We are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality. . . . Strangely enough I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way the world is made.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Recently NPR reported a study of American banks and their hiring practices of African Americans. The findings were stunning, and in my opinion apply far beyond the banking world. First, the study concluded that it’s not enough simply to not be racist. It found that when banks were simply not racist, they allowed entry level hires of African Americans with the expectation that they would rise through the ranks, but that never happened when banks were simply not racist. The study dug more deeply into why.
It found that those employees who did advance (white) always had two things working for them: critical feedback from superiors and mentors who took them on. Critical feedback meant telling new hires what they were doing that was not helpful, but white supervisors were afraid to give that kind of honest feedback to black hires for fear of being accused of racism. The study also found that mentors chose mentees who were like them. White mentors chose white mentees. With no black supervisors in the organization, there were no mentors choosing black mentees.
Being my true self depends on you being your true self, and you being your true self depends on me being my true self. We are a community of mutuality whether we understand that or not, resulting in oppression where we all ultimately suffer, or in freedom where we all ultimately benefit.
Today, we have the opportunity to be our true selves. Risk involved.
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