I Should Do Something. But What?
By Ed Maier, Former Andersen Partner
I have been troubled lately by a matter that keeps gnawing at me.
It relates to an occurrence at a recent basketball game I attended. My 11-year-old grandson was playing in it. I was sitting in the front row of the bleachers, right at the out-of-bounds line, and a teenage boy was sitting next to me. He was holding an infant in his arms which I presumed to be a sibling. As occasionally happens during a game, a loose ball came bounding to the sideline and almost hit him in the arms. The referee came over to retrieve it and commented, in a professional manner, that there was some risk in holding the infant so close to the action of the game. As the referee walked away, the teenager made a comment which I felt was a racial slur.
I did nothing. I said nothing. I continued watching the game.
I have thought about my inaction several times since then. Should I have said something to the teenager? Should I have looked to see if a parent was sitting with him and discussed it with the parent?
I am also reminded of this question – should I do something – when I listen to certain television or radio commentary. The issue of my “doing something” is broader than just the question of dealing with a possible racial slur. It comes up in all sorts of situations – religion, politics, business, social. Is it a red issue or a blue issue? Is it a Republican belief or a Democratic belief? Is it an issue defined by Christian or non-Christian beliefs? Is it societal issue that pitches the 1%-ers against the underprivileged?
Out of my personal frustration over my own inaction, I spoke to a community leader who I respect. She pointed me in the direction of two organizations with which have initiated contact. One is a local Dallas organization called Together We Can. The second is a national organization known as Braver Angels.
Borrowing from websites, here are brief descriptions of each.
Together We Can (www.togetherwecan.one) – I understand that this community organization was founded shortly after the ambush of several Dallas police officers on July 7, 2016. Its co-founders were a local pastor and a local attorney who came together to create it. The mission statement of Together We Can is to “…educate, enable and empower a lifestyle of mindfulness and action against racism.” Its website goes on to state that “It is an action driven initiative…a positive, non-judgmental, non-political program that addresses personal and community development by making change inside and out. This platform is designed for individuals, corporations, organizations and everyone who will take a challenge to continuously improve themselves, their communities, and the country!”
Since learning about this organization, I have participated in two activities which I found meaningful. Both helped me think about issues around race in a thoughtful, non-challenging, non-threatening manner. Through participating in these conversations, they helped me listen carefully. By listening carefully, it helped me understand the perspectives of people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Braver Angels (www.braverangels.org) – The mission of Braver Angels, once again according to its website, states: “We bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic.”
I have not participated in any Braver Angels activities yet, as I just became aware of them. I begin my journey with them later this month. So once again, borrowing from their website, I share with you that Braver Angels was launched in 2016. It is described as a “national citizens movement to bring liberals, conservatives and others together at the grassroots level—not to find centrist compromise, but to find one another as citizens. Through workshops, debates, campus engagements, and more, Braver Angels helps Americans understand each other beyond stereotypes, form community alliances, and reduce the vitriol that poisons our civic culture.”
Braver Angels uses the terms “Red”, “Blue” and “Other”. Reds are voters who lean conservative philosophically on most issues (or on some issues critical to them), or who tend to vote for Republicans. Blues are voters who lean liberal or progressive philosophically on most issues (or on some issues critical to them), or who tend to vote for Democrats. Others are voters who do not lean either Red or Blue. I am looking forward to participation in my first event with them.
I have begun to take some small steps with these two groups to learn more about the different perspectives of my countrymen. I am doing it with people who I think might be a lot like me, or not. And they might be of a different color, ethnic background, political or religious beliefs. It is my own first step to “Do Something” to reduce polarization in my community and country.
In my 34 years with our Firm, I had the opportunity to work with thousands of people. We were all different sizes and shapes, from different backgrounds, beliefs and communities. We did not necessarily agree on the same music, the same movies, the same sports teams, the same politicians or the same religions. But we did work together for a common purpose—to serve our clients. And I am very proud of the way we did that despite any personal differences we may have had. I hope I can feel some of that same spirit as I go forward with these two organizations. I also hope after you read this you will look around in your own communities and networks and find similar opportunities. If you become aware of other organizations doing similar work, I would be happy to share them with our alumni group in future communications.
Over two hundred plus years ago our Founders came forward to “…form a more perfect union.” It is not perfect yet, but it has continued to move forward despite all our difficulties and differences. I plan to do what I can to move toward that perfection by doing something. I hope you will also.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. If you have any comments, feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org With graduation season approaching, if you are looking for a nice, inexpensive graduation gift for someone close to you, go to www.amazon.com and pick up my book – Think Straight. Talk Straight.