A conversation on Current Events: Race, Culture, and Identity in America | Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City

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A conversation on Current Events: Race, Culture, and Identity in America

“Who am I?”

How would you answer that question using only 3 words?

“Who do YOU think I am?”

Which 3 words would someone you just met use to describe you?

How different do you think those two lists of words might be? Would any of your words match up?

“Who Am I?” vs. “Who do you think I am?”

Last week our CEO, a group of Bigs, Littles, and Diversity Task Force members asked themselves those two questions to kick off our conversation on Race, Culture, and Identity in America

“But why have this conversation at all?”

“Wasn’t it…you know…awkward?”

Well, yes. It can be awkward. But here’s why it was so important:

We get hundreds of match photos every month of Big and Littles doing amazing things together, yet in-between the food, movies, and fun, some matches struggle when it comes to talking about serious issues.  Sharing opinions and feelings about the news, work/school, prejudice, politics, and even our personal struggles are conversations that are important and necessary to have.

However, that can be tough if you’re not sure how to even begin those conversations.

So we invited some Bigs to share their stories navigating those conversations. Along with match experiences, we discussed issues regarding racial prejudice, police brutality, LGBTQ experiences within our program and finally, a conversation around politics, specifically President Trump, and how to discuss polarizing issues without excluding one another.

Moderated by Board Member, Diversity Task Force Board Chair, and former Big, Andre Davis, the panel included:

  • Tiffany Willis: Matched since July 2017 to her Little Sister, Jada.
  • Charles Pigneri: 2017 Big Brother of the Year. Matched since Nov. 2014 to his Little Brother Sean.
  • Sue Chavarria: Matched since August 2017 to her Little Sister, Yesenia.
  • Gene Willis (no relation to Tiffany): 2013 Big Brother of the Year.  A Big since 2004, now a Big Couple with wife Carrie to Little Brother Terrion (matched since Feb 2015).

Here are a few pearls of wisdom from our panelists:

  • “Find humor in the obvious.” Our differences are amazing.  Use the things we have in common to connect and from there we can grow to learn and laugh about the things that make us different.
  • “Take time to look at each other’s worldview.” – We are all unique.  Don’t make assumptions about what someone has in common with you.  Ask. 
  • “Be honest, admit you don’t have all the answers.” – Bigs, you’re not expected to have all of the answers. “I don’t know” is okay to admit.  Let your Littles see some vulnerability and learn together.
  • “Assume positive intent.” – Sometimes a question or comment, although awkward or even offensive can often be a learning experience. Take the time to teach, listen and learn instead of shutting down and getting angry.
  • “Model it’s OK to have different opinions.” – A healthy debate is often where some of your best and most memorable moments will come from. You don’t have to agree with one another all the time to be friends.  Just agree on a mutual level of respect and kindness.
  • “Do not enforce what you think, ask questions to gain a better understanding.” As difficult as it may be, it’s good to just ask questions instead of answering.  Try not to let your own bias or perspective cloud what someone is trying to share.

 

Chances are, over the next few months, weeks or even days – you’ll be faced with a challenging story in the news, a frustrating social media post, or maybe some personal adversity.

Think about the ideas above and then, if appropriate, consider talking with your Little about it.    

Try asking one another the questions “Who am I?” and “Who do you think I am?”.  Learn more about one another and consider your answers the next time you choose to discuss an important issue. It may not always give you answers but at least you’ll be starting the conversation.

 

Besides, think how much better it will be the next time you ask your Little, “Who am I?” and your Little chimes in … “You're my Big”.

3 words.

Good answer.

 

 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City considers diversity and inclusion a top priority for the agency.  Click here to read our Diversity and Inclusion statement.