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Being an ally

I’m lucky that I get to work with a company that values having intentional conversation around what it means to be diverse and inclusive.

Each month, some of us meet at a different coworker’s home for an event called Homecoming where we discuss specific topics and share personal stories.

Last night, we talked about what it means to be an ally.

As someone who usually falls into the privileged majority in almost any situation (a straight, white, cisgendered male), I want to be an ally for individuals and groups who aren’t so lucky.

Admittedly, I don’t do nearly enough, and usually for one reason - I struggle not with what to say, but how to say it.

Sure, I understand that in the real world, you don’t get a gold star for doing the right thing. Speaking up for others (when that is in fact what they want) should be a given and we should just be able to do it.

The thing is, I also understand that we’re human, which means we’re messy, imperfect creatures that fall back on habits when shit hits the fan.

I’ve learned that if you really care about making a change, you have to consider the habits that drive (or don’t drive) your actions.

In my case, I’m focused on developing the habit that when I hear or see something that could be considered discrimination or injustice, I first ask the person being discriminated against, “Hey, are you OK? How do you feel right now? What do you need?”

As we talked about last night, not everyone wants or needs to be saved. As someone in most majorities, I’m sure it can be much too easy to default to a savior complex.

I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations and doing what I can to become a more effective ally.

The small things

I'm in Kansas City for a wedding and I can't help but notice the small things.

Sure, this city is filled with great food, colorful art, and more hipsters than you can imagine, but there is so much more than meets the eye.

Whether it's the perfect lines of the street murals or the finishing touches to every dish, you can tell this city cares about the details.

Somehow, it embraces the different cultures of each neighborhood while also rallying behind a united front.

From the grassroots efforts of the people to the institutional traditions, this city knows how to connect the dots in a way that St. Louis doesn't.

We could learn a thing or two from our neighbors to the west.

But not beer or baseball - We've already got that covered.

The old boys' club

I'm surrounded by a bunch of old white guys in suits.

This could be because it's 1 PM and I'm sitting at the counter of a downtown coffee shop next to the towering skyscrapers of St. Louis. These corporate warriors could be taking a long lunch or grabbing a quick pick-me-up before returning to their corner offices and conference calls.

In almost any other major city, I would be enveloped in a sea of diversity - I'm talking diversity of race, color, creed, gender, thought, age, and many other provocative themes.

Instead, it's as if I was somehow dropped smack-dab in the middle of the old boys' club.

Is St. Louis to blame? Is it the Midwest?

Some would respond with a resounding, "Yes!" while trying to do something about it. Others would avoid the question altogether, afraid of interrupting the status quo.

It's easy to ignore things when you're comfortable and complacent which, unfortunately, is exactly how I would describe this city.

Take a few minutes to stop and look at the world around you. 

Do you like what you see?

If not, you can always choose to do something about it.