Wow 2020 has been quite a year hasn’t it?
Not even sure where to begin but here we are in a time where it seems all of society is fractured and divided over our beliefs, political affiliations, and even those things we can’t change like ethnicity. The strangest part about this is that it seems the more we discuss it, the more we continue to divide and draw even more prominent lines between our different views.
This is all personal observation and not based on any fact but if we truly are the United States and the melting pot of the world, why so many societal issues?
Media Influence on Public Perception
I actually believe the media might be helping to fuel the fire here just a bit. The reason I say this is because when reading the headlines it all seems to be based on ethnicity or something meant to identify and divide us: “White police officer arrests black teen” or “Transgender man verbally assaulted by White man” or “Racism is why Latinos fall behind economically.”
These headlines appear to be fueling division by bringing to the forefront labels and stereotypes that continue to be perpetuated by the mainstream media. Now granted if there are issues that need reporting then we definitely need visibility into them but it seems that these days we’re trying to find problems where they may not necessarily be.
I’ve been in financial services for over twenty years. There is obviously a serious gap in the number of Hispanics and Latinos in the industry and positions of leadership. Most Hispanics are in entry level or customer service positions while very few are seemingly in any positions of power. Now is there racial bias or systemic racism in place here? Well in the not-so-distant past, absolutely! In the 1960s there was no way anyone but a white male was going to be in a position of power. However since then there have been tremendous strides in equal rights and the ability to climb the corporate ranks based on abilities.
Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate enough to progress in my career “despite” the fact that I am of Latin descent. There is no confusion whatsoever what I am – my name is Hispanic, my appearance is Hispanic, so if someone wanted to hold me back before meeting me then it is entirely possible. Yet somehow I’ve managed to break into the top 5% of income earners in my state. This is all without being born with a silver spoon in my mouth or going to any exclusive schools. My undergraduate degree is from a C-level school and MBA from a no-name institution. But what I did have was confidence, determination, and the ability to never take anything personally.
Like many in my industry, several years ago I was laid off from a position I thought was “perfect.” I went from being the rockstar in the organization to being escorted out the door. When something like this happens to you there is a rush of every type of feeling you can think of – shock, confusion, dismay, fear, anger, and sorrow. That last one I suppressed but I’ll get to that in just a moment. After coming home and telling my wife the news I got on the phone and started looking for my next role. Yes I was receiving severance but I did not want to lose my momentum or leave anything to chance.
The following morning I got up in the morning and hit the weights which resulted in one of the most intense workouts ever. This is where the anger was coming into play and fueling the energy. I hit the shower and that’s when the sorrow came over me. I actually felt sorry for myself and couldn’t believe my livelihood was taken away from me. Now I could have played the victim and thought, “I got let go because I work for a racist organization.” But I knew better, I know that people of all colors and backgrounds were let go so I could only blame the bad decision-making of management. I picked myself up and soldiered on, after all this was not going to bring me down.
So what does all of this have to do with what we’re experiencing in society today? It’s because this is all about perspective and viewing every situation positively!
It just seems that today so many are quick to blame others for their inability to succeed or any failures they’ve encountered. I hate to break it to you but life is never fair. Even those who believe are privileged in some way are still struggling against some challenge we may not even be aware of. Only a handful of those in the entire planet have complete control of their future. Everyone else has to answer to someone and likely has something unfair happening to them. Yes even those multi-millionaire CEOs still have to answer to shareholders and boards of directors. Yes their struggles may amount to nothing compared to others but nonetheless it still does exist.
Does this mean I don’t think racism exists? No it absolutely does. But what I don’t believe is that it is as common as we are led to believe. We all have bias from our previous experiences but what I’ve recognized is that this bias is almost immediately erased once an individual proves themselves otherwise. I’m sure when I walk into a boardroom some might have bias where they think, “Oh great, here comes a token diversity hire.” But once I contribute they begin to reform that bias and recognize that I’m there because I am beyond qualified and my contribution is valuable to the organization. Yes there may be some where no matter what I do I’m not changing their mind. And that’s ok, I’m not going to win over everyone and maybe eventually they’ll come around but in the mean time this will not hold me back and I won’t use it as an excuse or crutch.
After all this ranting what is the point?
Look Inward Before Blaming Others
The point is that if we stop looking to blame others and recognize our own faults and take responsibility for our failures, we will help to improve society. Instead of crying about how the system is unfair, look beyond that and prove that you rise above the system. This might mean trying to integrate successfully into your work environment or maybe holding back all of your thoughts on a situation until it is appropriate to discuss. The more we try to shove our viewpoints into someone’s face, the more likely they are to shut us out or begin to even turn against our cause.
I’m hoping this blog can help to discuss these issues and possibly provide guidance on how to handle the complicated situations we all encounter in our daily lives. In the end we all want the same thing, but we have to take some personal responsibility in order to help keep our irreplaceable society intact.
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