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Dec072015

PERSONAL COMMUNICATING AND RACIAL EQUITY: 1

 

Fifty-seven years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King wrote,

People fail to get along with each other because they fear each other.  They fear each other because they don’t know each other. They don’t know each other because they have not properly communicated with each other.[i]

HOW TO DO IT

 U&ME: Communicating in Moments that Matter shows how to help make your communicating "as personal as possible."  This doesn't mean wearing your heart on your sleeve or prying into someone's personal life.  It means putting on the table between you and your communication partner(s) relevant parts of the things that make people persons, specifically, your choices, reflections, emotions-spirit-personality, and your mindfulness.

When two or more people can do this, they can help their uniquenesses meet.  They can be unique for-each-other; that is, they can help take in (listen for) and give out (talk about) relevant parts of what makes each of them individual.

This is what Dr. King meant when he said "properly communicate with each other."  

When uniquenesses meet, people aren't connecting as a black male and a white woman, an able-bodied teenager and a disabled veteran, a Latino and an Algonquin, or a boomer and a millenial.  They are connecting as persons. They may still disagree--vote differently, spend their money differently, support different teams, prefer different music, worship differently.  Their cultural differences--along with their personal ones--still exist.  But they're less likely to fear each other and therefore more likely to get along. 

Chapters 1 and 2 of U&ME explain how to do this, and Chapter 9 applies this way of communicating to multicultural situations.

OUR PAINFUL HISTORICAL CONTEXT

But if you're like me and a lot of my White acquaintences, friends, and family, it's difficult to understand why personal communicating can be so difficult in multicultural situations.  One of the reasons is that people of color often know some historical and contemporary facts that White folks don't usually get taught. Learning these can be empowering and motivating.  They can empower you to have the curiosity and cultural humility that it takes to connect personally with someone different from you.  And they can motivate you to make the effort, even when it's difficult.

Here is a sampling of the facts I'm thinking about--truths that weren't taught in the public and private schools I attended: (You can document each of these with a quick internet search.)

  • The idea of “race” was invented as a construct to put people in power hierarchies.  Even though it has no scientific basis at all, “race” has been used iin the U.S. to justify inhumane treatment of Native Americans, Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, Chinese, Latino/as, and, for centuries, Blacks. 
  • The U.S. Constitution originally said that slaves, who were virtually all Black, would only count as 3/5ths of a person for purposes of taxation and representation.
  • Between 1877 and 1950 there were at least 3959 lynchings of black people in 12 Southern states.  Racial terror lynching was used as a tool to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation.  It was a systematic campaign of terror perpetuated in furtherance of an unjust social order.
  • The G.I. bill was applied in racist ways across the country.  For example, by October, 1946, 6,500 former soldiers had been placed in nonfarm jobs by the employment service in Mississippi; 86% of the skilled and semiskilled jobs were filled by Whites, 92% of the unskilled ones by Blacks.
  • The G.I. bill also prompted racist lending practices. In New York & New Jersey, in 1946, fewer than 100 of the 67,000 mortgages insured by the Bill supported home purchases by nonwhites.
  • Racist home financing policies continue today.  In 2011 Countrywide Finance was fined $335 million by the Department of Justice for forcing subprime loans on Hispanics & African Americans.  In 2012 Wells Fargo was fined $175 million for the same practices.
  • People of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates, and yet people of color are jailed on drug charges at rates ten to fifty times greater than those of whites.
  •  A similar situation exists in the arena of employment.  In 2003, when 500 identical resumes were sent out with fictitious names to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago, the ones with White-sounding names received 50% more callbacks than the ones with Black-sounding names.  

U.S. culture continues to be decisively shaped by facts like these.  There have also been great equity victories--the Emancipation Proclamation, Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954, the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, 1968, and 1991.  But racist beliefs and values are still deeply rooted in U.S. culture and make equity a continuing challenge.

THINK GLOBALLY AND ACT LOCALLY

U.S. history has created racist systems in education, law-enforcement, housing, lending, employment, and most other life arenas, and it's difficult to change a system by yourself.  But systems are made up of individuals, and you can enhance multicultural life in your own sphere of influence by following Dr. King's guidance.  Learn how to help make your communicating as personal as possible.  Apply what you learn online, in your families, at work, and in all the situations you experience.  It works when you do.

 

 


[i] http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/Vol04Scans/401_May-1958_Advice%20for%20Living.pdf

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