During my highly visible role as diversity and inclusion director at two Fortune 500 companies, I wrote internal articles read by people across the globe. I also had to make difficult decisions, sometimes with potentially significant financial consequences, for the organization. Following is a major decision I made and the national fallout in one company. That’s followed by a few responses I received in response to internal articles I wrote. Note that topics of sexual orientation or Islam/Muslims seemed to generate these messages to me:
Here’re two men I want you to meet. They’re happy, lead productive lives and at peace with themselves, except, well, maybe they’re not.
Guy #1: Seems that he has everything going for him, a successful career, a beautiful home, expensive cars in his driveway and a family that adores him. He shows up at church every Sunday and never misses his daughter’s dance recitals.
Guy #2: He gets by comfortably on his pension and social security checks. Not into the social media “stuff,” he spends his days writing letters to the dwindling number of folks he’s known for decades. His biggest source of pride is his only son, a high-level administrator at a prestigious university and holder of two degrees from Ivy League universities.
Now if you were to ask either one of them “How ya doing?” they’ll probably respond, “Just fine.” But beyond the façade they may in fact be dealing with an affliction within…loneliness!
She knew full well that a lot of my waking hours are spent reading, writing, listening and reminiscing. Knowing that – and, I suspect, on a hunch – she picked up an extra copy of former first lady Michelle Obama’s soon to be best-selling memoir, Becoming.
The “she” I’m referring to here is “Shree,” a regular among our daily conversation crew at a local coffee shop.
Now on this particular Sunday morning, I was halfway through Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts’ excellent review of Becoming when Shree walked in and plopped Michelle’s book down in front of me. She saw the look of jubilation on my face and, Shree being Shree, refused my command to pay for the book and left in a hurry.
Recently I sat down with Ken Venable inside a coffee shop in Staunton, Virginia, a city recently made famous when the school board – with Venable a member – voted to remove the name of the confederate general Robert E. Lee from the one high school in town.
Now it’s important to cast our conversation against an uncomfortable reminder; that being the complexity of race in small southern towns like Staunton where the specter of race remains ever lurking beneath the distinctive charm of many such towns. Strong feelings on both sides of the contentious debate – “Save the name” versus “The name still hurts” – about the image of Robert E. Lee is a contemporary example.
Here’s our conversation:
Continue reading Dismantling Images of Slavery: Interview with Ken Venable – by Terry Howard
In case you missed it, October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). However, you may not have noticed due to several other monthly observances nationwide. NDEAM is sponsored annually in October by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, which says the observance dates back to 1945.
Did you know? The employment population ratio for people without disabilities (65.7%) was more than triple that of people with disabilities (18.7%) in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Boy, although I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read the following story, even now I tear up.
You see, at a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a breathtaking speech:
In case you missed it, October 10th was World Mental Health Day. The annual observance is sponsored by the World Health Organization to raise awareness of critically important mental health issues.
Now it’s time for more people around the world to step up and sustain the momentum by uniting in a daily effort to #EndTheStigma.
Fostering open communication, education, transparency, advocacy and outreach — both online and off — are solid strategies to eradicate myths, fears and stereotypes surrounding people with mental illness.
On May 7, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.
“If you smuggle an illegal alien across the border, then we’ll prosecute you,” Sessions said. “If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally. It’s not our fault that somebody does that.”
Immigrant families were forcibly separated, with parents being caged in one location and their children elsewhere.
Nearly all Libertarians, most Democrats, and many Republicans were repulsed by the harshness of that policy. Previous administrations used only civil procedures for misdemeanor illegal border crossings, usually resulting in no more than deportation.
It’s not unusual for me to be on the receiving end of sarcastic comments in response to something I wrote. It comes with the territory. In fact, I’ve grown to relish the barbs, and on occasion will use them as teachable moments. Here’s the latest one from “Cynical Cedric” followed by a teachable moment checklist:
“Hey Howard, we’ve noticed that you’ve been strangely silent on the sexual assault stuff that’s been in the news lately. I think that many women are paranoid and worry too much about something that probably won’t happen to them. This stuff is largely overblown.”
For native born U.S. citizens life is full of challenges. But, as “Nadia” shared during my interview, life for those in mixed status marriages like hers has even more difficult challenges. She shared a few:
ME: Tell me about some of the biggest challenges children in mixed-status homes face.
NADIA: The impact on children is the most heart wrenching. Immigration raids and police checkpoints targeting undocumented immigrants in their homes and communities, or having to visit a parent in a detention center all can be psychological damaging. One of the most difficult issues in our life is that occasionally a friend or family member will be arrested and deported. It’s very difficult to explain to children that uncle-so-and-so was not a bad person, he wasn’t a criminal and yet he is in jail. The idea of immigration laws are very abstract to children.