By Gary A. Johnson – Publisher/Founder (Black Men In America.com)
I am a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practitioner. I’ve earned a living doing this work for the federal government, local governments, colleges, universities and Fortune 500 companies. I’ve taught at the college level, traveled the world and met tens of thousands of people along the way. I have concluded that despite our differences, and in some cases our differences are vast, we still have more in common than we do differences. We need to learn how to communicate more effectively, cut each other some slack and keep focused on the goal of being positive and bringing people together.
When you focus on differences, your energy and focus becomes diverted. Look for commonality. It’s there. I’m a large black man, who grow up in all black neighborhoods in Washington, DC. I recently met a Trump/Maga supporter who saw one of my interview shows on the Internet about domestic violence. He approached me in a parking lot at the auto shop. He approached me and introduced himself. (Warning, I am going to share a stereotype with you). This dude looked like what I think MAGA men look like. He had a long white beard and a big belt buckle on his jeans. He shared with me that he got sick a few months ago and could not work for 6 months. During that time, he and his family lost their home after 29 years. He blamed his wife and was so upset that he had to be held back by his daughter and her boyfriend from physically striking his wife. He said, “Man, I saw your interview with Mildred Muhammad, the ex-wife of the DC Sniper. I saw how you admitted to some mistakes with regard to how you reacted to helping victims. Man, you speak to me. I watched some of your other interviews. I learned something new. Thank you.” He extended his hand to shake. We shook hands and I said, “Thank you,” in return.
When the hurdles of politics, cultural conditioning and other barriers seemingly get in the way, I look for ways to connect. MAGA people have families. They love their children and want the best for them, just like me. Some of my friends who have different views have learned by hanging out with me that they were taught some very inappropriate things about people who do not look like them. Guess what? I was too. Being taught something inappropriate does not automatically make you a “bad person.” Continuing that behavior after you know better, is likely to earn you the title of “Horrible Human Being.”
I’ve conducted seminars on diversity and inclusion in front of hundreds of people for some of the top companies in the world. More than once, I’ve had a white male approach me (in front of his colleagues) and announce, “I’m a racist and I was raised that way.” My response, “You choose to be a racist. You can be a recovering racist, if you wanted to change your behavior.” (I learned that line from one of my heroes in this space, the pioneering Jane Elliott, an internationally known teacher, lecturer, diversity trainer who I ran across in the late 1990’s. Next to Floyd and Jacqueline Dickens, and Dianne Sutton, Jane Elliott and her work served as the pillars for which I based my Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) success.
I worked in West Wing of The White House for almost four years. It was common practice that Democrats and Republicans worked out many of their differences respectively over drinks and/or several dinners. They got loud, but they were respectful and things got done.
The same thing happens in every walk of life. Just remember to look for ways to connect with someone. It makes for a better day, a better week and a better world.
Here’s an unlikely pair: Former President Barack Obama and rock star Bruce Springsteen. These guys are different, and they prove my point. The former president and the singer-songwriter, longtime friends, have shared their stories in a podcast, and now a book: “Renegades: Born in the USA.” Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen sit down with correspondent Anthony Mason to discuss the influence of their fathers on their life’s work, and the shared narratives that drive the surprisingly similar fields of popular music and politics. Watch them in the interview below.
Two years ago, Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z released a single, “Entrepreneur.” In a matter of days, the video garnered over 10 million views. As of August 2022 the video is approaching 11 million views on YouTube.
The video is a story that many entrepreneurs can relate to as each of them has in some or the other way faced and overcome the same situations. Featuring among many are Rapper Tyler, The Creator, filmmaker Issa Rae, Broadway performer Robert Hartwell. Every story leaves an impact on you and leaves an emotional imprint on you. There is also an unexpected moment of silence in the middle of the video to honor the late American rapper, activist, and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle.
These artists are different. When you add the components of racism and classism, they become very different. However, when you are committed to working collaboratively with each other to work through differences, you can do anything. We need to keep things as simple as possible to succeed. Understand what humanity stands for and be compassionate towards each other. While ignorance is often bliss, at times it leads to some unforgivable crimes against ourselves. You would think that we should have learned from these experiences, but apparently we have not. See what you can learn from the videos below. Remember, keep it simple. Focus on what you can do within your sphere of influence to make your world a better place.
Gary is the Founder and Publisher of Black Men In America.com, an online news and magazine, Black Boating and Yachting.com and several other online sites. Gary is also the author of the book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life,”: A Quick and Comprehensive Guide To Making Your Life Better—Today! and “The Black Father Perspective: What We Want America To Know,” and “In Search of Fatherhood – Transcending Boundaries: International Conversations on Fatherhood.“ In 2019, Gary developed a line of spices under the name of “MasterChef Gary’s Premium Organic Seasoning.” In 2021, Gary launched a motivational website and talk show called “Calculations.“ For motivational content and exclusive interviews with interesting people, visit Calculations Talk Show.com.