Happy Holidays?

Happy Holidays?

All that social media fire over a cup? A coffee cup? A red “holiday” cup from Starbucks? REALLY???

Well, yes…

The passion and vitriol around the debate is not truly about Starbucks or the cup, though, whatever one may think of the design. No, this holiday debate, like so many others, runs far deeper than that. (Was my sister really trying to “undermine” me when she asked if I’d be making dessert this year? Maybe not… BUT WE BOTH KNOW THAT SHE’S STILL UPSET ABOUT THE SMURF DOLL INCIDENT OF ‘88!!!)

For a time of year marked by words like “merry” and “happy”, the holiday season seems to have become a bit of a sociopolitical minefield. Though coffee cup design may not be a point of contention in your organization, you may recognize some elements from letters written by “Mike” and “Holly”, colleagues.

Dear KG:

I’ve just had about had it with the PC nonsense. I know you do diversity stuff and am hoping that you can help me figure out how to deal with a coworker who got oversensitive about me saying, “Merry Christmas!” to her.

We were leaving the building and I was feeling good, looking forward to getting home and trimming the tree. So, as we got off the elevator I made the oh-so-terrible mistake of wishing her a Merry Christmas.

Well, why did I do that??? She totally flew off the handle, going off about how she doesn’t celebrate Christmas and how I shouldn’t assume she does. It’s like… relax. RE… LAX. It’s not like I have something against her or Jewish people. I thought I was being nice. These days, I guess that’s enough to get you a lecture from the PC police.

Anyway, I hate the idea that she’s decided I’m some awful bigot over nothing, really. How do I get her to see that I’m a good person and that I didn’t mean any harm?

Season Greetings… or whatever,

Dear KG,

The holiday season can be complicated for me at work. Between the Secret Santa stuff, carols being played during the “holiday” party, and decorations that celebrate Christmas exclusively. (Seriously, has no one considered tossing a menorah into the mix one of these years?!)

I don’t mean to be a Scrooge — There’s some more Christmas talk. — but it gets old, more and more quickly each year.

Well, the other day, I’m on the elevator, leaving Christmas Central, and one of my co-workers hits me with yet another “Merry Christmas!” So, I explained to him that I do not celebrate Christmas and that he shouldn’t assume everyone does. He, in turn, gets all defensive and tries to make it all about me being “oversensitive.”

Now, I’m the bad guy for standing up for myself. How do I get him to see how exclusive he is being?

Happy Holidays (Is that so hard?),

Dear Holly and Mike,

I’m writing you a joint letter, because though your instinct is to talk about each other, you’ll find better answers through talking to each other instead. Actually, it’ll be less about the talking and more about the listening.

Mike, do you know what it’s like to be a religious outsider? Maybe you could ask if Holly is willing to tell you a bit more about the experience, to unpack what you experienced as an “overreaction”.

Holly, what do you think Mike intended when he said what he said? Maybe, assuming that he meant to say a “nice” thing, you could ask him if he’s considered the impact of “Merry Christmas” on someone like you or how “Happy Holidays” could be a more inclusive way to go.

Here at KG, we are encouraged to “take care of our side of the street.” That means we want to focus on what we can do or change, as opposed to focus on what everyone around us needs to do. I encourage you both to “take care of your side of the street.”

I hope a little dialogue gets you to a place of Umoja… that means “unity” and is one of the Kwanzaa principles. Want to learn more? Start by asking questions. That would make quite the statement.

Until 2016,

Orlando Bishop
Thought Leader
The Kaleidoscope Group