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The Vulnerable Voice

By: Jordan Killebrew

Racism, bigotry, prejudice, and hate is a problem in America.

You find it on the news and you hear it in stories from friends. In some instances, it happens explicitly. In other situations, however, it is implicit.

Have you ever stopped and wondered - have I, or a person I know, perpetuated symptoms of racism and bias implicitly?

For me, I have considered this and found although I mean well, I sometimes miss the mark and need to be more conscious about my subconscious thoughts. I feel that others, like me, may struggle with this. This is why I work to help educate our community on Implicit Bias.

My work on Implicit Bias started in the aftermath of planning a successful peaceful candlelight vigil for Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in July 2016 with Black Lives Matter Santa Barbara.

Lizzie Rodriguez of Community Restorative Network had connected me to the new Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow and, upon the request of Rodriguez, Chief Luhnow’s approved a one-hour training on Implicit Bias to senior officers of the Santa Barbara Police Department (SBPD).

Much to my surprise, Rodriguez had requested me as the co-facilitator. I was terrified and I opened the training with those exact words.


All my life my parents, aunts, uncles, all told me to steer clear of the police and there I stood in such a vulnerable space telling stories of my varying interactions with law enforcement over the years and the aftermath of how I felt in those situations. I was grateful to those individuals in the room, because they met my vulnerability with respect and I felt they heard what I had to share.

Out of this experience, the Police Chief agreed to have the entire force and personnel trained on Implicit Bias. Realizing that I did not have the bandwidth to train such a large group, we partnered with the FUND for Santa Barbara to acquire a $10,000 grant to pay Just Communities and Dr. Carmel Saad of Westmont to curate and train SBPD beginning this fall.

Another program that has derived from our collaboration is the VOICES program, where Sergeant Shawn Hill has curated a community cohort that includes Rodriguez. Howie Giles, Professor of Communications at UCSB, and I, to connect new police officers with community stakeholders, such as Pacific Pride Foundation, Just Communities, Los Prietos Boys Camp, and YStrive, to sit down and have a half-day dialogue before they begin their patrol.

We have completed this program twice and these half-day sessions during which new officers meet other community members while out of uniform has proven how necessary communication and relationships are within our community. Our cohort is looking forward to sharing our experience of the VOICES program to the International Police Chief’s Convention in Philadelphia, PA this fall.

There are times that I think back to a year ago, when I was terrified, and ask myself why I ever opened my mouth.

When, I have those thoughts, I am reminded of the openness of the Santa Barbara County community. I am reminded of the community’s desire to learn about other perspectives and that, out of fear of vulnerability, a level of understanding has grown and created the beginnings of a stronger, healthier, and more communicative Santa Barbara.

Being vulnerable is okay - let people in, you never know where that will take you.

Jordan Killebrew is a communications officer for the Santa Barbara Foundation.
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101