As the news started spreading about what was happening in Charlottesville on Saturday, it made me sick to my stomach. It weighed heavily on my mind throughout the day, and it was the topic of conversation at the dinner table and beyond.
After watching the news and reading the Sunday paper, I posted the following on Facebook: “I am angry, dumbfounded, disturbed, sad, appalled and so much more over what happened in Charlottesville. Unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable. We cannot sit back and allow such sick behavior.”
The post received many comments mostly agreeing they did not want to sit back and allow the behavior. Some asked about actions steps we can take.
That’s what I have been mulling over the past couple of days. I’m a big believer that everybody can do something. In having conversations at my office and out in the community, several action steps have come to mind.
First and foremost, I think it starts with each of us committing to call out racism and inappropriate behavior when we see it. Too often it is easy just to look the other way and pretend we don’t see what is right in front of us. I remember learning the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We all know that is a lie. Words can cut like a sword.
Second, relationship coach, Dr. David Banks, makes this statement in many of our classes: “What you don’t understand, you still have to respect.” Though you may not understand or experience what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes, disrespect is not justifiable. Everybody has a story. It would probably help all of us to spend more time learning people’s story instead of making assumptions about them.
Third, see individuals as valuable regardless of their skin color, where they grew up, how much education they have, where they work, how they speak or where they live. What would happen if we spent more time trying to help people understand their significance?
Finally, get to know people outside your own sphere of influence. This is probably the most powerful thing we all can do. While it may be uncomfortable initially, people usually find out they aren’t that different. We have more things in common than we realize.
Franklin and Tresa McCallie took this to heart a number of years ago. They began inviting people into their home for coffee, dessert and conversation. They intentionally invited a diverse group for a time of conversation around difficult topics. To date, more than 400 people have participated. Their goal was to have people participate and then replicate the experience in their sphere of influence – the workplace, school, home and community. You can actually download a toolkit from their website (chattanoogaconnected.com) to help you start on the same journey.
If you are interested in doing something like that, consider attending the Interracial Picnic on September 30th at the Tennessee Riverpark, Pavilion 4. The McCallies and their Chattanooga Connected leadership team are hosting the picnic, which lasts from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Everybody brings their own food, chairs, etc. There will be games and opportunity for great conversation. If you plan to attend, please email [email protected] so they have an idea about how many people will be there.
This all boils down to relationship. When we take the time to get to know each other, we are more likely to focus on walking life’s road together in a healthy way. Hate is a learned behavior. We have to do better for the sake of the next generation.