Time to get off the bench

Bryan Stevenson is amazing.  

His work with the Equal Justice Initiative; his choice to be in Montgomery, AL, to do a lot of his work; his book Just Mercy, outlining the many issues with the mass incarceration of people of color (primarily a story of African-American men):  In a time when we need to heal, perhaps individually, but certainly as a nation, his words and thinking provide guidance that I think is easy to understand – if not challenging to do.

I think we are up to it, though.  Or most of us are.  (See Allison Mahaley speaking out in an article on church-state separation here.)

In my experience as an educator, students in my care generally rise to the level of expectations I have for them.  This has been proven in studies of teaching and learning:  The expectations we have – conscious or not – of the students in our care is a great predictor of their eventual performance.

Stevenson points to four challenges we can and should set for ourselves in order to combat bias and institutional racism:

  • Proximity matters:  Get close to people we don’t normally spend time with.  Talk with them.  Meet them in their spaces.  Seek what is common.
  • Change the narratives:  Recognize perhaps dominant narratives that reside in our minds about particular groups of people.  Challenge those narratives. 
  • Do the uncomfortable:  Come off the bench, as it were, and get into the game.  Move from bystander to advocate.
  • Maintain hope:  In the face of difficulty – personal and for those around you – keep hopeful that we can all improve our understanding and relationships.

In light of the many issues of division, bias and outright racism in our country, isn’t it time to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and get off the bench?  I think so.  And so do others.

I have joined up with some pretty amazing people (there are a lot out there 🙂  we just have to look!) to plan a new approach to tackling our unconscious biases, and to provide immersive experiences that bring people near and into the lives of others.

Dr. Randal Pinkett; Mrs. Nedra Johnson; yours truly

This is the first of a series of posts outlining what this is about.  This is just a warm-up 🙂  The next one will outline the cause(s) for concern and action.