writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
Connecting the Dots of Historical Trauma
Every now and then, I see or hear something that connects some invisible dots in my brain. One of those moments came in August when late night host Trevor Noah and his special correspondent, Roy Wood, Jr., debunked the notion that statues of Confederate war heroes merely represent “Southern culture and heritage.”
Noah opened the
by asking Roy how he’d deal with the whole controversy, to which Roy responded, “How about we get rid of racism?” From there, Roy played a video showing an older white man rationalizing that Confederate statues are just about heritage; as he did so, the man referenced that he wasn’t trying to remove statues of “Martin Luther C**n.” He then quickly corrected to say “King.”
My first lightbulb moment came when Roy explained,
“Slavery is a trauma that black people to this day are still living with,” and then equated the existence of the statues to a woman from a traumatized relationship being forced to hang pictures of her abuser all around her house. “I don’t need pictures to remember pain,” Roy shared.
Bingo. Roy’s was the best explanation of why this is a battle worth fighting that I’ve ever heard.
Further, as Trevor pointed out, there’s really no need for reminders about the Civil War. He said, “There’s an easier way to know what happened in the Civil War; just walk around in the South and if you see free black people, you know what happened.”
As a white person, I just need to accept that I can’t fully understand what it means to be Black in America today. I also think that all in the majority race sure as heck need to actively work to level what has been historically a grossly uneven playing field. At the very least, we owe that to “them.”
Be well! I care about each of you.
P.S. Many of you have spoken re: the length of
and from here on out, it will be shorter in content. Quality over quantity!
New Poll Highlights Our Divisions, Yet Offers Hope
poll conducted in early August
commissioned by NBC News and the
Wall Street Journal
revealed that just 28 percent of Americans believe America is the “single best place to live in the world.” This was coupled with a finding that only 14 percent of poll respondents gave America’s national character a “strong” rating of “eight” or higher on a 1-10 scale. In contrast, 34 percent assigned the country’s character a “weak” rating of “four” or lower.
The most telling results relate to impressions about how divided our country is: a total of 80 percent of respondents believed that America is either mainly divided (59 percent) or totally divided (21 percent). This belief about division crosses all party lines with 86 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents, and 75 percent of Republicans agreeing we’re greatly divided.
The reasons for the division?
Income inequality was given by 23 percent and political party affiliation was cited by 21 percent; racial and ethnic differences (19 percent) and the types of media consumed (18 percent) were other reasons.
Further, when asked “Do you feel confident or not confident that life for our children’s generation will be better than is has been for us,” only 35 percent of respondents answered, “feel confident” whereas a whopping 61 percent said, “do not feel confident.” This compares with 50 percent/45 percent in 1990.
On the more hopeful side, in response to a question about feeling comfortable or uncomfortable with the changes America has undergone relative to it is becoming more diverse and tolerant of different “lifestyles, gender roles, languages, cultures and experiences,” fully 55 percent of respondents reported being “comfortable” while only 24 percent responded with being “uneasy” with those changes. Another 19 percent responded “neither.” Thus, 74 percent of respondents are either good with or don’t care about how progressive society has become. That’s a huge Wow in my book.
My novice social scientist takeaways from this poll?
As I see it, most of us want America to progress on valuing all humans, notwithstanding the current political climate; however, people are concerned that our divisions along income, politics and race risk the progress we’ve made. People appear particularly concerned about how our divisions will impact our children’s futures. This suggests that we’ve entered a window where what we do in the next couple of years (e.g. how we address our divisions) will make a huge difference on whether America survives as the country we had hoped for thirty years ago.
We each personally have the power to lesson divisions. My Gray Area Thinking™ training is focused on this. Most of all, we need to be brave and face our collective fear about being uncomfortable with “other”—whatever that “other” may be. (A Trump supporter is “other” to a Bernie supporter.) Becoming familiar with (e.g. talking to) those who are “other” is the pathway to healing.
Thinking Outside-the-Box to Empower
August 23 piece
by Alan Feuer in
The New York Times
reports on how senior federal judge Jack B. Weinstein has issued a courtroom notice that women and minority attorneys are invited to participate in courtroom proceedings in a more pronounced manner.
Trial judges often issue rules on how attorneys are to handle routine courtroom matters—such as where an attorney is to stand to question witnesses or how trial objections are to be handled, etc.
One usual rule is that only one attorney per side may argue a motion or cover a legal matter before the court. Because there often is much money or a person’s freedom (as in a criminal case) at stake, one usually sees the more senior attorney appearing on those matters. Often, those senior attorneys are white men (since the legal profession power centers are still heavily skewed toward older white men). As a result, younger lawyers (who may be persons of color or women—female law students have made up more than 50 percent of law school classes since the early ‘90s) just don’t get needed courtroom experience.
To counter this, Judge Weinstein has issued a rule that “junior members of legal teams” are “invited to argue motions they have helped prepare and to question witnesses with whom they have worked.” Significantly, the rule also states that the court is “amenable to permitting a number of lawyers to argue for one party if this creates an opportunity for a junior lawyer to participate.” This latter component is a big deal and highly unusual.
Judge Weinstein’s decision to amend his courtroom rules came after he reviewed a study that show the underrepresentation of female and minority attorneys in federal court cases. He was also urged to make the change by a retired female federal judge. Both facts point to the significance of collecting data on how different people interact with systems and the power of old fashioned lobbying for change.
Can we imagine how every workplace—not just courtrooms—would be positively impacted if culture leaders/persons in power understood the need to give less senior team members (e.g. women and persons of color) exposure and experience? Even more, what would the landscape look like if we were focused more on empowerment than simply preserving status quo?
Once more we’re reminded about how the use of imagination is tied to creating a mechanism for inclusivity.
ader and Ellie supporter Michelle Cohen for bringing the NYT piece to my attention!)
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
Understanding Non-binary Humans
Just as much of society is starting to wrap its collective arms around what it means to be transgender, we’re now seeing and hearing about “gender queer” or “gender non-conforming” or "non-binary" people. These folks (usually under thirty years old but not always) don’t identify as being of either gender. As “non-binary” humans they ask for pronouns such as “they” or “them” or “ze.” Facebook has recognized this by offering 60 options for identifying one’s gender.
Massive Millennial Poll
found that half of millennials—those ages 18 to 34—believe gender is a spectrum and that “some people fall outside traditional categories.” In June and July, respectively,
began issuing driver’s licenses with a third gender, an “X” option. California is presently considering a bill that would legalize a third gender option for all legal documents.
The most common response to non-binary humans is “aren’t they just choosing to be different?” Of course, we’ve heard the “choice” argument before—first with gays and lesbians and then with trans humans. The answer is that one’s self-identity isn’t a choice; instead, it just “is.”
Besides, who has the right to decide or dictate how another human views him/her/themselves?
Employers and organizations need to quickly get up to speed on understanding non-binary humans. They often present very androgynously, which can confuse and stress other team members. (Remember, we humans always want to group and label other humans and it’s distressing when we can’t do that!) Interviewers need to be educated on non-binary job applicants—with how they handle both resumes and in-person interviews. Otherwise, a company/organization will risk losing a highly talented candidate due to ignorance or awkward looks or questions.
One quick tip: give job applicants and team members an easy way to self-identify. On any form where you ask for basic personal information add a line or box with this: “X Company/Organization is open and welcoming to all persons. Thus, to aid us in being welcoming, we offer this optional space to self-identify relative to gender or non-gender. Please let us know how you would like to be referred to and what pronouns, if any, you would like us to use. Thank you!”
As they say, the world is a-changing. Note that those words were penned by a woman who happens to be transgender.
This month's Odds and Ends is a collection of cool tech, nepotism, good reads and shameless marketing.
See University of Iowa football fans
wave to patients
at Iowa Children’s Hospital (which is located across the street from the stadium). Yet another example of how using imagination fosters greater inclusivity.
Second Darn Wonderful (which for techies would be a big first wonderful):
Here’s one of the very
I’ve ever seen—a blue whale emerging from the floor of a school gymnasium. I’ll leave it to your imagination how this technology could be both good and bad.
Third Darn Wonderful:
as two hippos intervene to save a wildebeest from the jaws of a crocodile. Animal empathy at work? I’d like to think so.
My late August
, “Dating Revisited” about me stepping back into the dating pool garnered nearly 100 Facebook “Likes.” We’ll see if dating at 60 produces anything meaningful; at the very least, it’s wonderful copy for the second installment of my memoir. I also
“Labor Day Resolve” re: the challenges of being an inclusivity advocate in today’s America.
My 27-year-old daughter, Kate, a writer like me, is a freelancer for
Her pick for this month is
, by Attica Locke. It's a thriller/murder-mystery that tackles race and white supremacy.
See also her wonderful post about World Suicide Prevention Day
. Kate’s reading recommendation will become a standard Odds and Ends feature—hey, I can do it, so I will. There’s no anti-nepotism rule here, just like there isn’t a rule at the WH.
Writings and Books—others:
on what smart phones are doing to our kids—how it’s separating them from human contact and fostering depression/self-marginalization. Another good story is about
, a model who recently revealed that she is transgender.
Have Your Heard of DonorsChoose.org?
about an online nonprofit that helps fund classroom/school projects to ensure that all kids have opportunity. They take donations of any amount.
One More Incredible School Thing:
In the April 2017 issue of
I wrote about lunch shaming; recently, parents launched an effort to
pay off the collective student lunch debt
at the St. Paul elementary school where Philando Castile worked as the food service manager (this project was to honor Philando following his death in a police-involved shooting). Those parents sought to raise $5K but ended up with $65K—enough to wipe out the entire lunch debt for the entire St. Paul school system. Wow! Remember, most humans want to do good.
Uprising Theater Minneapolis
: See Uprising Theater’s new play,
These Shining Lives
, which follows a group of young women in Illinois in the 1920’s and 30’s who worked at the Radium Dial Company, painting numbers with radioactive radium paint onto watch faces for World War I. The women later developed symptoms of radium poisoning and sued their employer in the first worker’s rights case. Oct. 6-14. Click
for more information.
“Hidden Edges Radio” Shows:
We’ve started live-streaming the radio show on Facebook Live—how cool is that? Recent shows have included talking with Stephanie Glaros about her “Humans of Minneapolis” project (hint: regardless of age or station in life, we’re all the same); another interview was with Neda Kellogg of “Project Diva” which works to instill self-confidence and life skills in young Black women and girls (my Little Sister, “Jasmine,” [through Big Brothers/Sisters] was also interviewed to share what it’s like to be a Black twelve-year-old girl in America today); finally, I interviewed Larry Tye, author of
The Making of a Liberal Icon.
(Long-time readers will know that RFK is one of my personal heroes; I was in heaven!). You can access the podcasts
Shout-out for Interesting Guest Leads:
Hidden Edges Radio focuses on how all of us are collectively trying to survive the Human Condition. I like to bring in guests who have shown personal grit and resiliency, like Cathy Heying, a social worker who recognized that low-income people often lack reliable transportation and then changed court to enroll in mechanic school. She later founded the Lift Garage, a nonprofit auto repair facility that serves low-income persons who need their autos fixed. If you know of people with stories of grit and resiliency, please tell me about them (they can be anywhere in the U.S.—we can air telephone interviews) at
Past and Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:
This week, I’m on a road trip to Iowa where I’ll give 7 trainings in 3 days (including two days training Scott Co. employees). Coming up is a major WebEx presentation on allyship for U.S. Bank that will be broadcast company-wide. I'll also be off to Virginia to train court administrators; after that, I’ll be in Boulder and then Vancouver, B.C. Before this whirlwind is done in late November, I’ll have been from one coast to the other talking about Gray Area Thinking.™ Bring it on! There is so much work to do. You can view my entire schedule
Finally, Blatant Marketing for Holiday Season 2017:
We are barely three months away from gift-giving with Christmas and Hanukah; why not give a unique gift like a specially inscribed copy of my book,
Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change
? I will inscribe to a friend or loved one and after my own personal words of inspiration add anything that you want. $24.50 covers purchase, postage, tax and shipping. if you have an interest in ordering a specially inscribed book. (Sorry for this plug; I’m told that I don’t do enough to market what many tell me is a wonderful read.) For a book description, see the
Getting to Ellen
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.
Encouraging Open Hearts and Thriving Human Spirits
Human Inspiration Works, LLC: We make "inclusion" an action word