Notes From the Heart: Time for Some Truth

I admit it . . .
I don’t know much about what it’s like to live with a different culture. I’ve never grown up in anyone else’s home nor do I understand what it feels like to live with anyone else’s thoughts or ideas.
There are words I hear in corporate settings, which fascinate me. I find these words amazing. Truly, I do. 

I hear words like diversity. I hear about equity and inclusion. I hear about the attempts to unite and show a sense of cultural competency. I hear about this happening within the workplace and yet, something worse than the division between people is the false pretense of unity; to check off a box, to fill a quota, to say “Hey, look over here.” “Look what we’re doing?

I have met with people who declare this necessary; to practice inclusion and celebrate diversity. And yet, I have seen them celebrate this from their exclusive social clubs.
So tell me. What’s the truth? 

I have listened to people with offices in the C-suites. I’ve listened to their proposals and heard them talk about the diversity of their staff. Yet, I have seen their perks, which exclude the lower levels of management.
I have heard conversations about race. I have heard people who deem themselves fit to judge what diversity is. I’ve heard their talks about inclusion and deciding who is fit to be included and who’s not “Diverse” enough to be considered.
I’ve seen meetings that were limited to a small boardroom of high-level associates.
And yet, where is everyone else?

Diversity . . .
Such an interesting word to me.
And I admit it. I didn’t know much about this word until a few years back. I never knew what it was like to walk through the corridors in a homeless shelter.
I didn’t know until I saw this.
I saw the truth about the way people live. I saw their hopes and dreams and while yes, at the moment their troubles were plenty; there was still an undiminishable light about them; there was a truth, a purity of existence in an impure place. Yet, there was so much more than a biased eye could ever see. 

I  never spent time with people who never had a chance to move beyond the circumstances of their environment. By the way, circumstantial life is not limited to color, race, wealth or politics. Life is both circumstantial and situational, but yet, for some reason, there are people who find themselves fit to deem who is oppressed and who is not.
As for me, I have seen life go wrong. I have seen unfair things. I’ve seen good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to the good ones. I have seen enough to learn that life happens to everyone. And yet, let’s be inclusive, right? But does this include everybody?

In fact, I have met with people who I’d have rejected in the past and yet, they refused to reject me. Instead, they welcomed me. They warned me when I was cold and showed me humanity when I was tragically inhumane. 
I met a person whose life was so different because of who they are and how they identified and dressed. I never knew much about them before. All I knew are the social judgments behind them. I never recognized the person or their feelings. All of this was real, but yet, we become so wrapped up in our trained judgment. I listened to the reasons behind why the person chose to try and end their life. This was a real person the same as you or I, but yet, they never saw themselves this way.

I remember working with people who struggled with addiction. I remember people telling me, “You should just let them die.” I remember hearing about people with mental health disorders. Who are they? A scourge? A blight? Are they a pariah? Is that it? No, please. Tell me because I am fascinated by the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion.
I wonder how included some people are. I wonder if diversity, equity and inclusion is something that includes mental illness. Is this the reason why more than 50% of people who struggle with anxiety or multiple depressive disorders fail to come forward and get the help they deserve? If we talk about inclusion, how inclusive are we if people feel the need to hide their truths?

I wonder if anyone who created a corporate diversity, equity and inclusion program has ever sat in an emergency room and held the hand of someone who almost died after an overdose.

Diversity means so much more than the typical explanation of racial or religious distinction. 
There is a term being used. I hear people say the word, “Woke,” as in being aware.
Am I woke?
I think this is an interesting question.

I suppose I woke up when I learned to listen. I woke up when I heard about a life beyond my own. I woke up when I realized my level of understanding and cultural competency was misled by misconceptions.
I suppose I woke up when I learned to remove my biases.
I heard things that I never knew. I learned about people. I learned there was so much more than the social stereotypes and stigmas we spread around (even when we claim not to).

There was a woman in an office who scolded me. She told me that I had no idea about what goes on in the “Real” world. She proceeded to tell me that I had no idea about the homeless population. She said that I needed a reality check.
She told me that I should see what’s really going on in the world. Meanwhile, her outfit, watch and handbag were all very high-priced items. Her home life was exceptionally comfortable. She told me that I have no idea about life because I am stuck in “White America!”
By the way, this woman is white too. She also had no idea that I am a father of a bi-racial daughter. She had no clue about my life, where I’ve lived, what I’ve seen or where I’ve been to
She told me this after celebrating her yearly visit to a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving.
She told me, “I go to feed the homeless every year!”
I asked, “And what do you do for the rest of the year?”
“More than you,” charged the woman.

When she told me about “White America,” and how I don’t know about diversity, I asked about her understanding of “Black America.” I asked this because I never saw her any of the times when I was north of 116th Street. I never saw her on Willis and 134. I never saw her any of the times when I was at the shelter or in the jails or working programs to help people get back on their feet.

Here is the prime example of virtue signalling. Here is a woman who told a roomful of colleagues about her virtuous life. And yet, how virtuous is she?
This was not about her virtue. This was about her profile. This was about her ego. And in fairness, this was about mine too because at the moment, I would have been dammed before I allowed her another second of scolding me.

Am I diverse?
Is anyone?
Are you?

The answer is we all are. We need to celebrate this!
See, I say this because I don’t know what diversity really means. I don’t know if inclusion is real or if it’s possible to live stigma free. I don’t know if it is possible to get rid of personal or social biases. I only know they exist. Thus, I don’t know if I’m diverse. I only know that I am me.

I know that I have a history. I have a culture. I have seen things that I would not wish on anyone else. I know the fact that we talk about inclusion and dictate or determine who is included is still a sign of exclusivity.

I know there are executive meetings, maybe even now on this very morning in which there’s a boardroom of people discussing what the word diversity means and yet, who have they included with this discussion?
Would you say it’s a bunch of people with college degrees? What about the common everyday person? Does their vote matter?
There is so much talent in this world. There are so many differences. There are so many different customs and lifestyles. Wouldn’t it be nice if we learned to genuinely celebrate this instead of checking off a box and say “Hey, look at me over here!”

The reason why so many are ignorant is not because they are educated – it’s because they are too blind to recognize their teachers can be anyone.

I just want to live a better life and build a better place for myself. Let’s hope we all do

End rant . . .

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