Melting Pot…?

I watched some of the PBS series on Italian Americans last weekend, and I was struck most by the fear this new group of immigrants generated in the European Americans who were already established in this country. Like the Irish who had come earlier in the century, Italian Americans faced negative stereotyping, discrimination and violence.

I was reminded that the struggle to live up to the ideals of our founding has existed since America came to exist. I was also reminded that the achievement of ‘whiteness” available to these groups seems to have robbed them of their collective memories of prejudice and distrust experienced by their ancestors.

If they remembered, would that change their attitudes?

“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.” ~ Coretta Scott King

Inhale Acceptance, Exhale Abhorrence …
Inhale Immigration, Exhale Marginalization…
Inhale Humanity, Exhale Antipathy…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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American Complicity

I suspect the one third of Americans who still approve of #45 is the same one third who frequently invite the one third they’ve identified as the “others” to just leave America. Or if they stay, to be denied full access to citizenship, preferably while serving time or detained in an ICE center….and servicing the government for free. OR be exterminated.

And if the remaining one third is disengaged, that could happen.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” ~ Haile Selassie

Inhale Engagement, Exhale Indifference…
Inhale Speaking, Exhale Silence…
Inhale Action, Exhale Complicity…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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Our Power

I thought about the Little Rock Nine last week after it was revealed that someone had written racial slurs on the doors of Black cadets at the US Air Force Academy Prep School.

It’s been sixty years since it took federal intervention for the nine Black students to be able to physically enter Central High School, officially desegregated in 1954 by the U. S. Supreme Court. Those students endured a year of verbal and physical abuse and then lost a year after the Arkansas governor closed ALL the high schools in Little Rock rather than integrate.

Sixty years later and these Black cadets, who, like the Little Rock Nine, just want access to a quality education, were still subjected to hatred. I just don’t get it…

The power of [our] diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful. That’s a much better idea than small thinking and horrible ideas.” ~ Lt Gen Jay Silveria, US Air Force Academy Superintendent

Inhale Respect, Exhale Bigotry…
Inhale Values, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Unity, Exhale Hate…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita


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A story about Hazel Bryan and Elizabeth Eckford popped up on my timeline last week. It was an older article, written in 2011, about the unlikely friendship of Eckford, one of the Nine who tried to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957, and Bryan, immortalized in all her racist rage, trying to prevent that from happening.

Their friendship blossomed after Bryan apologized, grew into a partnership over their shared experience, and then shriveled under the weight of suspicion from their communities and each other. Bryan’s conversion to and activities as an activist were not enough to gain forgiveness and acceptance among those she had hurt.

And I wondered…are we ever permitted to transition from the mistakes we’ve made…transform in the eyes of those who judge us harshly? Are there some grievances too egregious to be forgiven?

“Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.” Colossians 3:13, MSG

Inhale Friendship, Exhale Unforgiveness…
Inhale Forgiveness, Exhale Unforgiveness…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Unforgiveness…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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Empathy Gap

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Many Americans seem to only be capable of empathy toward family or people who look like them… like the anti-LGTBQ politician who softens his stance when his daughter reveals her homosexuality or the white suburban mom crusading against drug addiction who suddenly calls for treatment versus incarceration when the heroin addicts look like her kids.

Those Americans have been unable to empathize with the black and brown bodies videoed being brutalized so it was interesting to see their reaction to the violent arrest of a white nurse for upholding her hospital policy and protecting an unconscious patient.

Maybe they are waking up the realization that in a militarized police state, the brutality will eventually impact everyone…

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” ~ Martin Niemöller

Inhale Empathy, Exhale Exclusion…
Inhale Empathy, Exhale Judgment…
Inhale Empathy, Exhale Apathy…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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Each of us has different gifts and talents…things that we’re naturally good at that can be used to serve our purpose. To attract those who might offer a perspective that could be beneficial to our growth and achievement of our purpose, we have to be open to the notion that there some things we do not know, some tasks we’re not good at and some people with legitimate and different perspectives.

Because…“If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Inhale Difference, Exhale Conformity…
Inhale Diversity, Exhale Uniformity…
Inhale Disagreement, Exhale Homogeneity…
Just Breathe…


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The Choice is Yours…

Last spring, in the face of virulent racism in this country, I started rereading Daniel Goldhagen’s provocative bestseller, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. Published almost 20 years ago, it explores how ordinary Germans “came to be such potential willing mass killers and how the Nazi regime tapped this disastrous potentiality.”

Goldhagen argues convincingly that the German’s thoroughly anti-Semitic attitude, which led to anti-Jewish measures, legislation, persecution and finally, incarceration and death in concentration camps, had grown unabated for hundreds of years. Anti-Semitism did “not appear, disappear, then reappear in [German] society”; it was always present.” The Nazi’s simply tapped into the hate.

The parallels to the United States’ unique brand of racism are pretty obvious. There is no evidence the beliefs, which allowed, accepted, and condoned the theft of this country from its original inhabitants and the theft and enslavement of peoples from another continent have ever fundamentally changed.

It’s why the politics of fear and division offered by our 45th president have been so successful.

Last weekend, once again we saw the results of extreme and persistent prejudice when ordinary Americans brutally implemented an illogical, illegal and immoral immigration order. The order, which, apparently, was not reviewed by other government agencies, did not come with instructions for the people responsible for its enforcement.

FirstTheyComeAnd so a Somali women traveling with two small children with U.S. passports was threatened, harassed, handcuffed while officials tried to coerce her into signing papers that would send her out of the country. During the 18 hours she and her children were detained, they were not fed or allowed to get food.

I’m sure those officials will defend their actions saying they had no choice. But they did…and they chose to act with no compassion.

This is how ordinary people become accomplices to atrocities.

In the days to come, Americans will have ample opportunities to choose compassion over unquestioning compliance…what will you choose?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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American Experiment: Hypothesis Disproved?

“America is an idea” Bono.

America is a great idea. It’s an idea full of hope. It’s an idea that speaks freedom, shouts equality and invites peoples from all over the world to pursue happiness HERE…youshouldbeherebanner

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Of course, the truths espoused in the American Declaration of Independence have never been true for all Americans. America has never willingly extended unalienable rights to all its citizens unless they demanded them. For those segments of the population whose rights were initially and deliberately withheld, the 2016 election seems to be a repudiation of everything fought for, hard-earned…never given. Like many Americans, I’m left wondering if America can really ever achieve its promise

Social and cultural psychologists like Jonathan Haidt, one of the creators of the Moral Foundations Theory, would seem to suggest it’s going to be really difficult. In his widely read piece “What Makes People Vote Republican?” he describes a conservative mindset that sees in diversity a breakdown of social norms and feels a decrease in a sense of belonging to a shared community. Haidt suggests the more liberal among the population focus on those conservative concerns and adjust their rhetoric accordingly.

But if the conservative, predominately white part of the country sees diversity in negative terms, what does that mean for an increasingly diverse America? alt-right-protestersIn a generation, America will no longer have a majority white population. If the determined 25 percent of the country who voted for our 45th president, decided an unqualified candidate, one supported by American terrorist groups like the KKK and spouting fear and division, was the president we deserved, are we supposed to believe they won’t support the repeal of rights gained over the past 50 years? And if the 50 percent of the population who didn’t vote is tired of fighting, too cynical to believe their participation matters or too disengaged to understand the impact of their non-participation, will there be enough to prevent what may be coming?

In the long run, the only way the American Experiment will survive is if we all recognize the fragility of our Republic and work together to overcome the fragmentation that threatens to break it apart. Tweet this now.

I pray it’s not too late.

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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You Better Fix Yo’ Face!

I had an epiphany this week. It was during a conversation with a very successful woman business owner about a Huffington Post article on the second presidential debate.

Like the women in the article, we too have experienced disturbing behavior from men who try to use their physicality to silence us. Like most women, we were revulsed by Trump’s lurking, hovering, space invading attempts to intimidate Sec Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC). And as many women expressed on social media, we are in awe of her ability to refrain from physically attacking him.

And that’s when I had my “Aha” moment. HRC’s mastery at fixing her face may be a contributing factor to the widely held belief that she is a liar.

Hear me out! I’m not saying it’s the main factor. Most of the charges of lying stem from garden variety sexism levied at women leaders on a daily basis. HRC has had the temerity to be ambitious. She not only has definite ideas about how to do good in the world, she has implemented some of those ideas. She was the trail-blazing first First Lady to have a formal position in her husband’s West Wing. People across the political spectrum have attacked her for everything from her decision to stay with her philandering husband to how she wears her hair.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which was investigating the events surrounding the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others died.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which was investigating the events surrounding the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others died.

And of course, there are the multiple investigations, often launched as a result of fallacious charges, book-ended between the 8-year, $70 million Whitewater investigation, led by disgraced former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr and the $8 million, multi-congressional hearings on Benghazi.

There has yet to be a discovery of anything indictable but the impression remains that Hillary has something to hide.

The perception persists despite political fact checking organizations like PolitiFact rating over 70 percent of HRC’s statements as true, mostly true or half true.

Transparency loving Millennials have been particularly hard on her, calling her inauthentic. But what they view as a lack of authenticity could be the restrained responses of a woman, who, understanding how people react to powerful women, is trying to play within what is allowed even as she attempts to break this highest glass ceiling.

HRC has attained such mastery that she was able to listen to Trump’s incoherent and uninformed ranting for something she could actually respond to without laughing long and loudly. Can you listen to Trump without rolling your eyes?

HRC declined to match her opponent’s negative energy and managed to maintain a measured tone, when responding to the moderators and to Trump. Would you have been able to stop yourself from screaming at Trump’s lies?

This emotionally intelligent mastery of self is something HRC has been doing for a while. During the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, HRC fixed her face for every public appearance and focused on the long term goals of a unique partnership rather than the short term satisfaction of calling her husband out in public.

Image from Full Frontal by Samantha Bee
Image from Full Frontal by Samantha Bee

Can anyone say, after the public humiliation of having the leader of the free world cheat on you, that you would have decided to stay in your marriage AND refrained from any “my side of the story” interviews?

Speaking of indiscretions of a sexual nature, many people suggested she should come out swinging after Trump was revealed to have bragged about sexually assaulting women.

But sensitive to the political baggage of her husband’s own infidelities, HRC has left the Trump takedown on Tape-gate to the more than capable hands of our current FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, who at a NH rally, unleashed righteous hellfire on he whom she will not name. Can you go high when others go low?

In every experience, every encounter, we get a choice on how to respond. It’s not always easy to do and it’s not always the most satisfying, but an effective leader has the self-control to respond instead of react in a crises or to negative stimuli or to a perceived slight. And isn’t the ability to be effective what we want in a leader?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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American Experiment: Willful Ignorance

Amid the videos of violence committed against black bodies this past week, was one of a Trump official stating that she didn’t “think there was any racism until Obama got elected.” The video of Kathy Miller, who is white and chair of Trump’s campaign in Mahoning County, went viral and resulted in her resigning from her post.

Just in case you missed it…

But her resignation only means she won’t be associated with the “isms” emanating from the Trump camp.

It doesn’t mean she has suddenly changed her mind about why some black Americans have not thrived.

It doesn’t mean she no longer believes blacks have “had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have.”

It doesn’t mean she’s realized black voter turnout percentage exceeded all other groups in the last two presidential elections.

It just means she won’t have a public platform to state beliefs shared with a number of white Americans who are increasingly vocal about their racism.

She is a product of the systemic racism taught in our public schools and reinforced through racist institutions, most notably our criminal justice system. She has bought into American’s collective self-image, the core of which “is the assumption that mobility is always possible, so failure to move up reflects on one’s character. By extension, the failure of a race or ethnic group to move up reflects very poorly on the group as a whole.” ~ Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

She will hold onto her beliefs because in a country that continues to attract freedom-loving people from all over the world, it’s easier to believe that everyone is free to achieve the American Dream.

“There is but one coward on earth, and that is the coward that dare not know.” ~ W.E.B. Du BoisTweet

The easy thing is to reject new information and realities. The hard thing is to accept what is difficult to know and be transformed through a deeper understanding of the truth.

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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