A half a year has passed since I embarked on this journey of interviews through culture and lived experience I like to call “Powerful Perspectives”. So far I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and learning from five very dynamic individuals. It only feels right to take the time and reflect deeply upon Powerful Perspectives as a whole.
The intention has always been twofold: to enrich the lives of our blog readers and to provide those we interview with a comfortable environment to share their story. No journey or endeavor is complete without reflecting upon the organic learning experiences that happen along the way.
One such learning experience came in the form of a humble reminder and glaring truth. I’d like to share this reminder and truth with you. This is something may you already know and have thought of. I hope you can find comfort in knowing that you are not the only one seeing this potentially alarming reality from this particular vantage point. In this case I believe there’s strength, comfort, and action in numbers.
So let’s get straight to it: I believe there is indeed a culture of fear that exists within our community that we are all guilty of perpetuating to some degree. I would be the first in line to tell you that I am guilty by virtue of my actions of perpetuating this culture. Perhaps dialogue about it will lead to some solutions. Maybe this article will start some dialogue. Who knows.
Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to interview one of my friends who is of Latina heritage. What started as a casual conversation about family and traditions turned into a deeper dive into sensitive topics such as immigration policy and law enforcement, its effects on her daily life and the lives of those close to her, and the significance of being a minority. It was only after our conversation that my friend requested that she remain anonymous.
Of course I had no reason not to respect and honor her request. That being said, the fact that she even felt this way shook me to the core. It reminded me that though I do I live in the “land of opportunity” (those are huge quotation marks by the way), the acquisition of opportunity always comes at a cost. In this case (a frequently occurring case I might add), the price was the withholding of her complete truth. I am very thankful for that discussion; it has left me profoundly conflicted to this day.
On one hand I understand and am glad I was able to oblige and honor my friend’s anonymity, that we were able to create a safe space for her to share her complete truth. On the other hand I am a little disappointed, not in her, but at the environment we’ve somehow perpetuated, locally and nationally, that leads people to feel uncomfortable and scared to speak their truth. Their knowledge, their feedback, their identity is either hidden away completely or painted over in a palatable fashion in an attempt to be accepted, and we all suffer by virtue of our lack of knowledge. Who is not guilty of this?
I am most certainly 100% guilty of playing “Rochester” and “safe Black American man.” I understand the fiscal and social reasons behind doing so. Still I wonder why we must fear political and financial backlash for telling our personal truths? To this day I wish I could have shared the complete discussion my friend and I had with our community. The knowledge was truly life-altering, enriching, and very humbling. That being said, I understand completely why I cannot and will not ever share it. She and I felt that her truth would potentially place the wellbeing of those who are close to her at serious risk. And we all suffer because of it.
This is what it ultimately comes down to: It is my belief/ opinion that one of the larger barriers to creating a community that is equitable, inclusive, and sustainable, where people are empowered, conscientious, and courageous is this very real necessity to withhold our whole truth from one another. This withholding of the truth is a two-edged sword: It allows some of us, the lucky ones, the opportunity to survive, but only if we withhold our full selves by dressing, behaving, and living a certain way.
Some call this intense daily acting gig we call life “playing the game”. I’m not sure how I feel about that sentiment (okay, I am, but that would just add 10 pages to this article). How can we create a community without truly knowing its members; the creators around you? How can we work together if you and I have both masked our true intentions? It’s just something to think about. Some people do not have to play any type of game whatsoever; their very existence is automatically accepted by the dominant culture and environment. I think folks are calling that “privilege” nowadays, but I digress.
I am very lucky and blessed to be in the position where I am working for the Diversity Council, an organization that is trusted by those who feel held back by a community that does not accept them for who they really are. Please know that you are always loved and accepted by our staff, board, volunteers, and supporters.
So here’s the challenge: Do you the reader agree or disagree that there is this culture of fear within our community? I want to know your thoughts. I would also like to know how you feel you help perpetuate and/ or alleviate it. You know where to find me! I am open to sitting down and speaking with any of you who would be interested in exploring this notion further. I do believe Rochester has a fighting chance to truly create a culture of acceptance, one where people don’t have to fear for their lives when sharing their powerful and transformative perspectives. What do you think? Reach out to me and let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org or 507-282-9951.
As we move forward with Powerful Perspectives, let’s find more ways to truly engage our fellow community members. I want your thoughts on how we can grow this experience, so that more can benefit. Please reach out. I am looking forward to hearing from you!