Real People. Real Conversations. Real Issues. Real Change.
That is the promise The Kaleidoscope Group makes and has made to each other, to our clients, and ultimately, to the world.
I am scheduled to submit an article this week. And, to be real, I would consider myself an absolute fraud, a coward, if I were to write some general article on diversity & inclusion in the wake of one of the most shocking outcomes in American political history. To be sure, it would be safe to ignore the elephant in the room, the election of our 45th President, Donald Trump. No one would blame me.
In fact, as I type, I know that many may wish I had simply written about something else. The maxim is: Don’t discuss politics or religion. The problem is that ignoring politics and the implications on the work we do (and the life I live) is the exact opposite of “keeping it real”.
Let me say first, that this is not and will not be some re-litigation of this campaign. I will be transparent and share that I find Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and behavior over the course of the campaign and back over decades unfathomably offensive. There, I said it. So, you don’t have to worry about any hidden meaning or secret messaging. I do not write this to change a single mind regarding the political issues that hung and hang in the balance.
No. I write this in response to a Facebook status update I read. Reacting to those who were complaining about and even mourning the results, a friend posted that people should: Stop with the drama.
Several people took offense. To be real, so did I. As I process the (deliberately civil) exchange that followed, though, I was struck by the issue that underscores this entire election, the result, the aftermath and in all likelihood, the outcomes for the nation:
America has an empathy deficit
We are, across the board, experts in other people’s pain. More than that, we are experts in how “not bad” that pain is. I’ll start in the mirror.
You see, I know that places like Michigan are known as “The Rust Belt” for a reason. I know that parts of this country that once flourished, now decay. (I mean, come on, I’ve seen Michael Moore’s movies. I get it.) And as I look at Donald Trump, I say to that metaphorical factory worker who wants his job back, “Man, that’s terrible that you can’t feed your family and that tomorrow looks worse than today. But that’s not my problem. See, as far as I’m concerned, ‘Law and Order’ means policing that approaches occupation, means I’m less safe, means my family is less safe. That’s my problem.”
And he looks at me. Obviously, he gets it. (I mean, come on. He’s seen Tyler Perry’s movies.) And as he looks at Donald Trump he says to me, “There’s racism… I guess. Fine. I get it. But that’s not my problem. Winter’s coming and these kids all need new coats. That’s my problem.”
I don’t take the time to understand why he keeps on saying things are bad when all the numbers say the economy is doing well. That’s not my problem.
He doesn’t take the time to understand why I insist on declaring, “Black Lives Matter”. That’s not his problem.
I don’t take the time to understand that no one ever ate an academic understanding of why they lost their job. That’s not my problem.
He doesn’t take the time to understand that his experience of police is not the experience of police. That’s not his problem.
And round and round it goes… (In fact, there may be a police officer reading and thinking, “Is this guy serious? I saved a family today.” She feels underappreciated. But, hey… That’s not my problem.)
On the Wednesday night after the election, as we drove home from practice, I had “the talk” with my eleven-year-old son. (No, not that talk. We haven’t reached quite that level of realness yet, folks.) No, I felt compelled to have the “If The Cops Stop You” talk. I know what “Law and Order” means for us… and “Law and Order” just won. I’d hoped I could wait another year or two to really break it down. He’s seen the various national stories. So, he was aware of the issue, generally. But, now it was time to kill a bit of childhood and review what to say and what not to say, how to move, what to be careful of… I struggled. And as tears welled in my eyes and I grunted the cry back down, my son put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s okay. You’re a good dad.” Here he was consoling me. I took a deep breath and finished giving him his instructions.
We drove a little further and he spoke up, “Anyway, they don’t do that to kids.”
I didn’t tell him I was a kid, a few years older than him, the first time I was up against the wall. I didn’t tell him that it was a year or two after that, on my way home from school, that I watched a police officer grind a man’s face into the street with his knee. I didn’t tell him… I didn’t tell him any of that.
I just didn’t answer.
He’s not quite ready for quite that much realness. (Or maybe, I’m not.)
And, now, you know something about my pain. I’ll do my best to listen when you tell me about yours.
If we can’t be any better, I don’t see things going any better. I never see us finding the best answers, the ones borne of synergy and challenges. I just see us taking temporary joy in creating winners and losers, when we’re supposed to be on the same team.
An empathy deficit.
That’s our problem.
The Kaleidoscope Group