The Conscious Corner by Maceo Z. Keeling, Sr. –
In the light of local, national, and global affairs I am frequently asked the question, “What can I do to help change the situation for peoples of color?”
Surprisingly, I have not often come up with suggestions that have had immediate global impact. The answer seems elusive, but in this article I have a suggestion or two that may be helpful for those of us who claim to “stand for equity and justice for all mankind.”
What happens when self-proclaimed “liberals” hear a racial comment or are privy to inequitable treatment of people who are currently, and have been, marginalized—disrespected in the work place or shown different treatment in our community? Usually nothing!
More often than not, dead silence.
This does not make them evil, just negligent. What can you do to start the difficult conversation about what was just said or done?
Tip # 1
Simply tell the truth about what you are feeling at the moment. Try this on, “You know the comment you just made makes me uncomfortable. Would you be willing to chat about why, or maybe help me unpack where those comments come from?”
The point is that silence is complicity. We become culpable when we fail to act when the opportunity demands it.
Have you noticed the title of this article? The words silent and listen share the same letters of the alphabet. I’m suggesting that when we are listening we must quiet our mouths and our minds in order to receive new ideas. This is the way we can listen effectively.
Tip # 2
Relax yourself. Be clear, concise and avoid emotionally charging an already “sensitive” discussion. Ask for help to explore why the conversation is difficult if you care about the person with whom you are talking. If the conversation is difficult for you do discuss, you may uncover some of your own latent prejudices. Seek to understand before you seek to address what you heard. Once you have clarity about the statement or action, address the words or actions not the person.
“I believe I know you pretty well and I feel confident that we can talk this out, so what did you mean by…” (restate the words they used).
If we continue to look outside of ourselves for solutions to our challenges, we will continue languishing in a bad dream. There is no obvious incentive for anyone to change if they don’t recognize the reward for change to happen. When we look inward for what we can do we then are awakened! Then and only then can we become agents for change and our own advocates for equity and peace.
To start the difficult conversations, we should consider some of the following:
- Is the person open to listen?
- Is the timing good for this conversation?
- Is your intent to be an agent for change or conflict?
- Are you ready to hear what is said when it is your turn to listen?
- How long are you willing to let the difficult conversation fester before you address it?
- Is there a better time than the moment the comment or inequity occurs?
We are the change we seek if change will ever be realized. We are all stakeholders in the survival of our species and the advancement of our civilization. The work of service to mankind is not a spectator sport we are all vested in the hoped-for outcomes for global change.
Answer the call!
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