“We all have a blindspot and it’s shaped exactly like us.” - Junot Diaz
Ironically, I have been teaching the concept of blindspots since 2000, but that doesn't make me immune to them.
No matter how much we grow we still have blindspots, it’s just the nature of them that changes over time - like when driving in a car on a long journey. Time demands our vigilance in understanding that each new moment is also another opportunity for us to fulfill our greatest potentials.
Even with the right mirrors, being aware of our blindspots doesn’t spare us the discomfort, so below are 2 simple lists of complex steps that I have found honor the sacred nature of our workplaces and homes while driving them to be more aligned with cross-culturally valid values that respect differences.
Healthy Interaction Criteria
1. Respect Others
2. Accept Our Differences
3. Heathy Adaptation
4. Do No Harm
Keep in mind that most people who read this and agree with those values, will break one of them within the next 24 hours of interacting with an Other. What's scary, is that we don't even know when we are harming others or ourselves.
In April 1963, Dr. King sat alone in the Birmingham jail. He knew that people had blindspots. And so even way back then he wrote, “...the white moderate, who is more devoted to order than to justice,” was more of an impediment than “the White Citizens Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner.”
Dr. MLK could see what was invisible to populations of people of the 20th Century. There is a saying from Chinese history that says it is impossible for the eye to see the eyeball, which loops us back to blindspots. I am the white moderate who learned to be more loyal to order than justice, so in honor of the damaged caused by blindspots, I will continue on my path of curiosity and learning as I lean deeper into my commitment to actively developing my allyship.
Marshall Goldsmith's book title, "What Got You Here Won't Get Your There" reflects the demands on 21st Century leadership to adapt the channels of communication people with influence and important messages are using. Companies with amazing products can't get out of their own way sometimes because they don't have mechanisms for identifying their blindspots.
Recently I experienced an organization who had an amazing product, but because they were adapting to a post-Covid world, their survival mode was palpable in the delivery of their product. The product was wellness-related, but all that was palpable was the stress of the group dynamic.
Channels of communication are the most underutilized and necessary pieces of science to rely on right now. You can be the smartest and most correct person in the universe, but if you can't communicate in a way that a person can hear, then the content becomes irrelevant.
According to Dr. Taibi Kahler's Process Communication Model® "Communication is the sending and receipt of a message." Not just the delivery or the perceived receipt, but the actually reception that comes along with flow and synchronicity.
We as individuals can honor the gravity this moment in history by having patience with our institutions, but also not waiting for them to even their keels. Each individual reading this blog can step away from the Danger of a Single Story and gather data points in order to come to their own conclusions. We have choices.
When I hear about “fighting hate”, I want to shift that to “fighting pain”. If we see each other as naturally biased, perhaps it won’t be such a taboo. I’m biased. There I said it, now you can say it too. I’ve been studying this since 2000 and I’m still biased. I couldn’t shake it even if I wanted to, but I don’t. It’s also what makes me uniquely myself.
"Anti-bias" work, is a misnomer because the work isn't trying to get rid of bias, it is trying to get rid of UNHEALTHY biases. One solution to blindspots is to adjust the way we are communicating by adding certain adjectives. For example, by adding the adjective "healthy" before many nouns, we can adjust the way we think about concepts. Communication is different than healthy communication. Love is different than healthy love. Work is different than healthy work.
Imagine if our leaders used those two nouns: healthy | unhealthy to qualify every decision.
Stress triggers blindspots which trigger unhealthy interactions. If the quality of our lives is connected to the quality of our interactions, then we are entering an era where awareness of one another's needs (at work and home), could be the small adjustment that each person makes while organizations are catching up.
Curiosity, listening, travel and discovery are salves to the challenge of dis-connectivity.
Sometimes the world can leave us run down. Refueling our artillery for this long war against the unhealthy side of our humanity will be a group effort that will require us to read beyond headlines and making sure we only use HEALTHY generalizations. There are healthy sides of bias, so bias isn’t the taboo – it's our diverse understanding of it that is.
2020 was the year when advocacy turned into a culture of, "Your wrong, I'm right."
Therefore, when someone offends you, remember that feeling offense is a sign that your bias is activated. It's not their fault, it's your work! (Which is what I feel like I am continually learning). If it's a problem, there's an opportunity to take responsibility and not complain about others.
So when someone bothers you:
1. Suspend Negative Judgment
2. Seek Out Alternative Reasons
As usual repeat.
In 2000, I was living in Singapore where I started on my journey of Intercultural Communications, but it took 20 years and the response to George Floyd’s death to shake me out of my complacency. The illusion was that because I was doing good work, that I didn't have more to learn, but the truth is that it will take lifetimes if not generations to make this transition from unhealthy to healthy choices.
My response to my past blindspots is to keep relearning the history I was given, through the eyes of people who have stories from which I haven't yet learned. Imagine if the White Allies of the 20th century had the power and experience to understand what Dr. King was saying back then.
Well we have that power now. The question is, what are we going to do about it.
- For those interested in developing their White Allyship, consider taking @EddieMooreJr’s 21 Day Challenge.
- Help illuminate marginalized voices by supporting the arts and public education. Stay tuned for my new venture Safe House Productions: Illuminating Marginalized Voices where I will be encouraging those with financial privilege to provide funding for up and coming artists and filmmakers who are illuminating traditionally marginalized stories. Win-win!
Community Based Initiatives:
Create a 50/50 Station in Your Community
- a 50/50 station is an already existing public space, where people can safely sit in one of 2 chairs. One chair is labeled "story teller" and the other is labeled "listener". Both parties are bound by the simple agreement that:
all is confidential
no advice is permitted under any circumstances
the win win is in the sharing of the story and practicing higher levels of listening
one person is above 50 and one person is below (optional)
There is a version where three people can participate and the third person only observes. At the end the parties can debrief their experiences by saying to each other:
"I see you as....."
" I give you the gift of...."
And ending with a wish of good for the future.