Black History Month:  Many Identities, One Team

This short piece was posted on GE’s BrilliantYOU corporate learning blog in February of 2017

How would you describe yourself?
What has influenced who you are today?
What is your identity?

Responses to a question like these are never simple:  a specific set of experiences, choices, beliefs and circumstances have made each of us who we are today.  A person is not wholly defined by a religious belief, career choice or cultural background, but each is an undeniable part of a person’s identity.

During Black History Month, let us take this opportunity to expand awareness of black history to better support our colleagues, family-members, bosses and friends of color.  Over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, I visited Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama.  I spent much of the weekend in awe wondering, “How did I not know this until now?”  As I marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, saw the clubs used by police on Bloody Sunday, and walked the path through Kelly Ingram Park, my heart was filled with admiration and respect for the persistence and unbelievable courage the civil rights freedom fighters and all who supported them exhibited in the face of violence and resistance to change.  The impact of America’s Civil Rights Movement reverberated across the globe, even inspiring an imprisoned Nelson Mandela, to hope that peaceful change was possible in South Africa.

In the words of lawyer and social justice activist, Bryan Stevenson:

“If you’re a teacher, your words can be meaningful, but if you’re a compassionate teacher they can be especially meaningful.  If you are a doctor you can do good things, but if you’re a caring doctor you can do so many other things.”

This idea also applies to our diverse, global teams.  A compassionate, caring manager, team-member and colleague can do especially great, impactful things.  This month, I challenge you to build a more inclusive team by taking steps to learn more about each other’s cultural identities.  A book, a conversation, or a TED talk are good places to start.  Efforts like these improve our ability to recognize moments of cultural, racial, or gender bias building a team of people who are more aware, who are more thoughtful and who feel more empowered and supported.

These two collections of  TED talks titled “Talks to celebrate Black History Month” and “Bridging Cultural differences” are a great place to join the conversation:

TED Bridging Cultural Differences
TED 10 Great Talks to Celebrate Black History Month

What books, movies or videos have you read or watched that have changed the way you view equity, diversity and inclusion?  What did you learn? How does knowledge and appreciation of cultural differences make you a more understanding manager, friend or colleague?

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