Monday, September 25, 2023 Sep 25, 2023
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Refereeing the Races

By J.P. |

When Mayor Annette Strauss appoinled a committee of eighty people in January to study ways to bring “Dallas Together,” it seemed unlikely that the group of blacks, whites, Hispan-ics, and “others” would, without help, work together very well. Enter Billie Frauman.

“We needed a person to maximize participation and to focus our purpose,” says Tom Dunning, chairman of Dallas Together. Dunning knew Billie Frauman from the Dallas Alliance, where Dunning is a board member and Frauman works as a consultant, and he noticed that she was always able to help the board clarify what it was trying to do. Naturally: Frauman makes her living helping businesses and volunteer groups pinpoint the purpose of their collective existence. After getting recommendations for Frauman’s work from the mayor and SMU, he hired her.

“The first thing I’ll say to a group when they ask me to come in, is ’what is it that you want out of this?’” says Frauman, who calls herself a “process consultant.” For Dallas Together, she knew she had to get everyone thinking on the same wavelength and working toward one goal. With Dunning’s approval, she split the eighty people into racial groups and sent them into three separate rooms to come up with a definition of racism.

When the groups came out, they had each created something that they felt was worth talking about and defending. But instead of letting the groups debate each other, Frauman sat them at tables of ten, equally mixed with all races. Then she had each person tell of a personal experience that would illustrate what racism meant to them. “I wanted them to see each other as individual persons, not as just a member of a racial group.”

“I had some concern about how that was going to work.” says Dunning. “But I was surprised; it worked well.” Frauman has a talent for helping groups overcome internal barriers and see the cause of the whole much clearer-all the while remaining neutral herself. “If I lose my neutrality,” she says, “I lose my ability to function with that group.”

But even the best of meetings can sometimes come to naught. Frauman is quick to point out that all she can do is help groups see things more clearly, while it’s up to the members to take actions to turn that vision into reality. “It’s wrong to confuse a workshop with action,” Frauman says. “Unless you walk out with a notion of some action or agenda that will happen, then I think it’s all a waste of time.”