writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
Fear of "Other" and Safeguarding Hope
While this newsletter seeks to focus only on the positives related to inclusivity, sometimes I can’t ignore current events. The recent tragedy in Charlottesville—which included the death of Heather Heyer and two Virginia State Police helicopter crewmen—is one such event, as it greatly reflects on present-day America.
As Charlottesville showed, there is a group emboldened by the country’s change in political leadership; this combination of white supremacists, anti-immigrants, Nazi wannabes, Ku Klux Klan members and a host of others believe that anyone not white, Christian or born in this county needs to leave. In terms of visible numbers, this is a very small group.
In contrast, the vast majority of people—whites, women and people who are “other” (LGBTQ, of color, those with disabilities, or foreign-born)—desperately don’t want to lose the civil rights progress that our country has made over the last two decades.
The common denominator between both groups is
—fear of “other”; fear of lost economic standing; fear of marginalization; and fear of violence. Our leaders do very little to dispel this fear. Rather than talking about our human commonalties, the promise of America, and dealing head-on with what causes people to hate, our leaders (at best) offer platitudes. As we saw after Charlottesville, sometimes they even embolden those who hate.
Thus, it falls upon you—everyday human—to speak up about the need to be inclusive and welcoming of anyone who is “different” from “us.” It’s become incumbent upon you to not tolerate hate of “other” in any form. It's now everyone's job to speak out against hate.
We all have the ability to do this work.
Those who hate risk taking from those who don’t hate their hope for an inclusive, welcoming future. Hope is a precious commodity—it sustains and nurtures us and is the one thing that pushes us forward when nothing else will.
Please join me in holding our hope dear and within our collective heart. You can do this. We all can do this. I am positive of it and I am here to help you hold hope dear. (See my larger blog post on this
Be well! I care about each of you.
P.S. It’s August and I’m swamped with behind-the-scenes work, meaning that I’ve condensed
Let me know if you like this more compact version; maybe I'll make it permanent...
For something uplifting, I have three stories of positive change involving professions that heretofore have been heavily majority-race restricted.
is about Roderick Cox, an African-American who grew up in Macon, Georgia singing with his mother and brother in their church’s gospel choir. That experience sparked something in Roderick, who recounted that after church, he’d lead imaginary concerts in his bedroom with action figures as the choir.
Later, Roderick studied music at Northwestern University where he was mentored by Victor Yampolsky, the famed Russian conductor, who suggested that Roderick take up the conductor’s baton. (Note to reader: this is how change happens—a person in authority believes in someone from a marginalized community and pushes them along.)
Roderick now serves as an associate conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra. As such, he is just one of only a handful of African-American conductors in the world. Given that African-Americans are not widely represented in either the performance or audience sides of classical music, Roderick’s presence on the conductor’s stand reminds everyone that change can happen.
involves yet another profession that’s historically been white-only—librarians. As reported by the Skokie Public Library (some will recall that Skokie’s had its own share of historical hatred), the Public Library Association (a division of the American Library Association) has created the Inclusive Internship Initiative (III), which is intended to increase diversity in “librarianship” (yes, that’s a word). The III program funded 50 high school students from 25 states, which included a kickoff event in June in Washington, D.C. and a two-day master training class in librarianship.
The Skokie Public Library’s III program interns were Ayesha Khan ad Liana Wallace, who have spent the summer better understanding the role of community libraries. As Liana observed there’s greater intellectual freedom at the library, “If you want to inquire about something that might have a stigma around it, you’re able to do that and not be worried about people tracking what you’re looking at.” She went on to note, “There’s so few people of color (working as librarians) and so (libraries) are really trying to change.”
My hat’s off to the Public Library Association for using its imagination (and money) to promote diversity; this is what it takes to produce meaningful change.
is about Carlos Moore, the first African-American municipal judge in Clarksdale, Mississippi. As reported by CNN, on his first day on the job, Moore ordered courtroom attendants to remove the Mississippi state flag (which contains the Confederate battle emblem) from his courtroom. Moore viewed the flag as state support for the Confederacy’s legacy of slavery; also, as he explained, “Most of the people that appear before me will be African-American, and they need to feel that the courtroom is gonna be a place they can get justice…That flag does not stand for justice.”
Bravery comes in a variety of forms, as each of these stories remind. Each of us has the power to be brave.
Talking to Children About Hate
In the last several days, I’ve had to comfort both a sobbing adult daughter and my fearful 12-year-old biracial Little Sister (through Big Brothers Big Sisters) about what’s been happening in our country. I trust that many of you have had to do such comforting as well.
After reviewing various resources (see below) and chalking-up 27 years of parenting, here are some thoughts on how to talk to children about hate and our country’s current climate of intolerance:
1. Be Proactive: With the new school year upon us, your child will inevitably be exposed to the news or to kids coming from households with different political/social orientations. Knowing this, proactively check-in with your child about what they’re hearing and feeling relative to hateful words and images. If your child isn’t ready to talk, let him/her know that you’ll be available when they are.
2. Be Age Appropriate. Reserve “white supremacist” for your teen; for younger children, it might be “They are marching because they want a country where only white people live.”
3. As difficult as it may be, avoid labeling. We’re partly in this mess because of the human tendency to group and label others; as you talk to your child, speak of the hateful behavior without phrases such as “bad people” or “Nazis.” At the same time, stress family values such as “We’re not a family that labels other people” or “We’re not a family that believes violence is a way to make a point.”
4. Remind your child that most people aren’t hateful and instead are of good hearts. This is critical since most of the things reported by the media are about confrontation rather than love.
5. Assure your child that you are there to protect them. They probably need to hear this most of all.
6. Empower and Engage Your Child. Join your child in researching organizations that do good/protect marginalized people (the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, etc.) and collectively decide if you want to donate to that organization. (Something as small as $5 or $10 would be enough to teach about the value of contributing to good causes.) Consider contacting a youth leadership organization, such as the National Youth Leadership Council in St. Paul (
). Suggest that your child write a supportive letter or card to a victim of hate.
There are dozens of books and articles on how to talk to children about hate. I suggest starting with an August 14, 2017
, “Talking to Children When Hate Makes Headlines” and the Equal Justice Society’s
“How to Talk with Children about Hate Speech.”
There’s also a quick tip
by the Anti-Defamation League.
If all else fails, sit with your child and watch Jimmy Fallon’s incredible
on how he’s struggling to talk to his children about hate.
Lastly, reach out to me. Although I’m not an expert by any means, I would be happy to brainstorm with you about how to talk with children and others about what’s been happening in America.
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
Diversity and Inclusion Plans
When is the last time you looked at your organization’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Plan?
Alternative question: Does your organization
a D&I Plan?
As I travel across the country working with various organizations, I find that there’s no uniformity relative to what constitutes a D&I Plan, let alone whether that plan is a
(frequently referred to and updated) document. For many workplaces and entities, the only document related to diversity and inclusion is its EEOC statement (e.g. “We are an equal opportunity employer….). Nope, that’s not even close to being a D&I Plan.
Understanding that this topic would be worthy of an entire newsletter, a real D&I Plan will have several components, including: (1) a Vision Statement (e.g. how the organization seeks to be welcoming to all persons regardless of their outward or inward differences); (2) a Statement of Core Values (e.g. how the workplace will respect team members and hold everyone [including culture leaders] accountable); (3) Goals (e.g. how the organization will work to diversify and engage team members); and (4) Metrics (e.g. how the organization will measure progress and periodically review on-going D&I efforts). (If you’d like an example of a D&I Plan, please email me for one.)
Assuming your organization’s D&I Plan is in place, to what extent is that plan
? By “alive” or “living,” I mean is the plan a polestar where it is regularly referred to and incorporated into on-going organizational discussions and planning? Indeed, to truly be effective, the text of your D&I Plan should be readily accessible to all team members via website, employee handbook, and posting. Doing so reinforces that the plan is critical to the organization; easy access also invites reference and suggestions about improving or modifying the plan. In other words, it’s all about ownership.
Because humans are task-oriented, we often think our work is done with getting a D&I Plan in place. The reality is that the really important work relates to living up to the ideals, goals, and values set forth in a plan. That, as with everything else related to diversity and inclusion, takes
For that work, you will get something incredibly important: an organization where people are willing to invest in each other and in the organization itself.
Remember the old saying: no pain, no gain.
This delightful, innocent
will remind you that it’s state fair time in Iowa.
Second Darn Wonderful:
I’m sure that many have seen this wonderful
about two young school boys falling in love—it’s just so
Most Darn Wonderful:
Former President Obama’s record-breaking Tweet in the wake of Charlottesville, quoting Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Banning Transgender Troops:
My reaction—I’m appalled. Click
to see my interview with Iris Perez of TV9 News on the topic.
, “Lemonade” relates to a very transphobic piece that showed up in
(I know, huh?) in early July. Talk about the author of that piece being grossly misinformed...
Writings and Books—others:
One of the best
pieces of writing
that I’ve come across recently, “The 12-Hour Goodbye That Started Everything,” is by Miriam Johnson and showed up in the
The New York Times
last month. Make sure you read to the punchline about gratitude at the end. (My thanks to reader and Ellie Krug super champion Michelle Cohen for the tip about this piece!) Also, I’ve read Larry Tye’s
Bobby Kennedy, The Making of a Liberal Icon
, which I highly recommend as a reminder of what true American leadership looks like. (I’ve also interviewed Larry Tye for my radio program with that show to air in September.)
List of Children’s Books with Transgender Characters and Themes:
My thanks to artist and aspiring children’s book author Elise Chambers for locating
Deja Vu All Over Again:
Check out this
Don’t Be a Sucker
, which depicts a soapbox speaker railing against “Negros and immigrants.” The film has been resurrected from history’s archives where it was used to remind Americans why our troops were fighting the Nazis.
“Hidden Edges Radio” Shows:
Recent shows have included an interview with Phil Duran, a legal expert on transgender rights and critical ally for Minnesotans who are trans. On top of that, Phil and I each talked about our sobriety (25 years and 2 years, respectively). Another recent show was with Dr. Rob Ward of Hope House, a shelter for at risk-youth; if you want great advice on how to handle that teen who refuses to follow "the rules," listen to this show. Finally, I interviewed folks from MN Interfaith Power and Light about their “Garden of Inclusivity,” which is yet another example of using one’s imagination to draw people in. Click
for the podcasts link.
Past and Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:
I had the pleasure of traveling to Duluth and Virginia MN in late July to train St. Louis County employees on Gray Area Thinking™. The audience members so liked my talk that they indicated a desire to have me back. In September, it will be two days of such training for Scott County, Iowa (Davenport) county employees. On the horizon are trips to Boulder, CO, Vancouver, British Columbia, Los Angeles, and Palo Alto. My entire schedule is
That’s the number of mailing list recipients for this newsletter. This time last year, we had less than 300 names on the mailing list. Our open rate is approximately 43% compared to the average open rate of 18%. My thanks to everyone who takes the time to read this newsletter! I am so grateful!
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