I think it is rather fascinating how race relations and multiculturalism have become a part of the branding of corporate America. Whether it’s high tech Silicon Valley being pushed to show the diversity of their workplace or more so the lack thereof or another corporate giant, Starbucks, asking or telling their Baristas to promote race together. How do we begin or continue a dialogue about racism in our country, cities or neighborhoods? This is a tough question to answer without sounding patronizing or attempting to impose my middle class White norms on Blacks, Hispanics or Asians? (I know that this list should continue with a multitude or ethnics groups!)
One of the first lessons that I’m continuing to explore, after intentionally living in a diverse neighborhood, is that there is so much history behind the racial and diversity discussion in America that my quickness to address it just shows my lack of understanding. There isn’t any quick fix to solving or addressing the hundreds of years of oppression and abuse that have taken place. I have learned by participating in city sponsored neighborhood events that purposely living in a diverse neighborhood doesn’t give me any advantage in relating back to people who are racially different from me. There isn’t any short cut to making friends purposely where I value another’s diverse view of life. The key is whether I value their life stories and am willing to embrace them as friends and not a means to an end?
The challenge in the educated class of America is that we truly believe that we know better and have all of the answers to solve the ills of poverty and racial struggles in our country. Yes, America is a land of immigrants that have fought, died and now live through their extended families’ legacies but the reality for most is that we are too quick to judge and overreact to those that look different from what we see in the mirror. We live in a multicultural world but still believe that homogeneity is our safe haven.
So what do we, you or me do to help in this pressing issue in our own neighborhoods? I propose that instead of seeing this as a race to see it instead as a walk. It’s amazing what happens when you walk with someone. You get to hear their story, their joys and disappointments as you share yours with them. If we truly have a heart and real interest in promoting multiculturalism then our work force across the big corporate companies and local businesses must reflect the diversity in our neighborhoods. This is much bigger than a race issue but also gender and age issue. There is discrimination across all areas.
I believe that the first step is to make a friend who is totally different from your background and allow them into your life. I have had the privilege of doing this the last decade of my life. Yes, I still at times attempt to impose my educated White views on many but am learning to observe more, listen more and then actually value what I see instead of judging. It is possible for me to actually learn much from someone who is totally different?
I talked to one of my favorite baristas this morning about her thoughts on what Starbucks is doing. Her response, which isn’t a surprise, was it’s a great start. She’s a young Hispanic gal who was greeted by a customer this morning with Hola Mia! The manager of this store actually did an overview of the workforce for his district. It was clear that my Starbucks is doing a better job of having employees that come out of the community and represent it’s diverse cross section.
So instead of racing lets decide to walk, talk, listen and learn from one another. Choose to intentionally stop trying to fix the people who you consider to be beneath you and instead be more concerned about your own life! Remember we first learned to crawl, than walk before we were able to RUN!