You Keep the Culture
Angie Morgan, June 4, 2018
I was caught off guard last week. When I was meeting with a respected business leader in my community to discuss some of the economic challenges in our region, he said, offhand, “I probably shouldn’t say this, but …” He then proceeded to tell a racist joke.
It wasn’t mildly racist. It was full-blown racist. To be honest, I was in such shock over what I was hearing that my reaction, in hindsight, could’ve been better.
While I did nothing to show I approved of his joke, I could’ve done better to express my disapproval. Sure, my reaction made it clear that I didn’t welcome this type of humor, but what I should’ve been clearer on is that he should never, ever tell this joke (or anything like it) to anyone ever again.
I expressed this regret to a friend, who shared with me this great video.
What interested me in this video is that we can’t be passive observers in the type of culture we are in. We have to care for it, continuously, so that the values we respect are actually values that are active in our relationships, our communities, and – heck – in our world.
I get that the world right now is a little chaotic. In just these past several weeks, well-known figures have been exposed (or have exposed themselves) to their unflattering biases against women, people of color, different ethnicities, the LGBTQIA community … and the list goes on.
As leaders, we have to hold ourselves to the highest of standards. We have to take on the role as keepers of the culture and do more to show our disapproval when we feel others are being poorly represented, whether it’s in casual conversations or failed attempts at humor. We have to confront these challenges with our voice and take a stand where a stand is needed.
Our relationships – and our world – only improve when we commit to improving them.
So, let’s face it, it’s inevitable: In the next few weeks you, like me, will be confronted with a comment or a social post you find offensive. Challenge yourself to respond in a way that reflects your values. Engage. Not in a way to shame, but rather share your point of view. These moments are only teachable moments if we take the time to educate, and have dialogue, around our perspectives.