Not Laughable

Recently, I wrote a quick post about how it is good for millennials to laugh-off their frustrations with older co-workers.  I still stand behind that advise as it is can be helpful in handling the day-to-day of the business world.  There is one addendum to make, however.  It comes in light of comments made by older (dare I say elderly) people in politics and business.  Let’s face it – there is nothing laughable about recent statements made by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and Los Angeles Clippers owner Don Sterling.  Racism is not a laughing matter.

As milllenials enter the work place, they must be able to wade through the peripherals of work.  Gossip and inappropriateness exists at some level in all companies.  It is a fact of the professional world.  Whether you want to see or not, racism is still found among issues of unprofessional behavior.  But why does it still exist after Americans have done so much to increase awareness, protect victims, and expose offenders?  Well, I believe it is because people are still involved.  Sparing the theology of my point of view, I know we are all capable of doing wrong.  We choose wrong more often than we acknowledge.  Even me!  I have an example of my own to share.  Let’s level on this.

Last Friday, I was at a dinner party with my wife, friends, and acquaintances. My wife and I had our best friends and the hosts sitting next to us, but everyone else we had maybe met once before.  The conversation was great!  People were laughing and telling stories.  Then I, feeling the adrenaline rush from great community and fun conversation, said something not so cool.  It offended one of the guys at the table and he graciously told me as much.  I felt horrible immediately and was relieved when someone with more social awareness than me quickly changed the subject as the blood of embarrassment rushed to my face.  My comment was not racist.  It was not directed at him.  Yet, if I had been more aware of who was at the table, I would not have said what I did.

Back to the topic at hand – racism.  Are we all capable of it?  Yes.  Does that make it acceptable?  No.  In contrast to my dinner party snafu of words,  Bundy and Sterling were intentional with their comments which is even more unacceptable.  Plus, I don’t even know that they are embarrassed!

As clear as water, they chose the wrong things to say (even if it was meant to be a private conversation as in Sterling’s case).  Now, let’s make the waters murky and acknowledge that in this country they possess freedom to have opinions and voice them.  With such freedom, could and should, come consequences of legal and social weight.  Still, they are allowed to have an opinion.  I’m currently voicing my own.

Millienials are not immune to such opinions, but in general, we have been raised with parents and teachers who taught us to be tolerant.  We are to see people of other races and creeds in a lens of “they are no different than you or me.”  Man, this topic could get complicated real quickly.  So, I will attempt to keep it simple for today.  It seems where there is a generational gap, there may also be a gap in level of tolerance.  I’ve got no research to back that up, and I am sure there’s hundreds of examples that could prove me wrong.  However, I am confident enough to assert that views on race will differ from generation to generation based on the way they were “brought up.”  The status of higher education in America reinforces this.  Since young people of today are being taught tolerance, they are becoming more tolerant of racial differences.

Wow.  That last sentence sounds really great.  It is not a 100% truth, though.  It is more like a trend.  When people like Sterling and Bundy make racist statements, it goes against the trend and becomes a story.  I personally hope the trend of tolerance continues and becomes more and more true.  I choose to be optimistic.  I choose also to be realistic:  people are still involved.

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