Monday, July 20, 2015

"What its like to be an outsider"

As we watched two white male presidential candidates struggle to respond to the concerns of #BlackLivesMatter activists, another thought I had was to remember what President Obama told the graduates of Morehouse two years ago. Some blackademics criticized him for this speech. But this is exactly where he nailed it!
As Morehouse Men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; know what it’s like to be marginalized; know what it’s like to feel the sting of discrimination. And that’s an experience that a lot of Americans share. Hispanic Americans know that feeling when somebody asks them where they come from or tell them to go back. Gay and lesbian Americans feel it when a stranger passes judgment on their parenting skills or the love that they share. Muslim Americans feel it when they’re stared at with suspicion because of their faith. Any woman who knows the injustice of earning less pay for doing the same work -- she knows what it’s like to be on the outside looking in.

So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need. If you tap into that experience, it should endow you with empathy -- the understanding of what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, to know what it’s like when you're not born on 3rd base, thinking you hit a triple. It should give you the ability to connect. It should give you a sense of compassion and what it means to overcome barriers.

So it’s up to you to widen your circle of concern -- to care about justice for everybody, white, black and brown. Everybody. Not just in your own community, but also across this country and around the world. To make sure everyone has a voice, and everybody gets a seat at the table; that everybody, no matter what you look like or where you come from, what your last name is -- it doesn’t matter, everybody gets a chance to walk through those doors of opportunity if they are willing to work hard enough.
It's not that white males can never understand what it's like to be an outsider. But the more notches you check off on the straight white able-bodied male list, the harder you're going to have to work at understanding what it's like.

President Obama was telling those Morehouse Men that - because they have faced racism and discrimination - they can use that experience to "widen their circle of concern" for others who have experienced what its like to be marginalized. That is a gift they bring to whatever path they chose in life.

I hope that at least some of those Morehouse graduates go into politics. And that someday they are able to mix it up with the white guys running for office who can sometimes seem oblivious.

1 comment:

  1. Not much to say here, except that those who proudly label themselves 'antiracist', who yell '#Black Lives Matter', and who call themselves any flavour of activist should read, think about and internalize the ideas and quotations in this posting. And then act without judging as far as possible.