I see the world through my eyes, or maybe more accurately, through my beliefs about how things are or should be. Conversations turn to arguments and my ears to cement where nothing new can penetrate.

I’m becoming aware of how often I use conversations to argue for the “rightness” of my thoughts. Given how hell-bent I am on fixing things and correcting people, it’s a miracle people talk to me!

How often do I try to convince my children of what they ought to think, rather than really listening to their experience? “You could get your driver’s license this summer and you’d have three months to practice.” “He’s a fair teacher. He wouldn’t do that.” “This is a great opportunity. You should apply.” 

And in the areas of race and politics, I pretend to be approachable while hiding that I’m scared of putting myself in a position where I could get tear gassed or arrested or have someone challenge my point of view.  I live a safe life.

That’s starting to change as I’ve been posting information about the experiences of black Americans on social media, ones that illustrate the chasm between the American promise and experience if you’re not white. 

This week one friend shared that she needed a break from the United States, and described what it was like to be black in our neighborhood. She hated the experience of feeling interrogated at neighborhood gatherings: Where do you live? Why did you move here? When did you move here? What does your husband do? What do you do? Where did you go to school?

Who knows what the intentions were behind those questions? They certainly didn’t land as friendly or inclusive, given her concurrent experiences of being harassed by people driving by, having litter thrown in her yard, and her husband’s experience of being falsely arrested by police.

I’m grateful our company is actively exploring where we have work to do to bring integrity to what we’ve been told about the American dream. We’re watching movies and reading books and articles about race in America and talking about what we’re learning – Da 5 Bloods, One Night in Miami, 12 Years a Slave, Lucy Negro Redux, I’m Not Your Negro, The Vanishing Half, and more.

The current pushback against critical race theory is a pattern I can see in myself — that way I get when I want to distance myself from other people’s pain by disagreeing or discounting it. So I keep reminding myself — someone else’s ideas are the best starting place for a conversation. 

Letting in divergent perspectives – conservative, progressive, Muslim, agnostic, Christian, Buddhist, Black, white, Asian, Trans, Cis-gender – wakes me like a kiss that sends blood coursing through my cement ears and heart. Life is so much richer when I approach it with curiosity and love.

Here’s an example of that – a picture of a friendship that started at one of those neighborhood picnics and that is going strong 25 years later.