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“SUSAN, THESE THINGS ARE STILL HAPPENING”.

A student told me this after listening to my speech “Diversity & the Magic in You” for the 2nd time. “Please keep going, you are encouraging us”.

He went on to say “Can you imagine what it feels like to have fellow students reject you for working in a group, apparently because of your background that would make their grade lower?”

Another listener told with me his experience, “You know I work in a nursing home. There are people who tell you directly, ‘The black man is not allowed to touch me’ (…)”. Dear reader, we are in 2021!

What are we afraid of? Why so bitter in some cases? When we find this truth – we don’t even have to share it with others – we can truly question and change our thinking pattern.

Tears came to my eyes when I watched the documentary “Black Eagles” – available only in German. In this documentary, former Afro-German professional soccer players like Gerald Asamoah and Shary Reeves talk about their experiences. Moving, touching, eye-opening.

If what happened to me was terrible, how terrible must it be to be insulted at a stadium? Yet, these people already have other challenges. At home with their families, performing under pressure and dealing with authorities.

Quoting the former Bundesliga player Shary Reeves “(…) that was terrible (…). I thought to myself, how do I do this now? How do I become white so that I no longer have to endure this pain? That is, you believe these stories that there are soaps. You can wash yourself with them, and then you become white”.

Those who know me know that I strongly believe in self-responsibility. But self-responsibility also needs space. Magic needs space.

Do we create this space of encounter so that we can approach each other with curiosity, ready to change perspective?

Today I would like to share with you and your team 3 tools that always work regardless of the aspect of diversity/inclusion. Remember, even in our countries of birth, there are challenges like these. Dealing with diversity starts at home.

1. Personal responsibility and self-reflection

Whether you are affected or giving someone a chance: Don’t wait for politics, “powerful organizations” or “those upstairs” to move.

Find your way. There are several ways to do this.

Perhaps you are quick-witted like Anthony Baffoe, who, upon being insulted, replied “Listen, (…) you can work for me on the plantation.”

Shary Reeves confirms: “Tony fought for us. That was a pioneer in the issue of ‘I’m not going to accept this. I’m fighting against it. I also say something about it’ (…)”.

…or how Gerald Asamoah, according to Sharry, took away people’s fear and set an example. Shary Reeves about Gerald Asamoah “Gerald was not slowed down (…).it was difficult to block him (…) he brought this lightness into it. This joy (…). He spread something that took away the fear of the people watching till they thought, “this is a cool guy”.

Please do not forget your roots, but unite the best of your life’s journey and work on your self-confidence. No one can do that for you, just like training your muscles.

Someone who just shouts at you has not thought enough about it. In the same way, do not let it discourage you. Look for allies, exchange ideas. When you realize that there are even more “crazy” stories than yours, you will find your own way to deal with them.

It is important that you share your stories with others and encourage others (see also point 3).

Even if there are so many bad experiences, we must never forget: most people here in Germany, for example, are very curious and willing to help (I don’t mean the help that makes you small). For this reason alone, we should not have ourselves made small.

True self-reflection helps here.

2. We need people who stand by others

We need more people who stand by their values and are not afraid of what colleagues or what customers would think, for example, if a black person is serving customers.

I already shared my story about my interviewee who told me “Ms. Omondi, I would take you, but my clients will not accept you…”

How many times have I heard this, “What will my colleagues say?”.

Here’s the point: not everything colleagues say is relevant. Stand by your values, your colleagues will be grateful because you were brave enough. Who is going to make the first move if not you in you in your area of influence?

How many partners have dared to do it despite initial rejections in their family histories?

According to Jimmy Hartwig, soccer “saved him” because he had people who trusted him.
A moving moment as Jimmy Hartwig narrates:

Question to coach: “(…) why is black Hartwig playing on that team in there? Can you tell me?”.

Coach: “Of course, because he is good, because he is better than your son (…)”

Jimmy: “you hear that. (…) boah, there’s someone out there standing by you and defending you. I’d never experienced that.”

And that’s what it’s all about. It is such moments of steadfastness that bring us forward and give us hope.

If we stand by our decisions, we clear a wonderful path for others to follow.

3. create a stage, give space.

My appeal to companies: create spaces of truthful encounters so that we do not reject others out of fear.

By this, I mean away from the professional execution of the work. Maybe organize events and show true interest in what moves people. Please do not generalize or assume that the only concern that people in the minority has, is their minority characteristics. This way of seeing things is very dangerous.

Of course, it is also up to us to allow questions and curiosity.

It takes both sides for this encounter to be profitable.

A stage enables perspective changes.

I used to think that just because someone comes from Kenya, I have more in common with this person than with someone from another country I met here. After just one year, it became apparent that this is not the case at all. When we distance ourselves from others, it also becomes difficult to move forward together.

Create spaces for such stories, no matter how sad they are, as
Torsten Körner managed with this documentary “Black Eagles”.

Why do people find it difficult to talk about this, I always ask myself? Because of fear of saying something wrong?
What counts is our attitude, then we can forgive each other and learn from each other.

People then learn that fear is unjustified. People then learn that we can accept others without losing anything in the process.

Conclusion

No, these things don’t just happen out there, in stadiums or nursing homes. They start at the dinner table and your computer desk. All of these 3 tools require emotional and mental maturity. Laws alone are not enough. When you know your values and truly stand by them, you become less shaky. Over time, it works out better and better.

Let’s not forget history, but forgive and understand. Only when we let go can we receive the new and the better.

Creating space and stage, that’s exactly what we’re doing with the #OmondiLIVE platform. Together with Global Riders we are building bridges because we believe that when we engage with each other, magic happens.

Are you also creating spaces for diversity talks and stores?

Would you like to share your story with us today?

Susan Omondi
01.08.2021

#courage #diversity #stories #inspire #perspective

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