Moving from Problem to Solution
It is soooo hard to admit I am part of the problem. I much rather prefer to think of myself as part of the solution. In most aspects, and like most people, I am both. I am traditionally educated yet open minded. I am intelligent, articulate, reasonable and hard working. I am empathetic and compassionate. I am spiritually and morally grounded. Yet none of that negates the fact that I am white.
I am arrogant enough that I think I actually know something. How can I know anything about the sting of discrimination, the horrors of abuse, the injustice of racism? Without firsthand experience, my understanding is inherently limited. My knowledge is based on what I see or hear not what I know or feel. My perceptions are even more flawed when you consider my self-constricted sources. I live, work and play in a world of predominantly like-minded and like skinned others. Diversity of any sort is not a strong characteristic of my world.
I am selfish enough to be complacent. My family’s economic stability is more important than your social justice. I’ll write, I’ll march, I’ll stand with you; as long as it doesn’t cost me anything. I’ll like and share on Facebook all day long but don’t ask me to show up in real time. Sorry, I’m just too busy scratching out a living under the illusion of the American dream. I need my job and my healthcare. I can’t be caught making political statements.
I am ignorant enough to think my impact is negligible. So what if my friend tells me an off color joke in the lunchroom. It’s one joke among friends. Who does it hurt? No one but me even heard it. And confronting my friend? No, not me. We’ve been friends a long time. What would be the point? I mean, it’s one little joke. So what if I get her to think before she tells that joke again? I lose a friend over that? And for what? Nothing I do would ever make a difference. I’m just one person. I’m not a racist.
I am an average white American. I am the problem.
I am also the solution.
In acknowledging my arrogance, my selfishness and my ignorance I begin to develop a more informed understanding, a more compassionate attitude and more responsible behavior. I accept my accountability to the human race. In embracing the need for discomfort as an essential catalyst to transformation, in sacrificing my complacency with the status quo, I set the example and perhaps bring my like-minded community along. Only then will real and lasting change be realized.
And so I use my gifts; my mind, my voice and my conviction. And I tell stories; stories of pain and comfort, struggle and triumph, folly and wisdom, fear and hope. Stories are the great equalizer. All peoples, all cultures, all ages have used stories. They can however be a double edged sword. Words can be powerful, for good or evil. I use stories to entertain, uplift, and connect people to each other and the world we share, promoting understanding, inclusion, and tolerance through socially aware and responsible engagement in our global community. Thank you for trusting me to use them well.
Toes in the water
Say what you want about Millennials today, but there is one thing about them I truly admire; they are FEARLESS. They don’t hesitate, they DO. They take risks many of the rest of us wouldn’t dream of. As a little girl I would stick my toes in the water testing the temperature before I waded in ever so slowly. Millennials today dive from the cliff top without a second glance. I have taken two months putting together this website, taking great care with photo selections, verbiage, page names, etc. looking to build a consistent, respectable brand. A millennial would have had it done in two days and worried about faux paus after the fact. Some may argue this is rooted in the age old perception of the invincibility of youth; the old “it can’t happen to me” perspective. But I don’t think so. Others may yet propose taking such chances is grounded in the need for immediate gratification; a byproduct of technology. Our next generation has become so accustomed to having everything NOW, the value of instantaneous may seem to override that of safety. But here again I don’t think so.
I think the boldness of this latest generation is founded in a paradigm shift of the American Dream. Gone are the days of a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. Gone are the days of the pension. Gone are the days of working harder to get ahead. This generation prefers to work smarter. They can no longer believe in the concept of a socioeconomic safety net. They cannot afford to buy into the tradition of long term employment with any given organization. Change is their way of life. Adaptation is their natural state. The focus has shifted away from the acquisition of material wealth and moved to the formation of balance. The carrot of a comfy retirement at the end of the career tunnel is no longer a valid incentive. Millennials chose not to wait for economic security before they spend more time with family, or travel or just be happy. They don’t fear losing the illusion of security because they never believed in it to begin with. While we all care about the earth and environment, many millennials chose to integrate eco-friendly into their everyday life instead of making it an issue to be addressed. We’ve stripped away any semblance of security making it abundantly clear that tomorrow is not promised. Hence, many millennials make the best of today. Work is no longer tethered to a physical space and increasingly less tethered to time. Many today work where and when they want. The next generation is rewriting the story. No longer is the plot sacrifice, work hard and be rewarded at the end. No, the plot today is work for what is needed, but play for health and happiness all while preserving for tomorrow. A big life, chained to the big house, the big car and more stuff is no longer the American dream. A simpler life, with smaller houses, less stuff, earth friendly transportation, bigger experiences and richer relationships is.
This is not to say I embrace the leap before you look attitude that can accompany this perspective. Youth remains on their side. Millennials will most likely live long enough for a do over. I don’t have much time for recovery should I break something important. I still stick my toes in the water before diving in. But this next generation has taught me to dive, not wade. Things change too often, too fast, and I don’t want to be written out of the next chapter.
Tama Lunceford, storyteller, speaker, trainer of Whitesburg, Tennessee.