I want to offer advice and encouragement for those who are feeling guilty about what happened in Minneapolis and those of you searching yourselves for what you can do to make a difference.
First of all, you didn’t have control over what happened in Minneapolis. You weren’t there holding Mr. Floyd down. You weren’t a witness to the senseless murder of an innocent man. You didn’t have control over that situation.
What you are likely to have control over, however, are the daily interactions that you have where you may witness injustice. There’s a spectrum of injustice, and indeed what happened to Mr. Floyd is on the most extreme end of that spectrum. At the other end of that spectrum are the more common situations of injustice where you can make a difference. It’s likely in your workplace, on your jobs.
How often have you witnessed the crying out of someone who was saying, “I can’t survive? I can’t make it in this situation. The pressure is too great. The odds are stacked against me, help me.” Have you ever witnessed someone in that situation? I bet you have. I know I certainly have. Many many times throughout my career I’ve seen people who didn’t deserve the unfair circumstances they were in.
They didn’t earn those situations, but they were in them, due to the imbalance of power. I certainly have been there. I remember being the only one who was different on a job and was instantly disliked because of how different I was.
There’s a scale of intersectionality where our brains tell us to prefer familiarity. If someone is like us, we’re more likely to trust and include them. Whereas, the more different you are, the more likely you are to experience lack of trust and scrutiny.
This happens every day on jobs across the country, across the world. It’s because of how biases work.
In a nanosecond, your brain will judge someone whether they earned that judgment are not. So, here’s what you can do. Admit that you’re biased. And here’s the secret friends, we all are biased. If you have a brain, you’re biased.
Biases are the brain’s threat detector. It helps us to anticipate potential attacks and threats against our survival. As it relates to injustice against people, it can mislead us into judging people incorrectly. And so, the way that you catch yourself is to pay attention to those little thoughts that pop into your head when you’re interacting with someone different from you. What are those thoughts saying to you? And the more you pay attention to those thoughts it will start to reveal your set of biases. You may discover you have prejudices against people that you didn’t even realize.
That’s the work you can do. So recognize your biases examine them. And then, once you have formed an awareness of your set of biases. You can choose to behave differently. You can choose different actions that follow. You don’t have to let your mind control your behavior.
The only way we’ll be able to truly break the cycle of injustice, is in our minds. We can burn down every building in the United States, that won’t take bias out of brains. If you want to be a part of the solution, recognize you have biases, examine them, determine your personal set of biases, and then choose different actions.
That’s what you can do. You can only control what you can control. I’m so glad you’re feeling these emotions. It means there’s hope that there we will experience a change in the future, but don’t be foolish and think that just because you feel these emotions now, because of what happened in Minneapolis, that it will result in different behavior. It won’t. Break the cycle.
If there’s anything, I can do to help you break it, contact me. We’ll work through it.
I wish you the best in being part of the solution to make this a better country for all people to live in.