Monday, October 27, 2014
A few weeks ago, I saw something you rarely see in public.
A white male expressing his feelings of marginalization.
No, this was not related to race or economics what so ever. Rather, it was a long-time resident of a community expressing how much of an outsider one can be made to feel in that community with a rich heritage and tradition toward one particular group.
It was fascinating to me as a black woman in America listening to him explain minor instances of bias and slighted feelings he'd experienced as a member of this community. He concluded with a very convincing argument on why a more inclusive environment was needed and how he wanted to be part of the solution. He even challenged others in the room to join him. Further, it was more intriguing to watch his reaction as his peers marveled at his observations and bristled at his thoughts. That did not sit well with him, at all.
"I hear what you are saying, but I am telling you what I have seen and experienced first hand," were his exact words when questioned and pushed on his assertion that the community was not very inclusive.
As a facilitator of the discussion, I reeled it back in and guided the touchy moment to conclusion. However, it is swirled in my mind over and over again since that moment.
That is THE experience of women, minorities, people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community most every day of our lives in the United States of America. This ongoing discussion in our country on race, poverty, bias and discrimination is one that everyone has a vested interest in. Especially white guys. And here's why:
That fear that we hear from the Tea Party and all those folks on Fox News about "taking our country" back is embedded in the thought that we (minorities) will somehow return the exclusive and biased behaviors we have faced for centuries. People are afraid that when we are the majority we will act toward them as they have acted - passively and actively - toward us.
Let's be real.
Much like that man I heard speaking the other week about inclusiveness and equity in storytelling from his "marginalized" view, the minorities in our country feel the exact same way. We won't have time for revenge when our country gets its act together and brings us to the table in a meaningful way.
We, like the gentleman in my story, will be looking for ways to better contribute to a society that wants and appreciates our contributions. And also, like that man, we will move forward in this new reality that we helped bring about. Too many times a week, I hear people tell minorities, women or fill-in-the-blank-marginalized-group-in-America to "get over it," or "move on."
Well I'm here to tell you we won't. Just like the man in my story. You see, until he had a chance to express himself and get acknowledgment to what he was saying, it was going to be very difficult for him to see himself as part of the solution. Those "oppressors" (read long time community members who before he pointed it out - did not even KNOW there was a problem) in the room had to look him in the eye and agree or disagree - acknowledge that what he felt was real and needed to be addressed before he was going to "move on" from his hurt and feelings of being disenfranchised. He was not accusing anyone of that marginalization, just stating that it existed and needed to be addressed.
That is where we a nation need to start. Conversations. Discussions. Open dialogue about this crazy cycle we are in with each other. There are signs of hope. Lots of pockets of the country are beginning to have frank discussions about racism as an institution versus racist people. But more is needed.
I am looking forward to the progress I know this community group will make because they had that tough discussion.
I'm also looking forward to the day we as a nation collectively have the same discussion.