How One White, Privileged (Now Enlightened) Man Values Difference
I grew up in a family with fourteen generations of wealth and privilege since arrival as immigrants on the Mayflower and the subsequent co-creation of three significant corporations and the states of Minnesota and Washington. After earning a Political Science BA from Amherst College in 1970, I worked in the Nixon Administration, and after earning a Stanford MBA in 1980, I worked in Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey’s US Senate campaign. Thus, as an Episcopalian and Republican WASP with elite ‘privilege’, it required two near-death experiences to discover that we are simultaneously all One and each with unique individual gifts and differences.
I had the recent honor of visiting both The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama. They are together the nation’s first museum and memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people further terrorized after the Civil War by lynching, humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow laws, and burdened even still today with presumptions of guilt and police violence. It was not until I walked solemnly through the museum and the memorial that my long-standing awareness and sadness for the overt racism that Black people have experienced and continue to experience became just as deeply and painfully felt as had my feelings for Holocaust victims when I visited Auschwitz with my German American wife.
I also had the opportunity this summer to see the film, “Harriet” – the story of the Underground Railroad and the heroism one woman displayed in safely bringing hundreds of slaves to freedom. How disappointed I was during this year’s Oscar ceremony that neither the film, the actor, Cynthia Erivo, nor the song, “Stand Up” received an award. This another painful example of how the entertainment industry is slow to acknowledge the legacy of enslaved Black people and marginalized communities in America.
My core learning and teaching continues to be that our legal and behavioral compliance is never enough to maximize the valuing and utilization of the gifts of our differences to enhance our Personal & Interpersonal & Organizational Effectiveness.
Lewis Brown Griggs is a diversity training veteran with over 35 years of experience who is not only regarded as a pioneer in diversity (Griggs.com) but is also a Certified Professional Co-Active Leadership Coach and a survivor of two near-death experiences (TEDx: ‘The Gift of Near Death’).