Decades ago, while working in the personnel department at a large company, I did what I was instructed to do with incoming resumes. These instructions were neither written not explicitly stated; they were demonstrated. The demonstration included a finger pointing to a name, address, or school on the resume. The resumes were then separated into two stacks.
At the time, it never occurred to me what was actually transpiring. Oh, I knew what I was doing, yet separation of people was such a common practice in every part of my life that it seemed the correct thing to do.
I lived in a white world and everyday actions at home, school, and work saw to it that it stayed that way.
Years later, through a service organization, I began having deeper conversations with two black gentlemen. They bravely shared their stories with me. These stories included harassment, embarrassment, fear, cruelty, shunning, physical abuse, exclusion, and much more, only because of their skin color. Their conversations with me started an awakening and a journey that has changed what and how I do everything in my life.
We white people do not think we are racist, prejudiced, or biased. It is hard to recognize prejudice in ourselves when it is a normal mentality for everyone with whom we interact. Once we take off our blinders and begin paying attention, the racism becomes blatantly obvious. For example, in all the times either me or my husband have been stopped for speeding or other traffic violations, we were never asked to get out of our vehicles. Most black people that I know have been ordered to exit their vehicles. That is when the fear sets in. If you have watched television in the last few years, you know what sometimes happens next.
My journey started with conversations. I continue my journey by enabling other people to have conversations through a program that brings blacks and whites together. This program enables both to really see, hear, and understand each other. The blinders come off, we have new friends, and together we begin working to eliminate racism and increase the economic opportunities for our entire community.
Teri Haynes | Business Interactions, LLC | Improving human interactions in business