Another day, another news story flashed across the TV screen. The computer screen. The phone screen. Through technology, the world is with us more than ever before.
On one hand, this connectedness is crucial. Widespread publication of violent and unjust acts can help show what patterns of violence exist, or how inconsistencies occur in receiving justice. Violence and prejudice that were once brushed under the rug are now being brought to light. On the other hand, technology’s role in displaying this evidence across our news feeds can make bad news feel overwhelming, even inescapable. And it is hard to know what we can do, individually and as organizations, to make a change.
Finding Common Ground
We can start to work towards change by finding common ground. Each of us feels a different level of personal hurt and degree of responsibility to the violent events we see played out across the news. Even though no one processes the world in the same way – we each have unique lenses and filters dictated by our personal experiences – every one of us is still processing. By learning about and understanding the lenses and filters that others process the events through, we can develop a richer understanding of why people feel and act in certain ways. While this may not explain the causes of violence, it can certainly help to explain the varied reactions people take, and help us all find ways to grieve and heal as a community.
As a human resources team member, executive, or business owner, you know that the shock and emotional reactions to community violence don’t always stay at home. The tools we use as individuals to piece through those emotions are hugely valuable in the workplace, where diverse minds have the potential to come together for good. Coming together doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing, but it does mean providing space for discussion, learning, and listening. Not only do these things promote positive change, they promote a safe, caring, and productive work environment for all. So how can you, as a leader, facilitate individual and organizational healing following an episode of community violence?
Help Your Organization:
- Listen. Help others to see listening and gaining awareness of new viewpoints as a crucial learning tool.
- Promote honest sharing. Encourage team members to be honest about how events affect them, or how they don’t.
- Reiterate that it is not one person’s responsibility to question the validity of another person’s experience, particularly if that person feels hurt.
- Stress to your team that recognizing each other’s differences is a strength. It is a way to understand how to work with one another for the good of each person and for the good of the group.
- Designate spaces appropriate for conversation. As a leader, determine how to facilitate, or whether facilitation is necessary.
- As appropriate, provide resources or resource outlets for further education.
From the Workplace to the World
Finding common ground isn’t accomplished without difficulty. But if we can agree that the solution to injustices is to respect one another and find where our values overlap, we are one step closer to achieving dignity and respect for all – in the world, in the home, and in the workplace.
Every news catch-up and Internet search is a reminder that there is work to be done – so much of it.
But each of us is in a position to respond, help ourselves, and help our fellow citizens heal and become stronger. As a leader, you have the unique power to promote these skills and values that benefit more than just your organization. Do your part. Learn from your colleagues and help them to learn from each other. Healing begins with you.
Dignity & Respect represents the evolution of how social issues should be discussed and dealt with in our increasingly socially complex world. Currently, when topics such as gun control, mass incarceration, and immigration are discussed, it is done in an overly emotional and divisive manner. Here at Dignity & Respect, Inc. our mission is to make the world a better place for all to live—with all of our differences. We feel that only by improving our cultural awareness and finding common ground, will we be able to tackle the problems our society faces.
My Personal Experience
My name is Andre Blair, I am 26 years old and was born and raised in California between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The liberal values of the areas where I spent my formative years, coupled with the inclusive tone set by the Clinton administration, would lead you to believe I have not been affected by racism or bigotry. In some ways this is true; I have never been called a racial slur to my face, (online comment sections are an entirely different conversation) I have never been refused service based on the color of my skin, and have never been asked to sit in the back of a bus. However, I certainly do not feel my life chances have been the same as a white male of similar socio-economic status. As a black male, I am ten times more likely to be arrested, twenty percent more likely to drop out of college, and was twice as likely to become a teenage parent. These statistics represent traps I could have very easily fallen into, and have witnessed many of my peers succumb to. I was only able to avoid them due to a very supportive family structure.
Reasons For The Disparities
What is the reason for these disparities? Are the men and women who decide how our society is organized racist? I do not believe so; the answer is much more subtle. We all come into every interaction with the baggage of all of our previous experiences. Here at Dignity & Respect, we call these filters. For example; a white school administrator, who prior to holding that position had grown up in a middle-class suburb surrounded by only white residents, might enter into any interaction with an African-American or Latino student carrying that baggage. Now imagine this same administrator has also received most of his/her information about minority youth from a mass media that thrives on portraying these demographics as dangerous and untrustworthy. Our fictional administrator is likely going to subconsciously consult these filters when making disciplinary decisions involving minority students. This is a driving factor of the incredible disparities existing between the suspension and expulsion rates of black and white students. Is this evidence of racism? Are these administrators bad people who are actively trying to undermine the success of minority students? I don’t believe so. However, many of them lack a reasonable level of cultural awareness which inhibits them from being able to find common ground with their black and latino students.
These subtle issues are the major barriers keeping us from achieving greater harmony in our society. If we enter into interactions with each other while harboring toxic subconscious opinions, we are doomed to end up with negative outcomes. We must work to increase our knowledge of one another; we must break out of our comfort zones and befriend people who do not look or think like us; we must engage those friends and strive to understand their point of view. Only then will we be able to tackle complex issues such as gun control, mass incarceration, and immigration.