Across the world, the last several days have been filled with observances of the 10th anniversary of the attack on the United States of America. As we all reflect on that shocking day, I think about how much has changed in ten years and how much has not yet changed as it relates to understanding and respecting differences. 9/11 made us think about our freedoms, and it also ignited new stereotypes and generalizations based on fear.  As a nation we knew we could not take the feeling of being safe for granted ever again, thus many people still blame all Muslims for the attack. Doing so is a way for some to manage their pain.

I am often asked why I do this work (diversity and inclusion). My brief answer is that I am constantly overcome by humankind’s ability to hate. I am overwhelmed by the rationale people use as permission to hate and hurt others for no reason other than those “others” are different; different races and ethnicities, different faiths and beliefs, different sexual orientations, different ages, different attitudes and politics, different personalities, etc.

I am driven to do something in whatever small way that I can, to help us all learn and understand at a deep level that hate comes from fear and fear often is fueled by the belief that we will lose something. We fear that which we do not understand. So, the more we can understand different points of view and recognize that they are just different not wrong, perhaps the sooner we can all channel our energies toward building on those differences to find better solutions to the problems of the world such as hungry, the need for clean water, education, etc. When we hate just because of difference we steal away our ability to discover new solutions. On the other hand, when we challenge ourselves to look for the facts, we can then place blame for crimes and other deplorable behavior where it is due, such as with the 9/11 terrorists, instead of spreading the blame to all of any one group.

Understanding does not come to us without commitment to lean into our fears with the belief that on the other side of that fear are answers to help us make better decisions about ourselves and others. My hope is these observances will motivate you to become part of the solution by determining ways to contribute to heightened understanding of the world’s need for people who respect difference, and to seek understanding instead of blame.

Join with me to take personal responsibility for making a difference within each of our spheres of influence by speaking up, and by asking questions instead of remaining silent and expecting others to step up. It does take a village, and each village is filled with individuals like you.

Tell me what you are committed to do during this next year to help make next year’s remembrance of 9/11 one of honoring those we lost, and building bridges in whatever way you can.