I surprised my husband by staying up a bit past my bedtime to watch Ali Velshi being an ally to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Respect has always been important to me, and after living five decades you learn to, in the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Fight for the things you care about”. Ideas from Ali’s piece last night startled me awake at 5:15am and I began to think about other strong women who stood up to white male society that have made an impression on me.… Eleanor Roosevelt, Anita Hill, Fiona Hill, and many more. They raised their voices but didn’t seem to be heard. Now Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in her bright red blazer, adds her voice in a poised, well-delivered statement; she called “them” (Ted Yoho et al) out for the bullies they are, and said you cannot separate being a decent respectful person from being a parent, a spouse or a human being. I believe people make mistakes but we were given brains that allow us to reason and make choices.
In David Remnick’s delightfully direct article in The New Yorker today, he quoted AOC,
“Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize,” she said. “I am someone’s daughter, too.”
Thus far 2020 has been a year of firsts. This decisive moment in our country’s history will have ripple effects for years to come. It will impact our generation and those in the future. It’s a major turning point. Starting with the women’s movement #MeToo, gaining speed with COVID, unveiling the ugly systemic racial violence with George Floyd’s death, and the lack of a leader to guide this nation have all led to the perfect storm. Maybe it is the moment when amazing women like Alexandria seize our attention and help us find our decency once again.
She so importantly pointed out that we are all human, we all make mistakes.
To me it’s not about the apology, to me it’s about what you learn from the mistake and what you do next that is crucial. Historically, (written by the white privilege historians) we’ve been told that white men rose to the occasion and did what needed to be done, from George Washington to Churchill. We don’t hear about the stories of the women or the people of color, they are left out of our history books. Women like Ida B. Wells, an American journalist, whose investigative journalism shared the horror of lynching in the 1800s; Madam Fourcade, who led France’s largest spy ring during WWII that is recognized as a major influence on turning the war effort, or Dolores Huerta, the LatinX founder of the United Farm Workers Union to protect workers rights in the 1960s. The list is long and I wonder, did you recognize any of these names? Were they any less heroic than Lafayette or John Glenn? Let’s write a more inclusive history and that will prepare us for a more inclusive future.
This is a moment where our entire country has been torn apart over the last 3.5 years of this administration. I have no interest in the blame game, I engage anyone who wants to discuss and find the humanity of a given situation. My biggest fear is…that we return to who we were back in 2019, this is too important to mess it up-this is a pivotal moment. Let’s grab it. Let’s make things right. Let’s make them better for everyone.
A key to actually making change is to acknowledge the trauma, to start healing, and begin the education process so we can start to have conversations again. Even more importantly we must remember what the definitions of collaboration and compromise are. We will have to give things up, we will have to be unhappy about some decisions, but we will have a more just, more respectful, and ultimately a stronger country for all. Everything has a price and the status quo doesn’t not allow us to grow. A client told me once that everything must evolve or it goes extinct like the dinosaurs.
In my Leadership Greater Washington Anti-Racist Leadership Series, which kicked off this week, we are being led by Howard Ross, a long time educator in the diversity/inclusion space and Karyn Trader-Leigh, a global organizational and cultural change consultant. First, they used the virtual technology that made the conversation possible to over 250 leaders across the DC region, the Zoom Room. They led amazingly interactive conversations with break out rooms for smaller discussions. Next, they gave us food for thought, and finally, they shared materials, gave us homework, and helped us form study groups. One of the resources, “My Grandmother’s Hands”, by Resmaa Menakem is focused on just what our nation needs now- to heal the trauma and to open our hearts as we prepare to start the truly hard work of building anew.