As we collectively experience the restrictions and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic we have also seen racial injustice playing out on the media. This has been a time of loss and great sadness, but this is not new. Many other countries in the world have experienced pandemics and inequality has played out in our communities before. The difference for myself has been the direct experience of pain, loss, frustration and hope. Hope being the largest luxury. I call this a luxury, because it is painfully clear that the world is not a fair place and many people are not hopeful. Many people are scared. I am scared too. I am scared that things will go back to business as usual. My hope is that by having our eyes and our hearts open, we can do better.
Let me zoom in and explain why I care. I grew up in a predominantly white community and assumed everyone succeeded or failed based on their hard work, intelligence and merit. The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is a common narrative. It is also a false narrative.
My experience has taught me a few different lessons. Number 1. When you are a female, there are stereotypes, rules, expectations and “good girl” behaviors expected of you. Keep your opinions, experience and thoughts to yourself if they make someone uncomfortable. I realize I may have lost your attention, agreement or interest in reading further, but I ask you to bear with my imperfect explanation.
Whether explicitly or implicitly, I heard the message of staying quiet when things were unfair early and often. When I told my mother, I was being teased (bullied) as a child I was told “ignore it and they will go away.” I don’t use this example to criticize my mother, she loved me and gave me the best advice she had to give. I point to this as an example of how I got the message of being quiet = being a good girl. I encountered this message over and over in my life. I may be a slow learner, or I may be doing the right thing by speaking up especially when it is uncomfortable.
I speak for myself and anyone who is experiencing inequity and is afraid of the backlash that happens when you speak your truth. There is discrimination. There is hurt. There is a loss of feeling accepted. Despite all that is wrong, I ask that you keep reading, listening and learning with an open mind. Tap into your higher self, your better angel, your conscience, your gut and your humanity.
When you hear stories of someone’s struggle please don’t dismiss it or worse do nothing with the hope that it will go away. Think of ways to change the situation, support someone who is hurting and discriminated against. Fairness is an economic, racial and gender issue present in our political, business and personal lives. The problems may seem overwhelming, but they are our collective responsibility.
My hope is to see more kindness and acceptance. I invest my time and energy in supporting my family, both black and white. I financially support organizations that help people who are disadvantaged. I read and learn about other’s experience in the world and their perspectives. I don’t have all the answers and I am not saying you have to fix the problems of the world. I simply ask that you listen and choose kindness as the “new normal”.
About the Author
Jennifer has left Hallam-ICS to pursue other endeavors, but her contributions to the company continue to be valued.
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Hallam-ICS is an engineering and automation company that designs MEP systems for facilities and plants, engineers control and automation solutions, and ensures safety and regulatory compliance through arc flash studies, commissioning, and validation. Our offices are located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont and North Carolina and our projects take us world-wide.