Tag Archives: discrimination

Sympathy for one group – but not the other?

I had a conversation this week and, in trying to make a point to the person with whom I was speaking, these two narratives popped into my head, almost fully formed before I even wrote them down:

muslim and police woman

I am a Muslim. I love being a Muslim. So much of my identity is based in being a part of Islam. I love the camaraderie and fellowship of other Muslims. I make no apologies for that.

I understand that many people are afraid of me. That makes me sad, and, at times, very defensive, even angry.

It is completely unfair that people assume all Muslims are bad because of the violent acts of a small minority of Muslims in the USA. The vast majority of Muslims are good people who care deeply about their communities, they want to contribute positively to such, and they want all people to live in peace. Yes, there are Muslims that do not respect human rights and that have done horrible, violent, reprehensible things in the USA, like:

But I should not have to publicly condemn such acts of violence over and over and over. The assumption shouldn’t be made that I support these events just because I’m a Muslim.

We’ve seen social media posts and videos of Muslims, some of them considered leaders by other Muslims, celebrating or trying to justify these violent acts. But I shouldn’t have to apologize because an Iman with thousands of followers excuses or even promotes these violations of human rights. I want to be judged by my character and actions, not those of others.

I’m proud of my hijab, and when you see me in it, please don’t automatically assume that I am a bad person and that I am your enemy. Please talk to me. Get to know me. I welcome the conversations.

I am a police officer. I love being a police officer. So much of my identity is based in being a police officer. I love the camaraderie and fellowship of other officers. I make no apologies for that.

I understand that many people are afraid of me. That makes me sad, and, at times, very defensive, even angry.

It is completely unfair that people assume all police officers are bad because of the violent acts of a small minority of police officers in the USA. The vast majority of police officers are good people who care deeply about their communities, they want to contribute positively to such, and they want all people to live in peace. Yes, there are police officers that do not respect human rights and that have done horrible, violent, reprehensible things in the USA, like:

But I should not have to publicly condemn such acts of violence over and over and over. The assumption shouldn’t be made that I support these events just because I’m a police officer.

We’ve seen social media posts and videos of police officers, some of them considered leaders by other police, celebrating or trying to justify these violent acts. But I shouldn’t have to apologize because a police union with thousands of members excuses or even promotes these violations of human rights. I want to be judged by my character and actions, not those of others.

I’m proud of my uniform, and when you see me in it, please don’t automatically assume that I am a bad person and that I am your enemy. Please talk to me. Get to know me. I welcome the conversations.

These two groups are so similarly demonized, but I never realized it until the morning of the day I originally drafted this. Both of these groups can say the same thing, almost word-for-word, about how they are negatively perceived by many people.

There are going to be people who are going to read one column and totally agree – and read the other column and be outraged. There are those that believe all Muslims are potential terrorists because of the acts of a minority, but would never believe all police are potentially racist because of the acts of a minority of members. And vice versa.

If you read this and felt sympathy for one group, but not for the other, I hope you will think long and hard about why that is.

Comments are welcomed, unless such use what I consider misinformation or hate-based language.

Also see:

Judgment & reputation online – and off

This week, I’m blogging and launching new web resources based on my experience in October as the Duvall Leader in Residence at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Leadership Development (CFLD), part of UK’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Monday, I blogged about one of my workshops regarding Democratizing Engagement. Specifically: has the Internet democratized community, even political, engagement. Tuesday, I launched a new web page about online leadership. Wednesday, I blogged about things I learned while in Kentucky for this program and presenting separately for the Kentucky Network for Development, Leadership and Engagement (Kyndle).

Today, it’s about a comment made repeatedly in student evaluations for one of the classes that invited me to lecture, one that’s given me pause ever since.

My visit at the University of Kentucky was focused on leadership development, and community development and engagement, as both relate to the use of online media. And as guest lecturer in CLD 230 Intrapersonal Leadership, my topic was “How to use social media and online collaborative tools to demonstrate leadership and to support a team.” During my lecture, I noted that text-based online communi­cations, unlike video conferencing, hide our weight, ethnicity, hair color, age, and other physical traits from each other online. That means, online, people are judged by the quality of their online performance, not their physical appearance or regional accent. As Susan Ellis and I note in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook: “Today’s preference to actually see and hear each other online is a double-edged sword: it can make electronic communication more personal and personable, but it can also inject offline prejudices evoked by how someone looks.” I pointed out that, online, via text-based communications, I can’t judge people regarding how they look but, rather, by the quality of the character they show through their words.

The comment ended up on many of the students’ “guest speaker reflection” form the instructor, Grace Gorrell, asks all students complete during class. The comment struck a chord with many of these students, most of them in their teens or 20s. And that’s given me pause: about society’s obsession with appearance, and about stereotypes. Young people are quite aware of those two factors affecting people’s lives, including their own – and probably quite worried about such. There are advantages, and disadvantages, to being perceived as attractive during a job search, and even a Harvard degree doesn’t level the playing field for African-American graduates in the job market, a study by a University of Michigan researcher found. It’s likely that these students have experienced first hand or witnessed first-hand preferences given because of someone’s appearance, perceived ethnicity or age, accent, etc., or discrimination because of the same. I think these students really like the idea of being evaluated purely by their work and communications skills – by their character.

Are we giving young people the information they need to portray themselves online as worthy of employment, of being involved as a volunteer, of inclusion? Are we teaching them how to build trust among people they work with, with their neighbors, and with those they will encounter online – and why this is important?

And are we continually exploring our own prejudices that may be affecting how we work and interactive with others?

Also see:

Using social media to promote respect, tolerance, reconciliation?

The Center for Disease Control in the USA uses a special Twitter account, @CDCSTD, to help people” to be safer and healthier by the prevention of STDs and their complications.”

The initiative @EverydaySexism uses Twitter to create awareness about the every day harassment and sexism that women experience. This organization does this both via its own tweets and using this hashtag, #everydaysexism, which they encourage others to use with their own tweets; they monitor use of this hastag and, often, retweet messages using it.

These are two examples of organizations using social media – Twitter, specifically – as a part of their program delivery. They aren’t using Twitter to point to a press release or provide updates on programs; Twitter IS the program delivery or, at least, part of it.

I’m looking for examples of organizations using Twitter, Facebook, even just simple, old-fashioned text messaging, to promote:

  • tolerance
  • respect
  • reconciliation

And to counter:

  • bigotry
  • prejudice
  • inequality
  • misperceptions and misconceptions about a particular group of people or different people

I’m not looking for just organizations that are promoting tolerance, respect or reconciliation among different groups; I’m looking for examples on Twitter or Facebook of organizations actually using social media as a way to build tolerance, respect and/or reconciliation – they are sending out messages that somehow encourage two groups that have previously been or are currently in conflict to respect each other, for instance.

I’m going to be gobsmacked if some organization somewhere in the world isn’t trying this…

Groups for “young professionals” exclude me

I love networking. I love meeting people, hearing about the work of others, telling others about my work, finding ways to work together, learning things I didn’t know, sharing my knowledge, being challenged, challenging others, and on and on. Especially if red wine or beer is involved.

But, apparently, a lot of professional networking groups do not want me: I’m too old.

Consider a group here in Portland, Oregon, for example: it’s for young and emerging nonprofit and public sector professionals in the area. Or another group in Detroit, described as mobilizing young professionals to get the energy up at nonprofits and to bring new ideas to fundraising and outreach.

I find this again and again all over the USA: groups focused on technology, on nonprofits, on some aspect of nonprofit work (the environment, the arts, children, etc.) that say, explicitly, “this group is for young professionals who….” Because, you know, what the heck does someone over 40 know about the Internet? Or innovation? Apparently, we don’t try new things, we’re not risk takers, we’re not daring, blah blah blah.

The descriptions on the web sites and online communities of these organizations make it clear I am not wanted. It’s not just that I’m hurt to be left out of such groups and excluded from the networking and learning I so enjoy; I also think it’s sad that these groups isolate themselves from knowledge, skills and a diversity of viewpoints that group members might find particularly valuable, regardless of age. These “young professional” groups also contribute to the stereotype that people over 60, or over 50, or over 40 — take your pick on which group you want to stereotype — don’t have fresh ideas, aren’t tech savvy, aren’t innovative, do not like to learn and have nothing to offer.

I hear a lot about how traditional volunteering leaves out people under 35. I’ve been hearing about that since I was 30, actually. And I do see it in many organizations, hence my work over the last 15 years trying to get organizations that engage volunteers to create a diversity of volunteering opportunities that will appeal to a diversity of volunteers. I get that some groups have left out “young professionals,” and that these groups are trying to address that. But the solution is not to create an exclusionary group where no one but “young” professionals are welcomed.