Get up and go!
At BE School, on Wednesdays, we highlight female achievements and perspectives - fully hopping on the #womenwednesday bandwagon! It is, however, extremely important that we emphasize that we do this to unite people of all genders and identities. It is a difficult balance, but I want to share a personal story (and video) which, I think, gives an interesting perspective.
Yesterday’s problems, still here
I found some old footage from a local news broadcast in my hometown, Bristol (I’ll share the YouTube link at the end of the article) in which my parents were interviewed as part of a report on a multi-racial community. At the time, in the mid-1980s, it was still unusual to see an interracial couple.
The reporter asked my mother about her struggle coming from a economically deprived background. The reporter’s focus was not on her gender, you see, but her darker skin color — which was her apparent disadvantage at the time. I’m not suggesting that this type of discrimination has been extinguished today - far from it - but as we peel the onion of prejudice, as one issue is dealt with (or marginally improved upon), another raw and smelly one is revealed! It wouldn’t take much to frame her responses to counter any form prejudice. She told the reporter:
“I got out by my own efforts”
“Go out and get what you want”
“I knew what I wanted and I went out and got it”
Success is always subjective. My mother’s goal was a familiar, humble narrative: to get out of poverty and increase our family’s standard of living. She did this through persistence and challenging prejudices which allowed her to become a secretary, and later, a senior management accountant for a blue chip company.
Just a man’s perspective?
My father subtly showed how we might chop and fry prejudice into something more palatable. He replied to the reporter saying “she’s my wife and she happens to be black” and added that having a black wife gave him “great insight” and a chance to “cross-check his judgments” and develop “empathy”.
Grand sweeping statement to conclude…..
The point of moving towards a more equal society is not to become one big homogeneous, bland world where everyone gets along all the time. The advantage to those of us who embrace all of our differences, whether chromosomal, political, sexual or [insert position here], is to gain insight, make better judgments, and have more empathy. I know that my team, my company, my family and me, have the potential to be more successful when we embrace our differences.
Thanks for reading.
CEO of BE School, Mexico City
Watch the broadcast here — the bit with my parents (and me when I was a toddler) is from 15:28 to 16:51.