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.

I pray it’s not too late.

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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American Experiment: The Symbols

It always fascinates me how people, many of whom have done nothing in service to this country or made any sacrifice to represent this country, have something to say when people of color don’t honor the USA the way THEY think it should be honored.

CPT Humayun Khan DIED in service to this country but it didn’t stop so called “patriots” from disrespecting his parents and his memory when they spoke out against bigotry.

Gabby Douglas and her family made sacrifices so she would be able to continue the streak of American gymnasts who have won Olympic Gold in the Individual All-Around competition in 2012. She is one of the reasons Team USA was so dominant in 2012 and this year, but when this 20-year old stood at attention versus putting her hand over her heart during our National Anthem, she was treated as if she had committed treason.

This week, the person of color who has most upset those who would dictate how and when Americans honor America is San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. What I found most interesting about the criticism of Kaepernick’s decision to no longer stand during the National Anthem is the idea that he was disrespecting the symbols that give him the right to speak.

But isn’t the opposite true…that the ideas and sacrifices behind the symbols represent the freedom of expression Kaepernick exercised? 

Our freedoms, to include expressing a difference of opinion, are what attract freedom loving peoples to this country and make us different from countries where dissenters are jailed or executed, protest is violently squashed, and the freedom to criticize government doesn’t exist.

And is there anything MORE American than protest? From the Boston Tea Party to the march to Selma, to the unrest in Ferguson, protest has been a catalyst, if not THE catalyst for change in this country especially when it comes to race. This veteran swore to “support and defend” the experiment that is America so that every American could experience the freedoms promised to all Americans, to include the freedom to protest America. But every American has a different role to play in making the American experiment in democracy and diversity a success.

And each of us has the right, even the responsibility to speak out when there is injustice against any American. 

The freedom of expression afforded to all Americans includes NOT honoring the symbols of America when America is NOT honoring its citizens.

“…And my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” ~ Carl Schurz, the first German-born American ever to serve in the United States Senate Tweet

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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American Myth: The Western

I remember watching westerns as a child; not a lot of movies but TV shows like Bonanza and The Big Valley. But if you did watch the big Hollywood westerns, you probably had a strong sense of the good guys and the bad guys….the noble settlers versus the ignoble savage; the strong, silent cowboy versus the blood-thirsty savage; civilization versus savagery…

And then we became more self-aware as a nation. We realized the people we labeled “savages” were simply protecting their land, which they viewed as sacred, and their way of life from the entitled interlopers. Avatar could be considered a modern “western” told from the perspective of the natives.

We learned that the myth of the American cowboy derives from Mexican as well as Southern American sources.

So much of what we think we believe about ourselves comes from what we are taught directly from our parents and educational institutions and what we perceive indirectly from society.  We are  influenced by soft information in all its forms and just like those who don’t live in this country base their beliefs about American on what they see in Hollywood movies, we perceive ourselves and other based on what we see in the media.

The justifications, assumptions and attitudes about peoples of color during the founding of this country shaped government policies and artistic expressions, which in turn influence our current attitudes. Tweet this now!Tweet

Long past the time the “settlers” of this country sought to eliminate its original inhabitants by forcibly removing them from their lands, isolating them on reservations, or assimilating them into European culture, American Indians, according to Harvard project, “State of the Native Nations” experience epidemic levels of alcoholism, drug abuse, diabetes, and other health problems that are linked to cultural stress.

Long past the time the founders of this country built a thriving economy on the backs of a people they stole from another country, Black Americans suffer from a racist policing system, originated to enforce the subjugation of an oppressed people.

Long past the time the government of America took a portion of inhabited Mexico and declared it our largest geographical state (until they took Alaska), many Americans have decided the Mexican descendants of their Texas cousins are somehow different and less desirable than the immigrants from other locations.

To paraphrase the late Maya Angelou, when we know better, we have to do better…

The easy thing to do is focus on the symptoms of this oppression.  The hard thing is to examine how we got here.

The easy thing is to ignore the reality of racism for people of color. The hard thing is to examine why we are still here.

The easy thing is to deflect blame. The hard thing is to accept responsibility.

The easy thing is to reject new information and realities. The hard thing is to transform through a deeper understanding of truth.

Transformation often only comes when an individual becomes uncomfortable in their current existence, when what they know becomes more uncomfortable than what they fear. Tweet this now!Tweet

Are you ready for a change?

Something to think about:

How uncomfortable are you right now?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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