Monday, July 27, 2020

Your Change, Sir: Opening Our Eyes and Becoming Better

your-change-sirAbout 25 years ago I started a new job. Over time I became good friends with one of my co-workers, Eric Hughes. He is incredibly innovative, outgoing, kind, positive and has a great sense of humor. We were having lunch one day and talking about racial bias. I didn’t believe it was very prevalent. However, Eric, who is black, said it still existed and he regularly experienced it. As an example, he shared how some store clerks would put change on the counter rather than put it in his hand. I was taken aback and it caused me to look myself a little differently and see if I needed to do better.

Subsequent to that I was talking with another dear friend and business associate, Marti Colwell who, like Eric, is a talented and amazing person. During the conversation I used a term regarding negotiations that I could tell gave her pause. I had used a phrase that referenced her heritage (Jewish). I certainly had not intended to offend. It was a phrase I had heard often growing up and used it without thinking about its implications. She didn’t say much, but I could tell from her eyes that what I said was hurtful. Her quiet reprimand made me a better more thoughtful person. We remain good friends to this day.

Over a year ago I was at a meeting where Dr. Susan Madsen spoke about unconscious bias as it relates to woman. As with Eric, I had assumed that bias was very limited in this sphere, but again I was wrong. As Dr. Madsen went through her presentation I realized that there were a lot of things in the world I just didn’t see. In a recent article she published on unconscious bias training, she noted the following

Have we made progress over the years in reducing bias? Yes! However, we live in an imperfect world and so there will always be things that we can improve on. I’ve found that having sincere and honest conversations with those who are different than me is the best way to remove negative preconceptions. Perhaps this is because our ability to empathize with others improves when with listen. In his book “The War for Kindness”, Jamil Zaki states, “Empathy’s most important role, though, is to inspire kindness: our tendency to help each other, even at a cost to ourselves.” Kindness is something the world certainly needs more of, especially today.

On June 10th of the year we recorded conversation with Highland’s police chief, Brian Gwilliam, Highland residents Ronell Hugh, Brady Brammer (State Rep), Nicki Brammer, myself, and Alpine’s Mayor Troy Stout about racial inclusivity.It was a great conversation and one that is worth watching.

After this discussion our group put together a Learn Feel Act Challenge that can help families gain a broader perspective on racial issues. The challenges asked families to read a book, watch a video and memorize a quote. They can select their own resources or use a list we worked with the library to develop that include recommendations based on the reader's age.. The Learn Feel Act group has created its own website with a broader list of material. I am sure that these lists include items that we otherwise might not read but I have always found learning about other perspectives to be valuable.

After learning about these issues, the challenge asks families to explore their feelings and develop a plan for positive actions. One of these actions could include meeting with a member of our police department to learn more about how they deal with bias and other issues. You can schedule your appointment by calling (801) 756-9800. Our police chief, Brian Gwilliam, and I hope you do.

Learn Feel ActAfter completing the challenge you will be awarded with a sticker that you can put on a window in your home or car to indicate that your family values inclusivity and is taking steps to be more inclusive. Additionally, you will receive t-shirts for family members to wear.

For those of you who are old enough to remember, the sticker reminds me of the helping hand sign that the people put in their windows when I was growing up. It indicated that the home was a place you could go to if you felt unsafe (e.g. if you were being chased by someone older on the way home from school).

Knowledge can influence actions and change behaviors. It has in my life and I hope it will continue to do so. Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist leader and former slave, changed his view over time on what actions needed to be taken to make progress as he learned and grew. Here’s a quote from a speech he gave in Glasgow, Scotland on March 26, 1860:

When I was a child, I thought and spoke as a child. But the question is not as to what were my opinions fourteen years ago, but what they are now. If I am right now, it really does not matter what I was fourteen years ago. My position now is one of reform, not of revolution. I would act for the abolition of slavery through the Government — not over its ruins.”

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4 comments:

  1. Rod, please tell me that "Learn Feel Act Resources" page wasn't put together with Highland taxpayer money. That page is not helpful and links to anti-American content such as the 1619 Project of the NY Times. We do not have a systemic racism problem in Highland, OR America. Problems here and there? Sure. But this is embracing Marxism (visit Prager U and search for "racism" to watch Larry Elder, a black, explain it to a white liberal). The Black Lives Matter organization is led by self-proclaimed trained Marxists. An inclusivity committee is not the answer. If we want solutions, why don't we advocate Christian love for each other. That's the real answer and it's more effective than all these programs combined.

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    1. First, the Learn, Feel, Act resource website was created by a Highland resident using his own time and money. The resources listed were put together by him. He did not realize the historical inaccuracies that were included in the 1619 project. When he found out he immediately said, "I will remove it from the list". For those who are unaware here are links to comments by leading historical scholars on them (you'll note the most of the sources are not conservative publications):

      • Sean Wilenz, “A Matter of Facts: The New York Times’ 1619 Project launched with the best of intentions, but has been undermined by some of its claims”, The Atlantic, January 22, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/01/1619-project-new-york-times-wilentz/605152/
      • Tom Mackaman, “An interview with historian Gordon Wood on the New York Times’ 1619 Project”, World Socialist Website, November, 28,2019. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/11/28/wood-n28.html
      • Tom Mackaman, “An interview with historian James McPherson on the New York Times’ 1619 Project”, World Socialist Website, November, 14 2019. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/11/14/mcph-n14.html
      • Tom Mackaman, “An interview with historian James Oaks on the New York Times’ 1619 Project”, World Socialist Website, November, 18 2019. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/11/18/oake-n18.html
      • James Oaks, “James Oakes on What’s Wrong with The 1619 Project – #46”, Manifold, May 14, 2020. https://manifoldlearning.com/episode-046/
      • Eric London, “Historian Victoria Bynum on the inaccuracies of the New York Times 1619 Project”, World Socialist Website, October, 30 2019. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/10/30/bynu-o30.html
      • Leslie Harris, “I Helped Fact-Check the 1619 Project. The Times Ignored Me”, Politico, March 6, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/03/06/1619-project-new-york-times-mistake-122248

      We all have unconscious bias is some form or other which we can only eliminate when we become aware of it. Seeing life from other peoples perspectives helps in that process. Our objective is positive change. I don't believe we do anyone a favor when tear others down to put us on a level playing field. We should lift others and thus create a win/win rather than a win/lose. The objective the inclusivity group is foster increased kindness. We are starting with racial inclusivity because that is topical and we can't address all biases at once.

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  2. "One of the main thrusts of the communist drive in America today is through the so-called civil rights movement. Now there is nothing wrong with civil rights. It’s what is being done in the name of civil rights that is shocking…

    "I warn you unless we wake up soon and do something about the conspiracy, the communist-inspired civil rights riots of the past will pale into insignificance compared to the bloodshed and destruction that lie ahead in the near future.

    "Do not think the members of the church shall escape. The Lord has assured us that the church will still be here when He comes. But has the Lord assured us that we can avoid fighting for freedom and still escape unscathed, both temporally and spiritually? We cannot escape the eternal consequences of our pre-existent position on freedom. What makes us think we can escape it here?"

    -Ezra Taft Benson, BYU, 10/25/66

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    1. Exactly Natalie. We want to do good rather than tear down.

      In a joint statement President Nelson and the NAACP stated

      “Unitedly we declare that the answers to racism, prejudice, discrimination and hate will not come from government or law enforcement alone. Solutions will come as we open our hearts to those whose lives are different than our own, as we work to build bonds of genuine friendship, and as we see each other as the brothers and sisters we are — for we are all children of a loving God.”

      We agree that solutions will come as we "open our hearts to those lives are different than our own." That is why we want to start conversations, learn about each other, begin to feel love, and act on that in a positive way. Our initiative is about lift and building up, not tearing down.

      If we don't do something positive because we are afraid of being associated with groups who are using racial bias to destroy that is a victory for those who incite violence.

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