I know a man who made a very long and dangerous trek from another country to enter the U.S. with hopes of safety and opportunity. I’ve met someone else who has to find a place to go each night when it’s minus ten degrees, and sometimes, the only place he can find is a viaduct. I know someone else who hides his religious identity so that he is not falsely accused of being a terrorist.
Being an immigrant, being homeless, being Muslim. These are three of a multitude of reasons some people weaponize fear in order to marginalize others. And when the word female is added to any one of these, the most demeaning perceptions are further intensified. Hearing of these evils, we may sometimes feel easily discouraged in our ability to make any real change, especially in a political climate that is creating ripples of discord throughout the world.
How then do we begin to rectify toxic beliefs pervasive in society, such as systemic barriers that lead to lack of health care, employment and even something as fundamental as water? We know something has to be done, but what? How do we begin to have conversations that will create true change and transform perceptions?
I recently gave a TEDx talk – Confidently Changing the Narrative of Inequity. I believe that although not an easy charge, we can change the narrative of inequity through conversation.
But not everyone is easy to talk to, you might say. This is true, although sometimes we have to begin in the most difficult places. Even some of our family members may not believe that all people should be treated with dignity. Our hearts break and our stomachs sink around the dinner table as our own relatives speak negatively about those who may appear different. Yet, we may feel it’s better to stay silent than begin a riot during the rare occasions that everyone comes together.
We must remind ourselves, however, that our goal in speaking out against injustice is not to hurt others. Instead, we know that if we want to attack injustice head on, we must be disruptors. We must interrupt the detrimental course of society so that we can set it right.
Ironically, though, change doesn’t start with others. It starts with facing our own biases and privileges. Only then can we hear others well. I invite you to listen to my talk, watch it with others and pass it along so that we can transform conversations and ultimately affect the course of our society.