I remember staring at my uncle in disbelief. He had just reread a letter from his youngest daughter – the cousin who had I grown up emulating because everyone spoke so highly of her. The letter had arrived around his birthday and while I never got to personally read the contents – the gist of the letter was that she had eloped and married a man she had met in college. The man was African American and my uncle, and my father for that matter, were both raised with a mean streak of hatred for blacks. I had not known the depth of their racism until that day. I sat in disbelief. My uncle was so angry that he soon disowned his own daughter. When I learned this, I felt a huge wave of anger for the injustice of this. And then I felt deep sadness that he could not put aside his own limited thinking to trust his own daughter’s judgement or her heart.
How do people hate like that? How do people hate people they don’t even know? I’ve shared this story and been reprimanded by others that my father and uncle represented a different time. Let’s be clear! There never was or is a time to hate someone for the color of their skin. And hatred is taught. If it goes unchecked, it grows and rationalizes itself. As I’ve coached on embracing ourselves and one another for our diversity, I’d forgotten the memory of my uncle that day. Assuming incorrectly that this type of limited thinking had died. Until now.
George Floyd’s murder and so many other injustices towards people of color and the long-standing racism found within pockets of dangerous power brought back the flash of that memory and I felt guilty for having forgotten. I’d forgotten how racism can sit idling within someone, unbeknownst to those who love them. My cousin became my hero – for having followed her heart, for braving the unknown when mixed race marriages were under acute scrutiny, and for having been willing to stay married even when my uncle showed his true colors of limited thinking and racism.
I have always loved my uncle for so many reasons – WW2 pilot, how he cared for my brother after a horrible car accident, how he taught me how to water ski, how he showed me a happy marriage when my father was a widow who got it wrong so much of the time…. But he also awakened a deep warrior against injustice inside of me. I never did look at my uncle the same way and I questioned and challenged my father as I grew from that teenager to an adult.
Now, as an adult who has friends from all walks of life: black, brown, olive complexioned, and white skin tones, I reflect on what I have done to help the cause of equality for all and I still think I come up short. But here’s what I do know. We are 99.9% genetically identical. That leaves the remaining 1% to be how we think and what we look like. That means that the 1% is what makes us the most beautiful, the most unique, and the most qualified to change the world in how we must move forward as humans – united.
We have to do better, be better, and act better. The best thing we can all do is use what power we do have – the way we spend our money and how we vote. How you think will influence both. How you think is what the Strength Finder assessment identifies. If you think that this isn’t the time for an assessment, I really don’t know a better time than now to let science push your emotions aside for a hot minute and reveal to you how you approach all this new information so you can act. How you think influences your behaviors. If you are wanting to act, to support, or to facilitate change – knowing how you naturally think will show you where to show up, what you are good at doing, and identify where you can be the most affective. Change happens when we all show up doing our part – learn what yours is and be bold.
Do not wonder the streets with a broom thinking that you are helping – you’re just cleaning up a mess that silence has fueled. Step into who you are by understanding how you think differently than everyone else and then do something with that information to help us change to be a nation that truly is inclusive and embraces equal opportunity for all. I’ve learned where I can show up and that is connecting you to your unique self, strategically seeing how to piece together a puzzle of human effort, and welcoming you to be your best self.
To learn more, contact Carole……