The World Economic Forum predicts full economic parity is 257 years away (roughly 8 generations!), and that was before COVID. At ARA, we say that’s far too long. In this Webinar, we looked at what we can do to accelerate the journey by starting at home and what can be done with our children to break the cycles of racism, sexism, stereotyping and other forms of bias. Speakers shared their own personal journeys with the intention of teaching how to raise this generation of children to be compassionate people who are able to hold institutions accountable and are ready to make the world a better place for everyone.
Change at home starts with ourselves. Dr. Harris-Smith noted, “We must engage in conversations surrounding the ways in which humans differ. There is no more room for silence and fear, for which we are all paying a high price, and the cost has always been too much.”
Why start at home? Dr. Harris-Smith pointed to the fact that families are the first institutions we are a part of, teaching us how to communicate and with whom we should – or, perhaps, should not – communicate. As we’re all spending so much time at home, we have an opportunity to intentionally make a change, beginning with ourselves. We must first look inward, as our children will learn more from our actions than they will from what we tell them.
Models for Creating Change at Home. To that end, our Fireside Chat featured Tawana Bain, CEO of TBain & Co, and Eden Bridgeman Sklenar, CMO of Manna Inc. and The Bridgeman Charitable Group, who shared their own very different upbringings and gave us insight into how we can start at home to create change.
Sklenar said her biggest influence was how her parents modeled their lives. Her father played professional basketball, and moved a number of times when Sklenar was young, always creating a village of support around them. “Family” was a loose term for her, and it included that diverse village that her parents created.
Bain, on the other hand, moved with her single mother and two sisters from a very diverse neighborhood in New York City to a predominantly white neighborhood when she was a child. She discussed facing an identity crisis when she realized she was seen by society as Black. She recalled struggling and being extremely uncomfortable after several failed attempts to make friends with Black girls because she didn’t dress like them, talk like them or listen to the same music. At the same time, parents in her largely white neighborhood weren’t sure about whether to let their white sons date her. Those experiences informed who she is today, and she wouldn’t change them.
Honesty, Education and Getting Comfortable with Discomfort. Bain talked why honesty and education are so crucial to having tough conversations. She gave the anecdote of talking with a white friend who argued that, because she never learned specifics about institutional racism in school, she shouldn’t be held accountable for its effects. Then, Bain posed a question to her: “Would you change skin with me tomorrow and spend the rest of your life in my skin?” Her friend paused, knowing she would not.
That pause – that unspoken honesty – is where we all must start. Then, we must ask ourselves why not. Sklenar closed by imploring people of all backgrounds to get okay with being completely uncomfortable as we educate ourselves. And then, listen, listen, listen.
If you didn’t have a chance to tune into to the discussion, you can view the replay here. And, feel free to share on social media with the hashtag ARAallies and tag @ARAmentors.
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