Updated: Since originally writing this article, another police shooting and subsequent social unrest sprung from my very own community of Charlotte, NC. The suffering and grief of our community and my friends- African-American and others- is a powerful, emotional, and tearful reality, yet again.
Every action we take and decision we make is a manifestation of our beliefs, conscious and unconscious. I believe what is best in you is what has the greatest power to influence. I also believe violence and anger are easy, but aren’t what is best in anyone. Doing the right thing is never the path of least resistance.
“What would cause someone to kill men women and children like what you’ve seen happen in Paris, Nice, what’s happened obviously in Orlando, San Bernardino, and I said I can’t tell you the kind of person who did it but I can tell you the kind of person who didn’t do it. A happy person didn’t go kill all those people. A fulfilled human being, a person in a beautiful state, does not plot or try to harm anybody.” -Tony Robbins
The weight of white privilege has never been as heavy as it is today
I was fortunate to attend a Carolinas HealthCare System community dialogue called Courageous Conversations about weeks of escalated but senseless violence and feelings of fear in our diverse communities across the United States. Speakers spoke and members of the community responded. My friends shared and I felt a surge of emotions. The event was moving, raw, and authentic. Even now, I am still affected.
I’m grateful to Carolinas HealthCare’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion. After years of events to expose limiting beliefs and biases within ourselves, I am not the person I once was. My awareness is activated and I am transformed. It’s my responsibility now to pull others into their own awareness.
Courageous conversations indeed, every time.
In the light of events of violence and unrest punctuated by racial tension and political jockying, it’s clear the weight of white privilege has never been as heavy as it is today. That is my reality. I’m a white male.
My privilege is a platform to look people in the eye, even you, and say, “I See you” regardless of race, color, or creed. I See the uncertainty in your eyes.
I See resistance against the constraints of institutionalized bias and prejudice. I See the fear you have about me and who I am. I See the beliefs about what I represent to your way of life. I See layers upon layers of mental models and conditioning that erode or worse, impede trust.
I See you wonder how I might change the course of your day
I See internal struggle and as a result I see fear and anger. From both sides. Can you believe that? I See me too.
I See You
I didn’t say my privilege empowers me to say “I See You.” It doesn’t work that way. I motivate myself to serve others and privilege doesn’t have anything to do with my motivation so no, privilege doesn’t empower me.
“Seeing” is the product of desire, effort and courage to condition and discipline imagination. It’s about looking someone in the eye and seeking truth and love. Seeing begins within before it is ever possible to “See” anyone else.
Seeing is definitely not about privilege. First, Seeing begins with the self.
The few short years of my life are but a blink compared to hundreds of years of culture, dysfunction, and strife. Nonetheless, blink though I may be, my purpose and mission is to help other people… See.
So it is: I See you.
What About Me?
I learned long ago that the same core values that motivate me internally are shared with amazing and diverse people throughout history:
- Passion for relationships
- Service and love
- Imagination and creativity
- Comfort with uncertainty
- Contribution and purpose
If these values show up throughout history, across generations, and around the world, then they supersede the weight of privilege. These values are universal and empowering.
These values connect amazing people today in the face of institutional bigotry, regardless of what I See. I seek ways to contribute and attract like minded people.
It’s a cliche, but my purpose is to empower people to become better versions of themselves. Victims see themselves as the recipients of life absolving from change or ownership. Many people are motivated by the wants and desires of others as opposed to finding their “why” from within.
I bring self-awareness to people attracted to negativity or the illusion of others. Life is a luminous web of love and energy, knotted and twisted, and I help people untangle the fibers and reconnect frayed ends.
My purpose is to empower people to become better versions of themselves.
Let us dialogue about an idea that has been shared with countless leaders and teams, an idea so powerful it represents equal parts shame and joy. We are all the products of our histories that began before we were even born.
Know what you’re up against.
You see, our belief systems, our faiths and values, our heritages and cultures, our lineage and even our names are handed to us, nay, implanted in us from before we could walk or talk. Many of our most favorable qualities, as well as our destructive ones, are passed down or innate from birth.
Privilege existed long before I was born but, my privilege is a platform to interrupt unserving patterns of people. At it’s best, privilege is an opportunity to look anyone in the eye and say, “I See you” regardless of race, color, or creed. The truth is, I’d be interrupting negativity and victimization anyway even without privilege; it’s part of my purpose.
I See you.
Where Is My Voice
Can you Hear my voice? Maybe you don’t hear it, but I use my Voice when I’m Seeing. I call out the baggage of our histories and patterns of negativity. Do you Hear me?
I speak to personal truths and constraining beliefs. I use my Voice to serve my purpose in every interaction. Sometimes fear drowns out the voice of reason. Sometimes negativity in our lives shouts above the din. My voice is loud. My Voice empowers people to See.
On any given day, some people fear the uncertainty I represent. People project their insecurities, their history, and conditioning to comfort their fear and confusion. The truth is painful and my intent may be suspect.
And so I See you and use my Voice, but not without my own fears.
Everyone I see doesn’t always want to be seen. If I walk in to an assembly of people, there is bias hindering me. I See you, but I need help to See me a little more clearly too.
Do you See me?
It’s time to have a courageous conversation. Let’s talk.