President Obama’s recent farewell address from Chicago hit home with me. Ever since the November election I’ve been thinking about ways to engage with others on the important issues we are facing while challenging my own implicit biases with specific actions.
President Obama exhorted all of us to stay engaged. So what can we do?
Like many, the new year always makes me want to set some new and aspirational goals. This year, those resolutions include taking action to confront implicit bias and to build greater cultural awareness. I am confident these goals help me personally, and may help others build stronger, more cohesive and collaborative communities.
Here is my personal action plan on how to expand my awareness of others and extend my scope of knowledge by getting to know more people, places, and things outside my usual circles, and encourage you to do so, too.
- Watch and listen
From TV documentaries to feature films, there’s nothing like the in-depth treatment they provide on a subject. One of my TV favorites is “Frontline” on PBS.
Here’s a list of documentaries from 2016 that are “trying to change the world.” See for yourself.
- Audio & Podcasts
Far from being a dead medium, radio and its various audio siblings are as vibrant as ever. And now with podcasts, it’s possible to time shift interviews and entertainment shows, just like with your favorite TV programs. Here are 50 of the top podcasts according to “The Atlantic.”
- TED Talks: Inclusion/diversity
The Wall Street Journal provided an excellent list of books in “The Need to Read,” reminding me that “Reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world, become a better person and understand life’s questions, big and small.”
From Ta Nehisi Coates’ letter to his African American son “Between the World and Me” to J.D. Vance’s cultural critique of white working America in “Hillbilly Elegy” , last year provided us with books on the varied perspectives of many Americans. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of reading outside your comfort level, getting into someone else’s shoes. And head.
But breaking out of your bubble isn’t just work; it can and should be fun and entertaining, too.
- Hang out
Try an ethnic restaurant in your area that you’ve never been to. But before you go, read up on the country where the cuisine comes from.
- Music and art
Attend a musical performance or visit an art exhibit with someone completely unknown to you. Sure it’s great to patronize our favorite musicians and artists, but it’s equally gratifying and enriching to change it up.
Whether your budget permits international trips, or you stay closer to home, travel is the best way to learn about other places and people. Go to a new but nearby ethnic neighborhood. Act like a tourist and wander around just for the heck of it. Visit a new state. Visit a new country. Learn the greetings of the country you are visiting.
- Share your dollars or your time; nonprofit organizations that provide important services to our communities will need our help more than ever. Walk the talk and find out how you can contribute your time, talent or other resources to advance their mission and serve their clients.
- “Grab a clipboard”
- Stay informed on issues and share your views with your elected officials. If you text your zip code to: (520) 200-2223 it will instantly shoot back your federal and state senators’ and representatives’ names and phone numbers. When something in the news concerns you, remember to read multiple valid sources, educate yourself on the topic, and call your reps to give them your opinion regularly.
“Grab a clipboard” is Obama’s metaphor for getting involved as a citizen. The former President’s farewell address resonated with me because he appealed to my optimism, my enduring faith in people, and my desire to “get to work.” The recent election gives me the incentive to continue the work I’ve always done: exploring the impact of the social environment on individuals’ wellbeing with new enthusiasm and drive.
So, now you have it – my action plan for 2017. What’s yours? Care to join me? I would love to engage in a virtual dialogue.