The United States map made up of diverse people

Seek First to Understand

Posted on August 21, 2017 by Lisa Roberts

Editor’s Note: Lisa Roberts is a Customer Service Representative at North Port Library.

One of my very favorite television shows is “United Shades of America.” W. Kamau Bell, a comedian and man of color, travels into different areas of the county to have difficult conversations with various subcultures. As a journalist and comedian, he often puts himself into provocative situations to learn about people.

In one of his episodes, Mr. Bell traveled to a part of Appalachia to meet the people and learn about their lives and perceptions about Appalachian stereotypes. After speaking with the people of this area, many of the stereotypes were debunked. Additionally, during his tour, he unexpectedly discovered a group of African American coal miners whom most of us do not typically associate with that area.

Recently, I attended a lecture which referenced famous speeches pertaining to the Declaration of Independence. The speaker spoke about confronting his own prejudice and recounted a time when he was a store owner. He was an African American and had a particular customer come into his store covered from head to toe in Confederate flag clothing. Each time this customer came in, he was uneasy and anticipated confrontation.

He later discovered that the customer was always kind to him and even brought in cookies for the store owner’s wife at Christmastime. This confirmed to him that he should try to not form preconceived judgments about people, even when something, such as clothing, may provoke those thoughts.

These are two examples of people who came out of their “silos” to engage in conversation. Public innovators, like W. Kamau Bell and many others who are utilizing The Harwood Approach, are going into communities and having these difficult conversations. Even people from very differing viewpoints can find commonalities. We are finding that when individuals are being heard and engaged in sharing their aspirations, they are appreciative. This often leads to people and communities feeling empowered to join in on being part of the solution.

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