Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Where I'm From...

You don't know me but you don't like me
You say you care less how I feel
But how many of you that sit and judge me
Have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?

                                         - Homer Joy, Streets of Bakersfield

There is an exercise I facilitate with groups to help them understand the deep diversity among them, based upon George Ella Lyon's poem "Where I’m From."

One of the takeaways of this exercise is the discovery of connection. Contrary to Joy's quote above, we bridge the gap of not liking each other. Here is Where I'm from...

Where I'm from ... we are who we are because of where we’ve been including: the people we connect with regularly, the news, the books, magazines and papers we consume, the experiences we’ve had. Our echo chambers, comfort zones come from all of these sources. We try very hard to get out of our echo chamber, our comfort zone. In fact, we recognize our calling is to help others get out their comfort zones into their learning zones and growth zones.

Where I'm from ... we had a gay brother/brother-in-law who died from AIDS. We have a gay daughter who recently got engaged to her partner and we are looking forward to celebrating their wedding.

Where I'm from ... we work with a wide range of organizations including for-profit Fortune 500 companies, not-for-profit including major universities, Building Bridges, and United Way and government entities including the E.P.A. and I.R.S. A couple of organizations have staff from all over the world. We got exposed to an incredibly diverse population that broke many molds, myths and assumptions with which we’d grown up.

Where I'm from ... we attend, support and work with Building Bridges, an organization that seeks to dismantle racism, respect diversity and encourage action. 

Where I'm from ... we attend and worship at a mission church that serves the homeless, underserved, veterans and abused. Needless to say, much of the congregation does does not look like us.  

Where I'm from ... our work has exposed us to our privilege including male privilege, white privilege, Christian privilege, leadership privilege, heterosexual privilege and American privilege. We are not ashamed of our privilege, but recognize the need to use our privilege to help those who do not have privilege. We’ve learned, if you can’t see your privilege, then you have privilege.  

Where I'm from ... we white males have the privilege of walking into our local big box grocery store past the security guard with no problem, but our black fire department cohort may get discreetly followed when he is out of uniform and in gym clothes walking past the security guard.

Where I'm from ... we Christians have the privilege of getting off work for Christmas and Good Friday, but our Jewish cohorts do not get days off for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) or Yom Kippur (Day of forgiveness). Our Muslim cohorts do not get off for Eid-Al-Aha (The sacrifice Abraham was willing to make of his son Ishmael) or Eid-Al-Fitr (The final day of celebration of Ramadan.) 

Where I'm from ... we heterosexuals have the privilege of not having to hide or lie about women/men only social gatherings. We heterosexuals have the privilege of not worrying about being asked by the school to send only one parent to "back to school night" so not to upset heterosexual parents with same-sex parents being present.
Not being asked by your child’s school to only send one parent to “back to school” night as to not upset the other parents by having two same-sex partners in the class together. - See more at:
Not being asked by your child’s school to only send one parent to “back to school” night as to not upset the other parents by having two same-sex partners in the class together. - See more at:

Where I'm from ... we are aware of our implicit bias and work to dial down our bias.

Where I'm from ... we don't read or watch USAToday, CNN, MSNBC or FOX. Not having cable television reinforces this practice. We don't listen to the talking heads including Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow. We get news from Reuters, AP, BBC, and NPR, which in our opinion offer balance. One of the segments on NPR Friday edition includes conservative David Brooks and liberal E.J. Dione, who talk about the news and events of the week. Their different perspectives are mind opening for us. We read The Week magazine as they summarize all the key news and editorial OP-EDs (liberal and conservative) each week. We listen to Fareed Zakaria's GPS podcast. He is intelligent and asks thoughtful questions from his guests who come from both sides of an issue.

Where I'm from ... we read mostly non-fiction books. Two books we recommend to understand the divide in our country, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart by Bill Bishop (4/5 stars on Amazon) and Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland, Duke Divinity Professor. (4.5/5 stars on Amazon). These two books give insight from a secular as well as religious point of view, the friction that is growing in our country. 

Where I'm from ... we check statements and "facts" especially with all the “fake news." We check facts at: Government Accounting Office, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, The National Priorities Project, Office of Management and Budget, Vera Institute of Justice, The U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Disease Control, United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, The Smithsonian Institutional Archives, The Library of Congress, PEW Research, Gallup Organization (neither poll made predictions on the 2016 election), National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Civil Liberties Union.  

Where I'm from ... we seek facts, truth and evidence from these sources and discovered since 2008:
- unemployment has fallen from 7.3% to 4.7% 
- gas at the pump dropped from $3.24/gallon to $2.24/gallon
- uninsured Americans dropped from 15% to 9.2%
- The U.S. imported oil has dropped from 11 million barrels per day to 4 million barrels per day. That number is expected to continue to drop as we are now exporting oil.
- The GDP has moved from -0.3% to +3.7%
- The Dow Jones was at 10,355 and now is over 20,000. Our retirement funds look a whole lot better!

Where I'm from ... we celebrate what people get right. We forgive when people do wrong and apologize. Obama wasn't perfect and neither was Bush. Obama made mistakes as did Bush. Affordable HealthCare Act was not perfect, but it was a start. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not perfect, but it was the right thing to do and continues to get better. We need to come up with a healthcare plan that is not tied to Wall Street and profit. Healthcare needs to be a right, not a privilege. The two things at the foundation of a great nation are good, affordable education for all and good, affordable healthcare for all.

Where I'm from ... we study leadership from The Leadership Challenge. The Leadership Challenge is about the five practices of exemplary leadership - model the way, enable others to act, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process and encourage the heart - they are what we use to determine the ability of a person to lead well.

Where I'm from ... we make the five practices the gold standard for holding the President of the United States or any leader accountable. Where I'm from ... these five practices are what is expected from someone who calls himself/herself a leader. They are what we are committed to doing and to what we hold ourselves accountable. Where I'm from ... the older we get, the better we should be at living into these five practices. 

You may not like Where I'm from ... . You may not agree with Where I'm from ... . But it is essential we get together for discussion about Where I'm from ... and where you are from. Discussion trumps argument. Argument is about finding out who is right. Discussion is about learning from each other and finding out what is right.

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