Ferguson, More Than Just a Racial Issue

My work is in Diversity Consulting and Personal Development and so often in both my professional and personal life I’m asked why I talk the way I do. As an example, if I’m told about a disagreement or if I hear someone make a bold assumption about the intentions of someone else, I stop them in their tracks. I have questions. I want to know how they know their assumptions are correct. I ask them if they feel like the other person has been heard. I inquire about the impact their words or actions are having on the other person. For some, this is met with frustration. They want to know why I can’t just get their point. Others who don’t know me as well, perceive that “I’m not on their side” nor supporting what’s important to them. On the contrary, I just know something that so many still can’t seem to get or incorporate in their daily lives. EVERYONE WANTS TO BE HEARD AND FEEL VALUED! I also know that when people don’t feel heard or valued in their neighborhoods, intimate relationships, and work environments, there are real consequences. Consequences that impact not only the perceived victim but whole groups of people who may or may not be directly involved. For many people of color the situation that is currently taking place in Ferguson, MO is surprising…but not really. None of us wants to see the pain and chaos that is transpiring there but there is a frustration many of us can relate to. This of course is not a new topic nor is this a new reaction, history is simply repeating itself before our eyes. However, here is what’s surprising; many of us across cultural backgrounds, gender and economic status are contributing to chaos in our own homes, communities, schools and workplaces. However, since it doesn’t spill into the streets and result in such visible death and destruction we feel we couldn’t be contributing in any way to something so damaging. But here are some questions I want to pose for all of us, and yes that means people of color too. Are we in our daily lives honoring the people we work with, live with, and live around? Meaning when we see people on the street do we really see them or are we exclusively focused on where we want to go? Are we making subtle judgments in the grocery stores about how others are dressed, their forms of payment, the job of a cashier, etc? In our relationships whether at work or at home, do we dismiss others when we feel we’re right? Are people allowed to share their point of view? Do they feel whole after talking with you even if you have differing perspectives? When you argue are you respectful? Has the silent treatment or cursing someone out become normal? Do your feelings override the basic tenants of respect? Have you ever thought of the impact you’re creating inside of someone if you’re guilty of any of these behaviors? Have you considered the collective impact you’re having on employees if you are in a position of power or what’s churning inside of your spouse, or what it’s doing to the communities your ride through but don’t really honor? So what does this have to do with Ferguson? Everything. Ferguson does not happen overnight. What we are seeing is collective frustration and collective neglect. Yes Ferguson is a part of systemic racial issue but if we look closely it is also an issue of humanity. Demeaning an employee, not listening to anyone due to their age or sexual orientation, giving the silent treatment to your loved one or using derogatory language, is all the same vibration – a vibration that lacks value and respect for others whom you deem different and often less than. It all leads to the same place. So as we continue to watch this unfold take a closer look at the contribution you can make to build a better society. I promise you it will not negate the justice that needs to take place in Ferguson but it will assist in creating a better place to live and work for all of us.