Has prejudice escalated? Or has it just become more visible because of technology and the intensity of its in-your-face expression? Either way, it is harmful for those consumed in its prison and it is dangerously contagious for those swayed by its display. Many are assuming the anger associated with corruption, injustice, and prejudice but are directing it injuriously and divisively. What we need are courageous leaders to answer the clarion call—a strong request for positive action.
I do not want to rehearse the sources or problems associated with pre-judgment, assumptions, and stereotypes (see previous post), but rather communicate solutions to dismantle its impact upon emotional health, relational interactions, and the strength of our nation. We are powerless to regulate another, but we are powerful in what we choose to think, believe, and exemplify.
Here are some productive ways that we can use our power for good.
Find Common Ground: If I want to build bridges, not walls, I must become vulnerable by allowing others into the injustices, failures, and struggles of my life. Facades melt away into genuine authenticity as we share our life stories. Common ground is found as understanding connects hearts with paralleled experiences. When traveling, I am often viewed by others as someone born with a silver spoon in their mouth and the assumption that I have never known injustice. The moment I open my heart the invisible wall that stands between us shatters with the reality that we are more alike than we are different.
Through common ground permission is granted for open communication which allows an exchange of life. Initially where there was pre-judgment and mistrust we now discover a new friend releasing validation, acceptance, and understanding. I have learned every barrier can be torn down if we reveal our humanity and grant access to another.
“Let’s use our stories to encourage listening to one another and to hear not just the good news, but also the pain that lies at the back of a lot of people’s stories and histories.” – Karen Armstrong
Authentic Empathy: Do we genuinely inquire of others envisioning what it would be like to have walked in their shoes? The result of empathy validates the feelings of another and dismantles prejudice along with the effects of injustice and discrimination. Empathy allows us to experience a shift in taking another’s story from an abstract event to an identifiable reality. When we can relate and connect to another’s journey prejudice has already taken a death blow. Shared authentic empathy is a healer of wounds dissipating the pain and its accompanying anger.
My heart was moved as my husband and I enjoyed a meal with a beautiful African American couple ten years our senior. We have a valued relationship and our communication is open and honest. We heard the stories of the prejudice they experienced and the fear of being one of the few black kids forced to go to a white school as laws of desegregation were being enforced. We felt the burden forced upon them to ‘make it work’ in the midst of a hostile environment. We could not change their experience but we could authentically care…and we did! We shared stories from our lives and experiences as well. You see, our genuine nurture for one another was a manifestation of love which is always foundational to restoration.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of their 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.” – Nelson Mandela
Confront prejudice—past and present—as an instrument of justice:
Regardless of our personal past it should never define our present or our future. We can take the pain of ourselves and others and discover purpose and become a voice from that place of victimization. We can move from anger over prejudice—which is injustice—to deliberately and proactively doing justice in our spheres of influence. When I see any type of injustice, prejudice, or abuse I feel deep anger. I must recognize, however, that I have to properly direct it towards healing. I do not want my anger to be displayed through incongruous means. I hate injustice, so I do not want to become an instrument of injustice while I am raising my voice or action against it.
Will we be leaders of justice who are willing to fight for what is right and true? Will we confront evil with a courage and zeal that can impact individuals, systems, and structures? Moral, ethical, and unprejudiced leadership gives a platform to ignite the passion of another’s voice; ultimately it frees the very atmosphere generating paradigm shifts, activating creativity and productivity, and bringing positive change.
Prejudice was not interwoven into our culture in one day and healing will take time and effort. Our leadership influence positions us in all the realms of society and culture that are immersed in hidden pain. Can you imagine the positive influence achieved if we lived the mandate to be a solution? Can you picture the impact that this would have on families, employees, clients, cities, communities, school systems, governments, and ultimately, nations?
Present generations are still trying to heal from the effects of ancestral slavery, wars, loss, and personal abuse and we want to help them heal. The pain of our ancestors as well as our own can be a weapon against the oppressors of today. We can be a voice for those silenced by fear. We can see the pain of those hidden from view, and those abused day and night through forced slave labor and sex-trafficking. I can’t change the past but I can be a voice in the present. Let’s rise up as present-day abolitionists to say “enough is enough.”
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
Join with me as we courageously confront every type of injustice in healthy and productive ways, and by so doing, become a part of the solution.
From one leader to another,