunteers and donors (after attempting to conduct a teaching call-in) because I haven’t figured out how to hold this tension.

How do we continue to turn toward someone who is harming the community instead of turning away? How do we protect others, particularly those carrying heavy emotional loads, in the community while turning toward them?

I think we definitely have determined that we can no longer require our moderators—who are all BIPOC women with full-time jobs and fuller lives—to hold all of this for us without requiring that folks do their own internal labor. 

“I think about the ways that women of color are expected to give emotional labor to white women in organizing spaces as a matter of course. We need to recognize and value the skills folks have developed while also working to shift the burden of the work of the people who experience the most systemic oppression.” (Turn this world inside out)

If we can’t agree on anything else, let us agree on that.

I hope this can be the start of a conversation where we discuss these things and determine how we will conduct ourselves as the movement. Let us figure out how to move forward, building solidarity, holding each others’ truths, holding space for correction and change, and pushing for transformative rather than incremental change. When we mess up or misstep, let us see it as our responsibility to make repairs and be open to doing so with open hearts, holding our relational responsibilities to one another at the forefront.

Let us be better than the oppressive systems that separate us and have taught us to be separate. Let us reimagine what community can look and feel like. And then let’s build it.

Chris Talbot-Heindl

Chris Talbot-Heindl

Chris Talbot-Heindl (they/them) is a queer, trans nonbinary, mixed-race artist, writer, educomics creator, and nonprofit laborer trying to build spaces ready to celebrate when they turn up authentically. When they aren’t consulting or working their day job, Chris can be found editing the quarterly compzine, The B’K, the biyearly themed compzine, All My Relations, and the Community-Centric Fundraising Content Hub; making educomics like Chrissplains Nonbinary Advocacy to Cisgender People and Why Must the White Cis Nonprofit Workers Angry React to All My Posts?; working on their serial graphic novel The Story of Them about what it’s like to be nonbinary in a very gender-binary world; and writing essays and short stories exploring identity and belonging. You can find Chris at, on LinkedIn, and Twitter — and tip them on Venmo or PayPal or join as a patron on their Patreon.