By Melissa Davies
This July, let us celebrate our collective interdependence and embrace what we all bring to the 4th of July picnic table.
Everyone is American on the 4th – just like everyone is Irish on St. Paddy’s Day. People celebrate the oneness of being citizens of this country – a diverse nation where people are embraced and welcomed.
Now let’s put it into the context of our workplaces. Northern Virginia has one of the most diverse work environments in the nation. People find themselves mixing with folks who they may not choose to if it was outside the workday. For the most part, none of us choose our co-workers or bosses. We join a company and then work toward a common mission, serving clients or customers who also come from all different walks of life.
Over the last several months, there have been a series of videos surfacing online, showing individual Americans speaking to other Americans through the veil of hate. “Go back where you came from!” “Stop stealing our jobs.” “Learn to speak English, that’s what we do here!”
I don’t know about you but for me, it’s beyond horrific to see these incidents. For these individuals who are on the receiving end of this vitriol, decent, hardworking folks who are struggling to learn another language, understand the culture and idiosyncrasies of living within a new country, and establishing new roots all at the same time as missing their family and friends from their previous home, it must be terrifying and humiliating. Just learning a new language alone is a daunting task, never mind navigating life in Northern Virginia!
As these images stream across our social media feeds and through the daily news, we become numb, desensitized, and step back into our safe zones.
At work, we watch our colleagues get thrown under the proverbial bus by a member of our team or a supervisor or we hear them being put through the wringer by the team gossip. Yet do we say anything?
We become the video watching bystanders who sit back and watch and never say a word.
No one is suggesting that anyone put himself or herself in harm’s way by intervening in a threatening situation. That is when you call the police. However, standing up for another’s rights or even the rights of someone to be an “other” is part of the American experience.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “In the end, what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Melissa Davies ([email protected]), author of “How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work,” resides in Prince William County and runs Wise Ways Consulting, which specializes in executive coaching, group facilitation and high-engagement training. wisewaysconsulting.com