“When we tell our stories, we, and our history, become more vivid, and accessible, to all… And we give others a chance to recognize our shared human condition. As they get to know the stories of ordinary black people, their default emotion upon encountering blackness will bend away from fear.” (Theodore Johnson)
In 1976 President Gerald Ford dedicated Black History Month to “…seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” The heroic contributions and monumental achievements of black Americans take center stage as we have seen these men and women rise to the challenges set before them, become leaders and make significant changes and lasting impacts on society. However, those stories do not accurately represent the everyday experiences of many Black Americans in society.
As a people, we may not share the same experiences, and thus not truly understand what some of these men and women have gone through, and even what Black Americans endure in our society on the daily. In the spirit of inclusiveness, what we ARE able to do though, is expand our world view, shift our perspective and learn.
C.S Lewis said: “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” Experiencing situations and making mistakes will teach you what you need to know like no other. But that is not always a readily available option. Sometimes, you might have to learn from other people… yes, that means talking and hearing their perspective, what they experienced, and what they felt. We have a shared human condition. Our circumstances and experiences are all different, but our human struggles are the same – having to put on a mask for society – being and feeling inauthentic, for fear of what other people might say or think.
When might have you felt like you needed to put on a mask to belong in society – that you could not be your authentic self? Did you experience fear, shame, guilt?
Along with the Diversity & Inclusion movement – our goal is to help individuals learn and appreciate each other’s differences, for everyone to be treated fairly, and to help and encourage individuals to feel free to be their truest selves, and not have to hide behind masks – for whatever reason.
We all need to listen and share to bridge the gap of Diversity. Let’s all pause before we act, and make this world a kinder, and a safer place.