11 Chapters
Medium 9781523095056

4 Power, Privilege, Race, and Belonging

Ross, Howard J.; Tartaglione, JonRobert Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

— JAMES BALDWIN

The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

— WILLIAM FAULKNER

Our Munchester Industries trio, Joan, Barry, and Fatima, represent the intersectionality of our identities in a powerful way. Joan is white, and also a woman and Christian; any one of these identities might predominate, depending upon the circumstances she finds herself in. The same holds for Barry’s white, Jewish, gay, and male identities, and for Fatima’s Muslim and female identities, as well as her status as a woman of color. All of them are significant, but none more so than race.

Much has been and will be written about why Donald Trump was able to pull off one of the greatest electoral upsets in history, but underneath all the very complex narratives that one can tell about the election, there is a very simple one that is inescapable: this election was a testament to how race is an aspect of our lives that simultaneously generates a profound experience of belonging and is the essence of “us versus them.” It also is a reflection on the dynamics of power and privilege that exist within our historical racial hierarchy. What do the voting patterns that we saw in the 2016 election, patterns that have been relatively consistent for almost forty years, tell us about belonging in America by race? Are we even one country when it comes to racial attitudes? It’s fair to say that race in America has historically been a domain where our sense of bonding and bridging has been more unhealthy than healthy.

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8 The Media Is the Message

Ross, Howard J.; Tartaglione, JonRobert Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium—that is, of any extension of ourselves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.

— MARSHALL MCLUHAN

The media’s the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they can control the minds of the masses.

— EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ (MALCOLM X)

In our opening scenario, Barry watches MSNBC to start his day, Joan watches Fox News, and Fatima watches the BBC. How are their attitudes and opinions being shaped by what they see every morning? How does that difference impact the “us versus them” dynamic among them?

How do you get your news?

On June 8, 2017, former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate. Comey had been fired by President Donald Trump a month earlier. The firing created a media firestorm that, under examination, reveals a lot about our culture today. Over the course of the testimony, cable news programs not only covered Comey’s testimony but also added to the viewer’s experience by providing captions, usually in all capital letters, at the bottom of the screen (often called chyrons or lower-thirds). These chyrons are significant because they guide viewers’ understanding of what key points are being made during the broadcast and how a viewer should perceive and react to such points, thus guiding them toward particular conclusions. A look at some of the differences in how three major news outlets, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, chose to highlight what was being said is an illustrative example of one of the major reasons we exist in a world of separation.1

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9 Bridges to Bonding: Eight Pathways for Building Belonging

Ross, Howard J.; Tartaglione, JonRobert Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do. It always seems impossible until it’s done.

— NELSON MANDELA

It is easy to feel resigned about the separation that we are experiencing. It seems like it continues to worsen every day. The reality is, as we discovered in looking at the neuroscience and social science behind our behavior, that we will always separate people into “us” and “them.” But that doesn’t mean we are doomed to have those differences cripple our ability to function as a collective. In fact, when we realize that it is our natural state to figure out who we are by realizing that we are not somebody else, it can liberate us from the folly of trying to have everybody act and feel the same. It can allow us to shift our focus from trying to convince or “fix” each other to trying to understand each other and find ways to coexist.

It begins with our own personal work. We each have something to say about our own attitudes and behaviors. However, we also have a remarkable ability to work together in our institutions: workplaces, schools, places of worship, and other places where we come together. Belonging is, by its very nature, more than just an individual process. The institutions we are a part of give us an opportunity to create healthy bridging that can build and sustain a sense of connection.

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7 When Worlds Collide

Ross, Howard J.; Tartaglione, JonRobert Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

People inside of belonging systems are very threatened by those who are not within that group. They are threatened by anyone who has found their citizenship in places they cannot control.

— RICHARD ROHR

Let’s return for a moment to the opening scenario in Chapter 1. Joan, Barry, and Fatima each had their “home” community in which they felt very comfortable: Joan, among other political conservatives as well as her religious community, Barry among other folks who were either gay or felt completely comfortable with his sexual orientation, and Fatima, her religious community. Within each of those communities there is a certain sense of normative values and behavior, “rules” if you will, that all make sense, within the construct of that community. There is a sense of belonging. And yet, when the individuals from these different communities come together, something else happens. All of a sudden, their “otherness” seems to predominate. We live in a world of “us versus them.”

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1 Wired for Belonging: The Innate Desire to Belong

Ross, Howard J.; Tartaglione, JonRobert Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The essential dilemma of my life is between my deep desire to belong and my suspicion of belonging.

— JHUMPA LAHIRI

The annual holiday party at Munchester Industries is a raucous event. The company has about seven hundred employees, and for the holiday gala they all gather with their families in tow. The party has a huge buffet, an open bar, people dancing to the sounds of a DJ’s music, and a clown making balloon animals for the children. People are gathered in small clusters, either at tables or standing around chatting. On the surface this looks like any number of company parties we have all seen before. However, this year the party has a different tone, coming just six weeks after the 2016 presidential election. The room is abuzz with conversations about politics, mostly people celebrating or commiserating with their friends. Waiting for drinks, three employees stand together in awkward silence, their countenance seemingly different from most of the people around them, suggesting politeness but not much more. A tall, blond-haired white woman, with two children at her side, shifts from foot to foot, her eyes looking around the room, almost as if she wants to escape. A shorter, darker-skinned woman stands quietly by the side. The third person, a tall white man, appears friendly, even gregarious, alternating between trying to make conversation with the two women and making side comments to a shorter, brown-skinned man who stands behind him. Who are these people? What’s going on?

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