ADDRESSING SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION
BY REFRAMING THE PROBLEM
UNTIL YOU WALK IN MY SHOES:
A REFRAMING METHODOLOGY TO OVERCOME SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION
If you are interested in problem-solving, I think there are unique lessons to be learned from this book. If you are interested in systematic racism, systematic discrimination, and of course actually solving these problems, i think it is a fundamental book to have in your hands and on your shelf.
Author of “People Solve Problems” and Co-author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean: Lessons from the Road”
The recent Supreme Court decision on Affirmative Action makes it imperative that we have effective tools to deal with discrimination. Dr. Douglas’ Reframing Process provides an excellent method to find productive solutions. His book is a must-read for every BIPOC graduate entering the workplace or professional graduate programs.
-Professor Vassie Ware
Biological Science and Co-Director of RARE Progfram, Lehigh University
I think it is a brilliant book. I really strongly encourage everyone to read it. If you are an aggrieved person, I want you to read it. If you are someone who is managing a company or division of a company, I think it is very important at this time of history to read the book.
Co-author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series and “The Success Principles”
“A useful primer with powerful case studies on bias in the workplace.”
Diversity, equity, and inclusion expert Douglas presents proven strategies for fostering more diverse and empathetic workplaces in this guide.
Though DEI training abounds throughout corporate, municipal, and academic workplaces across the country, the author notes that “in many cases, the Aggrieved Individuals do not benefit directly from these programs,” as at least one third of the nation’s Black employees “don’t feel respected or valued at work.” Motivated into action by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, which prompted the author to reflect on his own experiences with systemic racism, microaggressions, and DEI programs, Douglas co-founded the Safe Haven Dialogues consulting firm. Centering the voices of aggrieved workers, SHD prioritizes empowering employees to safely communicate with their employers “in order to find a solution that would increase the productivity of both the Aggrieved as well as the department in which they work.” In this short book, Douglas offers readers 18 anonymous case studies of people who have experienced varied forms of discrimination in American workplaces and campuses. Though the work environments and specificities of each case are unique, they point to endemic problems, from incompetent or abusive bosses to overqualified employees who are “proven, but never promoted.” With a doctorate in physical chemistry and a medical doctorate from Cornell University, and with a CV including positions at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, Douglas, a Black man, is well aware of how microaggressions and institutionalized biases can influence even the most ostensibly progressive institutions. His background in research also informs the well-documented, thoughtful interview process at the core of the book’s case studies. Accompanied by a useful glossary and ample visual elements, this is an accessible book that can be easily understood by management, human resources personnel, and employees of all backgrounds. Curiously, issues related to microaggressions directed toward LGBTQ+ employees, from misgendering to ignored pronouns, are absent. More contextualization and data would also be useful in the brief introductory chapter to more fully illustrate the systemic nature of workplace discrimination.
A useful primer with powerful case studies on bias in the workplace.
This book is needed as a tool for identifying aspects of Systemic Discrimination in the workplace. Dr. Douglas presents important new ideas and tools created by Safe Haven Dialogues LLC (SHD) to empower Aggrieved Individuals to initiate dialogue with their supervisors when they feel they are being discriminated against. He was able to apply his SHD Reframing Process to key issues of Equity and Inclusion.
Dr. Douglas was himself the recipient of systematic discrimination (as is detailed in his memoirs, entitled “Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream”) so his own experiences give credence to his work.
In this book, Dr. Douglas discusses several case studies of problems experienced by individuals whom he has interviewed. In each case, Dr. Douglas was able to apply his Safe Haven Dialogues (SHD) Reframing Process to the key issues of Equity and Inclusion. By doing so, he and his team were able to seek better ways of analyzing and researching solutions to existing problems. They sought to apply the principles of SHD to empower aggrieved Individuals in the workplace to initiate dialogue with their supervisors in order to find solutions that would increase the productivity of the individual and of the department in which the individual is employed.
I enjoyed reading this book as it presents new ideas such as reframing the problem and has a wealth of case studies on the ever-evolving discipline of management and more specifically, the complexities of systemic discrimination in the culture of the work environment.
DEFINING MOMENTS OF A FREE MAN FROM
A BLACK STREAM
“An often bracing reflection on racial discrimination and bias.”
Debut author Douglas reflects on a life of extraordinary academic and professional achievement and on the obstacles that prejudice put in his path.
The author was born in 1943 in Guyana, where he was a “questioning, innocent, poor kid from a colonial country fighting for its independence.” Despite suffering under the weight of poverty—an adult and three children, including himself, lived in his single-room home—he excelled academically and eventually earned a scholarship to New York City’s Queens College and then a Fulbright scholarship to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. His scholastic achievement and his faith in God—he was a “boy preacher” in an Evangelical church—helped him to navigate his way out of a country that promised more political unrest than opportunity. The author devoted himself zealously to the study of physical chemistry and would go on to earn not only a bachelor’s degree from Lehigh, but also a doctorate from Cornell University before advancing to medical school. But despite his accomplishments, he says, he encountered bigotry everywhere. To Douglas’ great dismay, he even discovered racial prejudice among church members who preached about loving inclusion—an experience that first made him doubt his faithful commitments and then compelled him to break with religion entirely. It was a difficult decision, and he discusses it with thoughtfulness and subtlety in these pages. Overall, Douglas’ story is an inspiring one, and readers will find it remarkable how he continually was able to persevere in the face of daunting challenges. Also, he provides a candid, general anatomy of racism in the United States based on his own experience. However, the author’s recollection is too granularly detailed at times; for example, he lingers too long on specifics about classes he took and the minutiae of office politics, which has a tendency to overshadow his treatment of broader themes.
An often bracing reflection on racial discrimination and bias.
“Focus more on what we contribute and less on what we control.”
From a boyhood of poverty, author Douglas has risen to remarkable success as a medical practitioner, researcher, and scientifically astute administrator. His autobiography begins with an incident that well illustrates the dire circumstances of his childhood in British Guiana (now Guyana). Riding his bicycle to the market to collect the family’s weekly foodstuffs, the boy encountered a rough surface, capsizing and effectively destroying his cargo. He was harshly beaten by his mother and even contemplated suicide. Things changed when he started school. Showing unusual intelligence, he won school honors, was supported while in college in Guiana, and awarded a Fulbright scholarship, leading him to the United States and a degree from Lehigh University.
Douglas’s personal perspective from his school years in America casts light on the many challenges faced by black students in the early 1960s and beyond. A devout Christian, he was shaken to observe that “churches were fighting to uphold and reinforce segregation,” while in the realm of academia, there were many overt and unspoken policies that excluded blacks from reaching the top ranks. Douglas never failed to try to correct incidents of discrimination directed at himself and others.
Meanwhile, he was entering ever-higher realms of study and recognition based on his strong intellect and zest for discovery, though he describes these achievements modestly. He attained degrees from Cornell University and a residency at Johns Hopkins in internal medicine. He offers engaging vignettes of his interactions with patients, co-workers, and mentors, along with densely detailed scientific data gleaned from his varied and multifaceted fields of endeavor. Douglas taught pharmacology and made significant discoveries in that field. He was responsible for the establishment of the Center for Biomedical Innovation at MIT. He was awarded the George Beene Foundation and GQ magazine Rock Star of Science award. One of the few illustrations in this highly readable account, included at the insistence of his eight-year-old grandson, is the photograph of a plaque naming the medicines he helped to develop—substances for the treatment of such conditions as diabetes, allergies, tuberculosis, smoking cessation, pulmonary thrombosis, and cancer.
Among the accounts of his awards and recognitions, no story is more impressive or more touching than the tale of a vacation visit to Kenya. There, Douglas struck up a friendship with a man who made his living polishing shoes. The scientist’s direct kindness to the man and his family resulted in many benefits to the Kenyan and his community.
Throughout this inspiring, skillfully crafted chronicle, Douglas emerges again and again as a man who approaches problems with equal measures of logic and concern for others. In several instances he spurned chances for advancement or prestige because he was not in agreement with the principles of the offering institution or organization. His individualism and creativity provide points worth pondering. He has continued to champion the cause of black students and black and downtrodden people generally, having never forgotten his own roots in a poverty-ridden, politically conflicted homeland. The meaning of his name—Frank being Celtic for “free man” and Douglas being Scottish for “from a black stream”—became his personal banner. His vibrant memoir will undoubtedly serve as a beacon of hope and a source of motivation to those of any race or nationality who seek a clear pathway upward.
– Barbara Bamberger Scott
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
-THE US REVIEW OF BOOKS
In Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream, author Dr. Frank A. Douglas stands out as a unique voice in the emerging genre of systemic racism. Douglas was not born in America but symbolizes all that is beautiful and patriotic about this nation: he arose from humble beginnings to become a renowned health-care professional and scientist. Douglas has won countless awards for his work in pharmaceutical research. However, you likely won’t remember his contributions in that area. Instead, after reading his autobiography, you’ll remember his determination to make the world a better place…not in spite of the tremendous prejudicial treatment he received, but because of it.
Douglas was born in British Guiana, now known as Guyana. From an early age, Douglas recognized that white officials were treated much differently than his own hard-working black family. The powerful whites resided in mansions and ate like kings, while his own family lived in poverty and struggled to put food on the table. Why, he asked his minister, did such radically different lifestyles exist between blacks and whites? Early on, Douglas realized that American Christianity was taught with inherent racism as a base for its culture and society. In what would become true Douglas fashion, he did not accept such answers but sought to find deeper truths.
Furthermore, Douglas did not let such racial differences stop him from discovering these truths. Instead, he devoted himself even more doggedly to achievement, receiving scholarships for his effort and intelligence. During the turbulent 60s, Douglas arrived in the United States and continued his pursuit of academic excellence, earning many degrees. Never, though, did he forget his home country. He watched British Guiana struggle for independence as he fought and struggled for his own racial independence and a desire to be viewed as simply a man, not a black man.
In his book, Douglas harbors no fools and makes no excuses, neither for himself nor for those around him. His writing is logical and reasonable yet is also filled with concern and motivation. Above all, the work is probably most illuminating in its portrayal of the inherent racism in education. While these institutions are supposedly the bastion of our democratic society, Dr. Douglas shows there is, still, much work which needs to be done. Douglas likely didn’t write his autobiography solely to shine a light in this area, but it is in fact a lighthouse on this turbulent sea, nonetheless.
Dr. Frank L. Douglas’s Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream is both creative and rational, both inspiring and heart-wrenching, both motivational and grounded in realism. In his autobiography, Douglas seeks to point out the differences to make one point: to stand steadfast and true no matter the obstacles placed in the way. While many might want to read the book to learn more about the man of science, all should read it to learn more about humanity, that which connects us all in this civilization. I highly recommend Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream by Dr. Frank L. Douglas. It’s a must-read book that is a true testament of inspiration.
-PACIFIC BOOK REVIEW
July 2019 Book of the Month
4 out of 4 stars Share This Review
Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream is Dr. Frank L. Douglas’ passionate memoir. After landing a scholarship through relentless dedication, Douglas leaves the then British Guiana for the U.S. to study at Lehigh University and later at Cornell University Medical School. The culture shock he experiences after arrival leaves an impact on him. He witnesses levels of racial discrimination like he has never seen before. In many cases later, he also becomes a victim of this wrong ideology. Douglas joins The Johns Hopkins Hospital and during his residency, he receives a National Institutes of Health fellowship to work as a Clinical Research Associate. Through his journey in medical research and academia, Douglas’ life continues to reflect on identity, political dynamics in British Guiana, racial discrimination in the U.S., and overcoming multiple obstacles to build a career.
I liked that the book reveals the trend of racial discrimination in educational institutions and in business organizations. As an African American, Douglas faced many cases of racial discrimination. In one instance, he is denied a promotion because of his ethnicity. While in school, he also notices many cases of ethnicity-based favoritism. He embarks on researching the matter. The findings, which are upsetting, are revealed in the book.
I also liked that the memoir instills a spirit of hope despite the presence of daunting obstacles. Douglas’ life story is full of ups and downs. He grows up without knowing his real father and has to work extremely hard to secure a scholarship. Life in the U.S. is not everything that he had dreamed of. This does not stop him from pursuing his dreams and serving his community.
The author is also honest and blunt. He does tiptoe around major issues mostly preferring to state his opinion openly. This exudes a feeling of confidence in what is included in the book and the author’s perspective in general. I liked this direct way of writing as it cuts on unnecessary details and it let me know clearly where the author stood on various issues.
I also liked that the author included a powerful background highlighting incidences in his childhood that helped shape his fortitude. Growing up in poverty where he was mostly unsure of how he could afford his education, Douglas became aware of the challenges that faced others like him and worked hard to ensure he made the best out of available opportunities.
I did not like that the book contains a lot of technical descriptions. However, it is thoroughly edited. I only identified two errors. I rate Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream 4 out of 4 stars. It would appeal to readers who are fond of memoirs especially those that reflect on personal and ethnic identity and racial discrimination. Readers who are not fans of this genre or the themes mentioned may not enjoy the book.