Are you unsure of your leadership skills?
Can we agree that this is a wild and crazy time in our world? Whoa. I wonder what the history books will say about it in future classrooms. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am feeling the need to break free from my own status quo. It’s time to grow my leadership skills. No longer will I accept my passive place of just letting things play out, because I want to promote the changes I wish to see in the world.
As a history teacher and a compassionate person, I feel terribly sad at the continuing struggles that People of Color face in this country. These issues began as far back as 1619, when African slaves first arrived at the Jamestown colony in Virginia. I won’t belabor the details, but let’s just say that despite periodic gains, People of Color still have a long way to go to achieve true equality in America.
I know, I know. Many of us are already aware of this, but are unsure of HOW to help, and afraid we’re going to do something wrong in the process. We may even fear the sting of rejection and anger from those we wish to help, or face the ire of our peers who think we’ve gone rogue. Regardless, none of these discomforts is a good reason to be silent. We can and must grow our leadership skills in order to make a measurable difference in the world around us.
Why racism never goes away
The issue of racism in America has remained persistent for centuries, even despite the gains of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950’s and 60’s. Racial tensions have flared recently for a number of reasons, including a spate of Black deaths that have garnered fresh media coverage. For us White folks nothing has changed, except perhaps our awareness. We are insulated from the realities that People of Color face, and we live untouched by the fear, anger and hopelessness that exists in Black communities everywhere.
So, why should White people consider building leadership skills to combat racism if it’s a Black problem? Well, because it is not a Black problem, it is a national problem. Racism is a system, one that is endemic to American culture, and it pervades every single social, political and economic institution in the nation. You may be wondering that if this is true, why don’t Whites see it? Because White culture and systems perceive race as Other, separate from the “norm,” which is White. Whiteness in America is synonymous with freedom, privilege and access, and often at the expense of People of Color. In this regard we are all unwitting participants in a racist society, whether we know it or not.
Because the nation – indeed much of the western world – is dominated by a White patriarchal system, People of Color need OUR help to achieve equality. They alone will not break through these invisible but insidious barriers as long as White people remain silent and indifferent. White people who care about making a difference must develop effective leadership skills…but how? It is the most important question of our times.
How can you make a difference?
Though we may not feel directly affected by race issues, we still have a very important role. As long as we remain silent in the face of racial discrimination, we are part of the problem – silence equals complicity. It is indeed strange how White racist culture can produce such fear among a majority of people who don’t actually experience it directly. This phenomenon is real, invisible to the eye, and complex to understand. There is SO much to learn about our role in perpetrating the very system we wish to reform.
Most White people are at a loss as to what they can do to help. Building leadership skills begins with self-education. We must take the initiative to learn the truth about the American racist system and our role in it. We must stop caving in from the anger and frustration of People of Color, and instead listen deeply to them. Reacting defensively with anger, fear and guilt is referred to as White Fragility, the title of an eye-opening book that I just read, one that has changed my life. White fragility is a big part of the problem of racism in this country.
Wondering where to begin? Here is a phenomenal place to start on your path to effective leadership, a comprehensive list of anti-racism resources. We are either part of the solution or part of the problem. How we step into our leadership is important, but doing anything toward that end is better than doing nothing. Let your heart lead the way.
And on that note, warriors, I am off to join up with a local Black Lives Matter rally in honor of the late George Floyd.
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Keep calm and Brumbylon.
Thanks for hanging out with me – have a great week!