Honestly, I know very little.
As you may know, during last four years I’ve spent a great deal of time battling racism and bigotry. It started in our own local schools where I put on assemblies about racism, anti-semitism and bullying . I helped found a national women’s group who helps the downtrodden every single day, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL.org) invited me to join their board. I’ve spoken at school board meetings, helped pass bills on Capitol Hill, read so many books, attended trainings in San Francisco and Chicago, mentored refugees, gathered people of all races and religions around my kitchen table, worked on many committees, made videos, spoken at the UN and so much more.
Does that list sound impressive? Trust me, it isn’t. I know very little. It’s messy stuff. Just when I start to think I understand, I realize I don’t.
Let me be honest– many of those boards and committees end with people walking away hurt and offended. At the anti-bias training in Chicago, one of the top facilitators was fired for his blatant bigotry during our training. So many fantastic ideas and initiatives are abandoned because people can’t agree.
And these are the well-meaning people. The ones who are sacrificing time, energy and money to fight the good fight. There are so many levels of pain, one step forward often feels like two steps backward. Still, I’m working right now on videos for anti-bias assemblies, I’m still on the board of the ADL, I’m still joining the conversation. I’ll keep trying.
I DO KNOW exactly where my actions wield tremendous influence—
At my own dinner table, among my own family, we’ve worked hard to uncover our own prejudices, to understand our own privilege; we read the books and watch the videos and we are vigilant about constantly learning, constantly checking each other and examining our beliefs.
Our three golden rules:
- Be decent to people. Treat everyone you meet as a child of God.
- At home, be vigilant about shutting down any kind of jokes, slurs or stereotypes about race, religion, economic status; about someone’s body, their intelligence or their heritage.
- In social settings, when you hear jokes and slurs and stereotypes – – stand up for the victims. This requires incredible courage. It is so much harder to stand up to our friends than our enemies. Often, our friends don’t even realize they are perpetuating prejudice. Your calm, gentle influence can create profound change.
Maybe it sounds trite to say once again– it all begins at home. Your greatest influence is in your own family. But it’s true.
I believe one of our greatest tasks on this earth is learning how to love our brothers and sisters better. One by one, eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart, we will create a kinder world.