E#51: How and When to Speak Up for What Matters to You.
This is a episode is about equality, inequity, societal barriers and how to communicate about meaningful ideas.
(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease.)
In the last few months, the whole world has changed tremendously in such a short time. The world has always been changing, albeit slowly, towards an improved level of equality but certainly not equity. In my experience, we get spikes of awareness or protests about specific issues or injustices that happen, but then they fizzle out because there isn’t a sustained momentum that requires ongoing resources. The barriers to change seem too stiff or ingrained in the system. The barriers may change as a result of the actions, but not always significantly. And the supports to sustain the change are fleeting often. Now things appear different, given the tensions and conflicts occurring in the background of a pandemic.
Yes, everybody has been affected in 2020 because of the virus, but importantly the virus has unveiled many social inequities that have always been plaguing us, and it’s hard to ignore them now. The issues of inequality and inequity are not new, but sometimes it’s hard for people to say something about the injustices, and this happens for a few reasons.
the virus has unveiled many social inequities that have always been plaguing us
The first reason is not knowing how to articulate yourself eloquently - to voice what you’re thinking and feeling - to make yourself understood.
Secondly, if you try to, you don’t know how you might come across, and you may not want to engage in further conflict with people who don’t agree, or worse will now label you and create new conflict in your life.
Certainly, a person may be afraid of repercussions. They may stay quiet and inactive, even if it’s happening or happened to them and when they’ve been hurt they are working on damage control, to minimize the toxic effects. They disengage and lick their wounds. This is the same as how one would rest and tend to an infection that is simmering down, hoping it won’t come back to reinfect them.
I believe one reason many good caring people don’t say anything about infringements and injustices around them is, that they are struggling with their own issues and life circumstances
you may not want to engage in further conflict with people who don’t agree, or worse will now label you and create new conflict in your life.
They’re dealing with relationship conflicts, financial conflicts, emotional challenges and so much more. All of that takes energy. They can’t even begin to think about others and the oppressions that may be occurring or occurred. It’s as if they are treading water and that’s all they can do because they don’t want to drown. They are struggling to swim just trying to make it to the other side, let alone helping anyone else.
There is an illusion of all things being equal all the time that we must reconcile with in reality.
Anyone who’s markedly different, whether it’s based on their colour, general look, orientation, name, height, or economic status understands struggle in social, political and economic contexts. Often a person who is obviously disadvantaged and markedly doesn’t fit into popular cultural norms or values experiences inequities in a system that does not favour them.
Sometimes we brush inequities or personal injustices we see or experience aside because we build an immunity to them and ignore the wounds that have been wielded. It can become a blind spot.
Often a person who is obviously disadvantaged and markedly doesn’t fit into popular cultural norms or values experiences inequities in a system that does not favour them.
For example, my secretary was annoyed with the new patients who came to the medical clinic when I first opened up my practice. She was annoyed and visibly angry when people repetitively asked her “can the doctor speak English” based on the fact that my name was different and uncommon. I found it amusing, but she didn’t. She hadn’t had a constant experience of these minor infractions or presumptions that people make. She couldn’t imagine such behaviour. I didn’t need to imagine as that’s been a consistent experience for me.
We can’t imagine other people’s situations to the same level that they experience it, but just because we can’t imagine a reality, doesn’t mean we don’t care. But is caring enough? Is it enough even though it doesn’t directly impact you?
She was annoyed and visibly angry when people repetitively asked her “can the doctor speak English” based on the fact that my name was different and uncommon. I found it amusing, but she didn't.
Prejudgments happen but sitting back and sharing your voice is instrumental. This brings me back to the original difficulty I mentioned in that sometimes we don’t know how to use our instrumental voice to articulate ourselves eloquently in order to speak up correctly or explain a situation better in a discussion or debate. That’s why I’m always enamoured by great communicators and why I’m always looking at how I can communicate an idea more effectively.
The best example that fits the current climate regards the response to “Black Lives Matter.” The rebuttal I’ll hear is that “All Lives Matter”.
Saying “All Lives Matter” as a response to “Black Lives Matter” is like saying the fire department should spray down all houses in a neighbourhood even though only one house is on fire... because all houses matter. Yes, your house matters too, but your house isn’t on fire.
That’s the power of metaphors and language. I spoke about that in a previous podcast episode.
Saying "All Lives Matter” as a response to“Black Lives Matter” is like saying the fire department should spray down all houses in a neighbourhood even though only one house is on fire... because all houses matter. Yes, your house matters too, but your house isn’t on fire.
Another way to illustrate this point is through an explanation of equity and equality.
Equality is assuming everyone is the same when that is not true, and everyone is given an equal level of supports.
A great image that depicts this is three people who are each different heights who are trying to watch a soccer game over a fence. Equality is if we all give them the same size of box to stand on. That might help one person see over the fence, but maybe not the other two who even after standing on top of the box still can’t look over the fence.
A second image, which explains equity, has different heights of boxes, to account for the different heights of the individuals, whereby everyone can look over the fence and enjoy the game. (This implies different supports are given so that it is possible for equal access to watch the game).
In a third image, all three people can see the game when the fence has been removed without any supports or accommodations being made because the cause of the inequity has been addressed and removed. In other words, the systemic barriers are taken down.
Be mindful of any useful analogies or stories or jokes that help explain a concept.
We all need metaphors and analogies to help better understand ourselves and others in terms of what to say or how to create constructive action. Be mindful of any useful analogies or stories or jokes that help explain a concept. When we collect them and share them, it changes the conversation and can move people internally to more external responsible actions instead of watching in fear of being reprimanded or in doubt of how to articulate oneself. The magic comes with learning how to communicate.
It's never too late to share your voice because your voice matters.
When good people are indifferent and don’t try to speak up or go beyond their safety zone then nothing changes.
It’s never too late to share your voice because your voice matters. If you are looking at ways to express your voice, you can step into it. Being actively present and working on ways to voice the inequities and barriers that occur in life is plenty. When good people are indifferent and don’t try to speak up or go beyond their safety zone then nothing changes.
That’s not an extrovert’s job with compassion and that’s not an introvert’s job to overcome their shyness. It's the job of everyone who believes in people having chances to live a healthy, happy life; to responsibly say or do something. A little step for you is a huge step for someone undergoing an injustice no matter how large or small. Being quiet is accepting the wrongdoing. Nobody needs pity or empathy anymore. The world needs active thinkers and doers. Effective communication and action is immunization against ignorance and discrimination.
Thank you so much for listening and may you and your family be well.
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I'm Dr. Lalit Chawla and thank you so much for listening. Let's together make a greater, more effective community so that you live with greater passion, harmony and magic in your life and help others do the same.
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