Asking a Black Friend About White Privilege

This article, with responses by author Hutcherson, remind me of how much we can be in denial of our biases and maybe that we need to be aware of the biases that exist, even if we aren’t intentionally acting on them. The tone of the question posed by Hutcherson’s FB friend leads me to believe he felt he had conquered bias. Her response that took his post and explained how the absence of having been through her experience was what he needed to understand as white privilege was the message to me. We who have white privilege need to understand those battles we don’t have to fight does not mean they are not being fought.

We all have gifts and talents we sometimes take for granted. Maybe you are a gifted athlete, or a math comes easy to you, whatever it is, do you realize how much others have to battle just to get by without those gifts? What if the gift was the color of your skin. You never have to think about it, but it opens doors simply by being what it is. Our actions cannot stop the battles for those without those gifts, but we can make sure we don’t start anymore, and we can try and empathize with those very real battle they are fighting.

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Poverty as a social injustice

Poverty is the central issue that potentially impacts everyone, all races, genders, religions, countries, states, etc.. It’s the universal injustice and in some ways the most difficult to tackle. We can change behaviors, as difficult as it is. We can change perceptions, but getting people out of poverty is really a mountain. When we layer on the other biases, race, gender, religion that makes it harder for people to gain stable housing, gain stable employment, etc that contribute to poverty, the mountain is insurmountable on their own.

The readings about poverty for me reflect how many do not seem interested in working to improve the condition or they believe that those people affected made choices that got them into poverty.   More than the other injustices, the focus is on the fraud or possibility of fraud. Almost as if we can ignore the problem, as long as we can justify that some abuse of resources exists.  In other words, it’s okay to ignore the many in poverty as long as we can prove that the assistance is abused by some.

It’s hard not to find the opinions of those opposing assistance offensive. While I never have suffered from poverty myself, I grew up in southern Culpeper, in an area where it surrounded me. Even as a child I recognized the struggles others had, even if I didn’t fully understand the costs of living or the underlying issues that caused poverty, I recognized that there were have-nots who were stuck in it and some of the struggle they went through.

Any discussion of poverty makes me wonder why the U.S. commits some many resources to other countries when we are not taking care of our own.  This is not to imply that other countries do not need and require assistance but we have many in need all over the U.S. who are falling through the cracks and living in conditions we would not find acceptable for ourselves. It seems like reinvesting in poverty in the US would be much more economically stimulating than sending funds to other countries.

I don’t understand the support for the Republican party by the poor. During the time leading up to this past election, I, like many observed the Trump signs in many of the poorest neighborhoods in the adjoining states. It has been explained to me that they do not want handouts, they want jobs, and Trump promised that. That I understand, however, those in poverty should know better than anyone that a political party did not get them into poverty and will not get them out. At best, the party can create policies and funding to support them in their time of need.

Much of what drives poverty is clear. Every discussion of poverty involves the same topics: drug abuse, healthcare, and thanks to Matthew Desmond, rent. When I think about it, the U.S. is actually quite poor at dealing with all three of these issues. News of overdoses seems to continue to grow and treatment options are very limited. We are behind many other developed countries in availability of healthcare and it costs more. Neither political party has good solutions.  Desmond clearly identified how poorly our programs of assistance with housing are at building steps out of poverty.

Are we bad at social programs because we deny these issues, or because we have developed a such a distaste for the word socialism that we would rather bypass improvement of social service and ignore the needs of Americans rather than being compared to a socialist country?

 

 

Gender Bias

As far as the biases we are investigating in class, gender bias seems to be the most ingrained in our thoughts and actions. I don’t think people acquire gender biases over time, they probably model after others growing up.  Being unconscious, gender bias makes it more challenging to address and maybe more likely to be overlooked or not taken as a serious issue.

The assignments had the common theme for me of gaining awareness of those actions, micro-aggressions or some other behavior, that treats women as less than equals so that they can be changed.  These may be the most difficult of all to change because they do seem to be predominantly learned from our environments at younger ages. I don’t see people becoming more gender biased as they get older. There are environments, call them locker room environments that allow gender biased language and actions to become normal. Its every leader’s responsibility to make sure they don’t allow that to become part of their organization’s culture.

There is another theme to some of the readings and that is how women who are more assertive or aggressive are viewed negatively and men with the same behaviors are viewed positively. This is a more interesting discussion for me. I believe the studies but wonder how the studies themselves bias us.  The data helps us solve problems and be aware, but it isn’t always true. Sometimes men who are more aggressive are simply viewed as angry and poor leaders and are overlooked for promotions due to their inability to manage them. Some aggressive/assertive women do make it to the top. We should make sure our bias isn’t affecting our decisions, but the generalizations about how men and women are perceived differently can be as bad as the bias if we aren’t careful and aware. If we can treat each person as an individual, regardless of their gender, we should be able to best utilize their skills for the organization, but also avoid gender bias.

Equal but different treatment is always a challenge but one we have to figure out.

 

Changing the World..

From Bryan Stevenson:

1.Just being proximate can change somebody’s life-BS

2. Proximity

3. Change the narrative

4. Hopeful

5. Do uncomfortable things

6. Get broken, we are all broken who do justice

 

The overarching message in this for me is, get close and get involved.  Dare to take part in a process that is more difficult than you think you can handle or change. Always try to change the story, where you think the story is not just.

What Does Real Leadership Require?

The short article showing that the 3 founders of the Black Lives Matter movement were named among the world’s greatest leaders for 2016, tells me that there is a group of people who recognize the importance of the movement and the leadership qualities of the 3 who launched and developed it. The fact that is has been growing since 2013 and continues to be significant is impressive.  The issues they are dealing with clearly have not decreased and at times it seems like the awareness of the issues remains poor in America. I hope that they continue on their efforts and true improvement can happen.

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Facts About the World

Interesting Facebook video. I think for me, I tend towards international news and the sense of America’s place in the world comes through there. When I watch BBC or France 24 news, it’s very clear that Americans are a small piece of the world population. The culture here, although there are similarities in other countries and we certainly influence world culture, we are not all there is.

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TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Not a huge fan of TED talks, my opinion is they often oversimplify success and explain rather than promote critical thinking. They also seem to be just high level enough to not really give me anything concrete. Not quite enough substance to actually disagree with.

That said, what I get from this is the importance of getting the team to believe in the work. Whether it is in business or fighting social injustice, success is tied to leaders who get people to believe in the “why” of the business or organization. I do see a connection in the book “It’s an Uprising” where some believe in the slow and steady method. Getting to believe in the group through small successes rather than a singular movement against one injustice.

TED Talk link

Does Anyone Still Read Books?

People don’t read to grow is the issue for me. Even the educated in our society accept as fact tv and online news stories that are relatively easily dispelled as fiction. Reading tends to expand anyone’s knowledge base and inevitably we question that which counters it. Without reading, we are limited to whatever information we are told, far too often by sources who know very well they can sway opinion through some believable, or even unbelievable versions of the truth.

I would add to the article, prevent yourself from being misled, read and read multiple sources on the same topic. It is the only way to get to the truth.

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Moral High Ground

I agree with the Facebook post “I can’t stand moral absolutism”. Although my world may be grayer than what many are comfortable with, I don’t believe we can categorize everyone into angels and demons buckets. Yes, there are those figures in history whose actions surpass the definition of evil for so many, and, those who gave more of themselves than most of us could possibly conceive of, but the moral absolutism that exists in society breeds judgement that just adds even more separation between people who already have huge barriers to teamwork and growth as people.

Telling a Compelling Story

Tomasz Tunguz’s Telling a Compelling Story is a little tough for me to relate to. I would offer up almost any workshop on the art of storytelling to the readers. There are many, many, professional storytellers who are experts at telling stories with a message. Many offer workshops on using those skills to get messages to groups and businesses.  If you are really interested, there is a National Storytelling Festival each year where topics of social injustice and lessons of bias in our society are common. I would also offer up the article, The Four Truths of the Storyteller by Peter Guber in HBR in 2007.  I find it a little more clear in explaining how telling a compelling story, whether it be about business of social injustice can be used to send a compelling message to an audience.

I do find, even though my storytelling skills are very limited, that it draws people in a way that mansplaining does not.