Every time it happens I unconsciously move the bar of my tolerance by dumbing it down and numbing myself out from the onslaught of appalling stories.
Every time it happens without knowing it I create a new normal. A new normal that eventually causes me to stop listening; to treat it like “white noise” while I have the luxury of getting on with my life and if I choose to, not switching on the news.
Let me pause and ask you – what scenario came to mind as you read these last three paragraphs? The US election? The GOP candidate and his explosive campaign filled with outrageous vile attacks on every diverse group on the planet? The shocking election results. The Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter debate? The killing of Black men and police officers? The immigrant situation? Terrorist attacks? The attack on US Citizens who are Muslim. The rise in racist incidents and the fear it engenders? The insults to Gold Star families, Veterans and People with Disabilities? Racism, sexism and homophobia being given a new lease of life?
It could be any of these scenarios as they all follow the same pattern.
It was 1979 and I had just finished a meeting at the House of Commons with the then Secretary of State for Education, Sir Rhodes Boyson. I was running late for my flight back to Scotland and headed hurriedly towards the Westminster Tube station to catch a train out to Heathrow.
I paid for my ticket and ran down the stairs towards the platform. I knew there was no train coming but in my head I also knew I was late for my flight and so my adrenaline kept me running. Suddenly I heard the footsteps of two men rushing behind me. I was astute enough to ask myself “Why are they running, there is no train coming” but it was too late. They caught up with me and grabbed my purse. I was outraged and became stronger than I knew I was. I grabbed my purse back from one of them and grabbed the other one by the jacket. One of them got away, but I somehow managed to drag the other one onto the platform and push him against the wall. Passengers were waiting for the train and I yelled for help, asking them to call the Subway Police. No one moved. Some people glanced in my direction, but not one person moved to help me or call the police. I was flabbergasted and as I could not hold the thief any longer I let him go.
The Sunday following that incident I found myself back in the London Subway and as I boarded the train a man in front of me put his hand out to steal a woman’s purse. I stepped forward and bumped into him so that he lost his balance and was unable to get her purse. He turned around, glared at me and left the train. One small step can make a difference. What steps are you willing to take to ensure we retain our civility and respect for each other’s differences? #inclusionwins
We do not have the luxury of turning away; we cannot give in to attempts to normalize what is not normal; we cannot go back to business as usual and pretend that things will be fine. We cannot wait four years or even two years. If we want an inclusive culture, at home, at work, in our country and in the world, we need to stay vigilant, take a step forward and let our voices be heard – every time it happens.
If you would like to learn more check out my latest book “The Illusion of Inclusion”. Available on Amazon