We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion. – Max de Pree

Is focusing on Black History for one month of the year enough? 

Or, does it just make us feel better about something we are uncomfortable or even afraid to explore?

The issue is much deeper than we would like to admit, and the real work requires a level of self-reflection many of us would prefer to avoid.

In honor of Black History Month, enjoy the first of four videos. During February, I will sit down with experts and friends to explore how we can get to a place where we can recognize, accept and celebrate our differences. Get ready for a series of conversations designed to challenge our thinking and inspire us to question our commitment to real change.

Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the achievements and contributions of Black people. This year also follows a period of racial injustice and the misuse of power and privilege. So, how can we best use this month, and what can we do to heal and begin to achieve social justice? 

Is Learning History Enough? 

Learning the history of another group allows us to understand the struggles, contributions and possible injustice experienced. Unfortunately, it does not account for the mindset, biases and beliefs we use to filter this history lesson. It does not take into account our conditioning as we view and receive differences.

Humans are predisposed to be attracted to those who are like us and wary of those we believe are different. However, in the words of Ola Joseph, diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness. In other words, when we embrace the differences between people, this naturally creates a space for understanding and respect to occur. Recognizing and accepting our natural biases are the first steps towards overcoming them.

One result of our desire for similarity is that we tend to ignore information and opinions that differ from our own. Consider, however, to truly connect and build a relationship with people of different cultures, we are required to build a strong and caring relationship. One based on trust, understanding and common goals. Why? Because trusting relationships are the glue that holds people together as they work on a common problem. To create trust with another, we are required to embrace compassionate curiosity. 

Compassionate Curiosity

Compassion is to listen to acknowledge and recognize the suffering of another person. It is to take steps to help and to ensure the person does not feel threatened. Curiosity is about asking for more information without judgement and being open and interested to find out more. Compassionate curiosity is the ability to dig for more information. It is to listen without judgement while simultaneously identifying with how the person is feeling or thinking. 

Being compassionately curious also requires a willingness to face ourselves. As leaders, being aware of our own biases allows us to seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making. Essentially, being compassionately curious has us question ourselves without attaching judgement. The objective is to assess if our decisions serve us and while still serving and respecting others.