(This is Part One of a Two Part series)
The United States is not unique with its media headlines about racism, discrimination and unfair treatment of people. I recently returned home from Australia and South Africa. People from all walks of life, various ethnicities, ages and education levels are joining forces to have a voice for positive change. Just as in the USA, they are finding ways to change the status quo.
Even with all the organizations in the USA and elsewhere that are reaching out to help the disenfranchised, underprivileged and undereducated, the problems persist. Why is that so?
In the mid-seventies, I had the honor every month to hear Dr. Bernard Landuyt, Dean Emeritus, School of Business, University of Detroit speak to mid-level managers attending a workshop I coordinated for the University of Michigan, Graduate School of Business. He was a white-haired, distinguished looking gentleman in his 70’s, and our closing speaker each time the workshop was offered. He told the participants, “Mark my words, another uprising will come.” These words just after the Civil Rights Movement was settling down, were shocking to the all white and usually all male audience. He continued by saying that as long as people feel unheard, and whenever there is a downturn in the economy, there will be unrest. His rationale was that people need someone to blame for their pain, and eventually they strike out when they feel other options are not working.
Sadly, how right he was and still is.
I believe there is another reason for the blaming, shaming and lack of acceptance of diverse people. It is what I call the Silent Revolution. It is the unfortunate revolution seen in organizations, communities, school systems, and even families. Silent is the keyword. Too many of us are Silent when we witness inappropriate actions and behavior. We say nothing when a colleague at work or school is bullied, when a group is attacked verbally or physically. We say nothing when the racist, sexist, homophobic, jingoistic, misogynistic or similarly hateful and demeaning statement, comment, or joke is not directly focused on ourselves.
Why Revolution? Because our silence is a forceful overthrow of the good works of those who do take positive action. This Revolution is not intentional, so let’s put a stop to it. Let’s agree that Silence is Not Golden. When it comes to disparate treatment, silence means consent.
In previous articles and workshops, I have shared the four-step technique called S.T.O.P. I invite you to speak up, ask questions, lean into your discomfort and offer a different perspective. Sometimes just asking a question, or saying, “Tell me why you think that is true” is enough to get the other person to reconsider their actions.
In the National Gallery of Australia, speaking up is demonstrated through art. The tiny text says, I am not a racist but… and then goes on to give hundreds of examples of racism. There are so many examples around the world of ways to speak up peacefully. Art, music, and role modeling are just a few.
I invite you to find your voice. Find your way to say inclusion is not easy but it is better than the alternative of pretending we are not all connected as human beings. (Stay tuned for Part Two!)
Let me know what you think?