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Forgiveness: A Critical Value
Sioux Falls
Dear Friends:
We humans aren’t perfect—we’re prone to verbal mistakes and screw-ups and to inadvertently offending others. Sometimes we do this on a humongous scale, as when Bill Maher, host of “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO recently used the “N-word” while trying to be funny.  Maher quickly apologized for the slur on social media but by then, the damage—to his reputation and to the hearts of Black viewers—was already done.

There are many lessons to be taken from Maher’s mistake—that the N-word is totally off limits to white people; that it’s a word not be used casually; and that white folks really don’t understand how that word is so deeply rooted in a system that has oppressed African-Americans for centuries. 

For me, the take-away is the role of apology and forgiveness in our society. Both should be quick and sincere, but that’s often not the case, particularly with forgiveness. I think forgiveness is more difficult for many, in part because it’s hard to un-ring a bell and often there’s a loss of trust that takes time to replenish. And too, there’s the issue of why should an oppressed person be the one to teach the oppressor how not to oppress? Still, forgiveness is critical. Without it, we can’t go forward. 

My Inclusivity Tip of the Month (below) offers suggestions on how to foster a climate of forgiveness within your organization or workplace. Or life. As a society, we have such a long way to go. It will take much, much work. Fear is core to why that work is so difficult—we’re afraid of opening wounds that can’t heal without real dialogue and understanding on both sides. Yet, we must do the work. Our individual futures and that of our country depend on it. 

ADDENDUM: I wrote the above before a St. Paul jury rendered its verdict in a high-profile police-involved shooting case that arose from last  summer's tragic death of Philando Castile. This verdict implicates another degree and form of forgiveness, which I discuss in this blog post. Forgiveness is so needed in order for our communities and country to heal.

Be well! I care about each of you.

e llie

           American Exceptionalism in Portland

By now, most are aware of the horrific incident that took place in Portland, Oregon on May 26, in which two men lost their lives and a third was gravely injured as they attempted to protect two Black teenage females (one of whom was wearing a hijab) from what can only be described as a hateful white racist. 

As Michael Tanner observed in an on-line piece for the National Review, the three protectors couldn’t have been more different. He writes, “Rick Best was a 53-year-old Republican who had unsuccessfully run for county commissioner on a conservative platform….Taliesin Namkai-Meche was Best’s political opposite, a 23-year-old liberal environmentalist…(and) Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, struggled with autism. He worked at a pizza shop while attending Portland State University. In his free time, he wrote poems, including one on tolerance that had won a local contest.”

Tanner further observed. “These men couldn’t have been more different...Yet, last week, all three of them intervened (to protect the two teen women)….Anyone looking for American exceptionalism need look no farther than the courage of these three men.”

Rick and Taliesin were killed in the attack. It is reported that as he lay dying, Taliesin whispered “Tell everyone on this train that I love them.” (See this blog post by one of Taliesin’s professors who shares about the beauty of his student.) 

What brought these three men together to protect other humans? 

I often speak of how humans are “hard-wired for empathy” and how the vast majority of us (“99 percent”) want to do the right thing. These men represent what I firmly believe about our society and country—that we are collectively so tired of hatred and division and are willing to put our bodies on the line to prove that. Empathy has no political or ideological limits. Goodness is goodness regardless of the color of one’s skin or the box they check on a ballot. Everyone has the ability to speak up for others. 

Please remember the brave humans on that Portland light rail train.  

8-Year-Old Girl Thought to Be a Boy; Her Soccer Team Disqualified

I often train on how we group and label other humans; recently, an 8-year-old soccer player and her teammates from Omaha, Nebraska experienced firsthand the effects of such knee-jerk bias. 

As reported on NPR, Mili Hernandez and her girls’ soccer team, the Azzuri Cachorros, were set to play in a Springfield, Illinois soccer tournament when officials disqualified the team on the ground that they believed Mili was a boy due to her short hair. 

Tournament officials blamed the team’s roster, which mistakenly identified Mili as male. Despite Mili’s coaches protesting and her parents producing several forms of identification, including a medical card, which verified that Mili’s gender as female, the officials refused to change their decision. 

Query whether the tournament officials also found it easier to disqualify the entire team given that it was made up of Latinas. 

However, maybe in the end, Mili won out; the story of Mili and her team attracted the attention of some real soccer stars. U.S. women’s soccer legends Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm spoke up for Mili on social media; Hamm even invited Mili to one of her soccer camps. 

This is one instance where lemonade resulted from a lemon. 

Tragedy, Unity and Irony

My second violence-related story (I hate that this pattern exists in our country) is the shooting of Republican Whip Steve Scalise (LA.) and four others at a baseball practice field in Alexandria early last week. Representative Scalise remains hospitalized in serious condition as The Ripple goes to print; my prayers are with him and his family for a fast recovery.  

Following the shooting, there were many statements by Republican and Democrat lawmakers about how we must stop the rhetoric that paints the other side as unpatriotic, uncaring or even subhuman. (A week before the shooting, Eric Trump called Democrats who criticized his father as “not even human.”) 

As I’ve written before, rhetoric has consequences; so too does ignoring the needs and voices of many who are struggling to simply provide for their families or themselves. I hope that tacking toward unity—which will take real leadership—is real and not simply momentary.

Additionally, recall that a greater tragedy was averted because two Capitol Police special agents assigned to guard Steve Scalise engaged the shooter. One of those officers, Crystal Griner, despite being shot in the ankle, returned fire and is credited with the shot that took down the shooter.

Griner, a Black lesbian, was later joined at the hospital by her wife. (See link.) This is noteworthy because Representative Scalise—the man she was charged with protecting—is on record as opposing marriage equality. How ironic. 

Once more we’re reminded that humans must look out for other humans in a variety of ways—sometimes it’s with a weapon that’s needed to protect life and sometimes it’s with a vote on the floor of Congress. It’s an example of how reality can so quickly trump (no pun intended) ideology.

I uspect that Representative Scalise may now have found reason to be more open in his views toward the rights of LGBTQ persons.  Let’s at least hope so.

                       Pride Month Notables

I’ve held off until now—Pride Month—to highlight a delightful story of transgender allyship out of Wyoming (not knowns for its liberalism). As reported in late April, cisgender (non-transgender) men across Wyoming donned tutus to protest a statement by Wyoming state senator Mike Enzi made in response to a high school student journalist’s question about LGBTQ rights. Enzi replied:

“We always say that in Wyoming you can be just about anything you want to be, as long as you don’t push it in somebody’s face. I know a guy who wears a tutu and goes to bars on Friday night and is always surprised that he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it. That’s the way he winds up with that kind of problem.”

Some thought that Enzi was referring to a well-known Wyomingite, Sissy Goodwin, a retired college professor who also publicly cross-dresses wearing petticoats (which Sen. Enzi might have mistaken for a tutu—duh, most men can’t tell the difference). Goodwin joined the statewide protest, which gained social media traction as #LiveAndLetTutu, after the state’s unofficial motto, “live and let live.”

A local bar in Sissy Goodwin’s hometown, Butch’s, created a flyer under the banner #WeHaveSissysBack and offered free drinks to anyone who wore a tutu into the bar. Social media showed many pictures of tutu-wearing men at bars across Wyoming.

Sen. Enzi later privately apologized to Goodwin and publicly to anyone else he may have offended. Sissy Goodwin accepted the apology, stating, “He offered an apology and I have no doubt to believe it was genuine. I think we had a respectful dialogue. If anything comes out of this, we both agree that it’s opening a discussion and illuminating the issues to the benefit of everyone concerned.” (This is a good example of the need for both an apology and forgiveness-see elsewhere in this newsletter…)

On a more recent note, last week the state of Oregon announced that it would soon begin issuing drivers licenses with a third non-binary option, “X”, in addition to “male” and “female.” This is to take into account the thousands of Oregonians who don’t consider themselves one or the other gender and who view their gender as “queer” “non-conforming” or simply “other.” California is also considering adding a non-binary option to drivers licenses, birth certificates and other government-issued documents. A note to my friend Phil Durand—who is working on getting Minnesota to accept a non-binary drivers license category—doesn’t this make you happy?

And, did you see the photo of the gay Rhode Island of the Year who went all out to show that he wasn’t afraid to be oh so gay in a photo with President Trump? The photo shows Nikos Giannopoulos with head tilted away from the president toward a black lace fan he’d brought with him. He wore a rainbow pin on his lapel, a ring through his nose and a gold anchor (the state symbol) around his neck. As reported in the Washington Post, Giannopoulas said, “The issue with being openly queer is (sic) our existence is constantly politicized,” he said. “They never stop to think: Oh, maybe that’s just who I am.”

Finally, to the educators who are reading this, here’s a story about how teachers who are transgender are showing up more and more in the classroom. In some instances, doing so hasn’t’ been without major challenges. Still, this is the way of the future, as we all know.  

Inclusivity Tip of the Month
HIW Logo

Let’s face it: in diverse workplaces, there’s a greater risk for misunderstandings, misstatements (aka micro-aggressions) or hurt feelings between colleagues who themselves are diverse. This is in part because everyone brings to the workplace different perspectives and experiences, some of which may be rooted in historical and personal trauma. It’s inevitable that someone will say or do something that will adversely impact a co-worker; ordinarily this is a problem but when the subject matter of the offending action is tied to one’s identity as a diverse person, things get even more complicated.

From an HR (or even a simple humanist) perspective, it’s important that the offending work colleague apologize for the statement or slight. As important, the team member who’s been offended or slighted needs to forgive the offender. A team member who harbors animosity toward a past offender often is less productive and a potential agent to degrade morale, particularly among other diverse team members.

Here are some quick tips about how to foster forgiveness in a diverse workplace:

  1. Talk about and frequently reinforce that forgiveness is a workplace or organizational value.
  2. Ensure that you, as a workplace leader, practice what you preach by forgiving team members who have offended you.
  3. In the instance of another team member who’s been offended and once an apology has been made, talk about the need for forgiveness; then set the expectation that the offended team member will work toward forgiving the transgressor.
  4. Check-in with the offended team member to determine where they are relative to forgiveness; if they’re finding it difficult to forgive the offender, provide resources on the power of forgiveness. (One such resource is the REACH model created by Everett L. Worthington, which he developed after a horrific crime was committed upon a family member.)
  5. If the offended team member still can’t forgive, get help—bring in a professional/therapist who can add an element of objectivity to the situation.
  6. Conduct workplace training on the power of apologizing and forgiving. Everett Worthington reports that an eight-hour forgiveness workshop can reduce subjects’ depression and anxiety levels as much as several months of psychotherapy would. 

Some of the above points can be found in “The Power of Forgiveness at Work” by Brooke Deterline. 

In short, forgiveness needs to be a key personal value for anyone. It’s not always easy to forgive but doing so allows one the freedom to move on and grow as a person.  

Odds and Ends
This month’s Odds and Ends includes a milestone:    
Darn Wonderful:  We’re just past Father’s Day and if you haven’t seen this story about a father who gifted his sixteen-year-old son a guitar, it’s worth your time. The twist: the father, John Crow, died earlier this year at age 49. He was very involved with his son Johnathon and his music and had ordered the guitar before passing away unexpectedly. Johnathon’s sister arranged for the surprise gift to be given to him at the guitar store. Click here for more. We can share our legacy in a myriad of ways.
Human is Human™ Retreat Postponed: For a variety of reasons, I have postponed the first Human is Human™ retreat. Stay tuned for more details in the future.
Recent Writings: My June Lavender Magazine piece, “Pride 2017: Random Thoughts” can be found here. I also penned a blog post last weekend in response to the jury’s not-guilty verdict in the officer-involved shooting death of Philando Castile (you will see a recurrent theme about forgiveness, which I know won’t make everyone happy).
Recent “Hidden Edges Radio” Shows: Recent “Hidden Edges Radio with Ellen Krug” shows (Sundays 1-2 p.m. CST on AM950) have included Desean Smedley, who works with inner city Minneapolis high school students on how to respect both themselves and others. We’ve also had Larry McDonough, a former Legal Aid lawyer who now oversees the phenomenal pro bono program of Dorsey & Whitney, one of the largest law firms in the world. Larry is also an accomplished jazz musician, with frequent shows at the acclaimed Dakota Club in downtown Minneapolis. Click here for the podcasts link.
Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:  I’m launching this issue of The Ripple on the day after I spoke to a large gathering of the Golden Gate Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators in San Francisco—what nice people! Later this month, I’ll present at the MN Dept. of Employment and Economic Development in St. Paul. In late July, I’ll spend a day training St. Louis County employees in Duluth and Virginia, MN on Gray Area Thinking™. In September, it will be two days of such training for Scott County, Iowa (Davenport). On the horizon in October are trips to Boulder, CO and Vancouver, British Columbia to train. My full schedule is here.
Milestone: I launched this newsletter last July with 252 persons on the mailing list. This month, we passed the 2,000 mark (2052 to be exact) for mailing list recipients. Wow. Thank you for continuing to support my work to fundamentally change the inclusivity landscape in our country! I am so grateful!    
The Ripple is a work in progress, so please, I welcome your suggestions and comments! Please share this newsletter with others, too!
Thank you for helping to make the world a better place! I'm at your side, cheering you on, I promise! Please have compassion for yourself and for others.
A big thank-you to Lula for being a wonderful team member!  
Encouraging Open Hearts and Thriving Human Spirits 
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Ellen (Ellie) Krug