I’m not a fan of engaging in controversial topics through social media. While I think it can be informative, it’s often too impersonal. And things escalate way too quickly, leaving folks feeling attacked, demeaned and more decisively divided.
However, I believe in-person, open-ended, listening-focused conversations can be extremely fruitful. I’ve been grateful for the conversations I’ve had this election season with friends and family with wide-ranging views.
As a middle-class white male, I recognize my perception isn’t always reality. Perhaps it’s not even normally reality. I’ve never experienced most aspects of life as a minority.
While my family has its share of dysfunction – singe-parent household raising 5 kids on a substitute teacher’s salary – we never experienced the added element of discrimination or other less obvious unfair treatment based on the color of our skin or our sexual orientation.
While I acknowledge my immense privilege, this isn’t an apology for being white. Or being male. Or being middle class.
It’s an invitation to begin a more meaningful dialogue with my friends, colleagues & neighbors that may not come from the same side of the tracks. I believe we all have something valuable to add as individuals. I believe we all have life experiences that should be added to the conversation to provide a more holistic, realistic understanding of our country & the world in general. I believe that’s how we can move forward together, in spite of our differing opinions.
Perception isn’t Reality – but it does count for something
Over the last 8 years, I’ve had the extreme privilege of traveling internationally. Through those experiences, and my current employer, I’ve had the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with people who don’t look like me or whose first language isn’t English.
I’ve had the privilege of learning from their experience as a minority in America. I’ve had the privilege of learning of their background in their country of origin and what challenges they’ve faced and/or overcome. I’ve experienced the despair of hearing the heart-breaking story of several friends that have been deported or jailed for being in America illegally.
I’ve had the privilege of tutoring refugees living in low-income housing in Kansas City, KS. Through this experience, I’ve been able to learn more about their lives. I’ve been able to hear about their family’s hardships and bleak outlook. But more than anything, I’ve been able to appreciate the privilege and opportunity afforded to me because of where I grew up and what services were available to me.
While my family dynamics weren’t ideal, I had a mother who loved me and believed in me. She always encouraged me to pursue my passions regardless of what it cost her (time, money, her own passions/desires).
I had grandparents who spoke life and truth into me, even when things weren’t going my way. I’ll never forget the countless times my grandpa reiterated, “the cream always rises to the top” when I was heartbroken with family problems, friendship problems or confused about my future.
Stop Labeling Others
My heart has been broken by the extreme divisiveness and hate-speech that has been seemingly effortlessly spewed by both sides of the political spectrum.
I believe the divide is so great because few supporters of Mrs. Clinton actually know someone — on a deep, personal level — that voted for Mr. Trump.
Similarly, I suspect few Trump-supporters have many (or any) deep, personal relationships with anyone on the other side of the fence.
The result is both sides unjustly labeling 50% of the country (* those who voted*) as racist, godless, clueless or helpless. I believe that’s the definition of bigotry by both sides. And bigotry will bring about no positive outcome.
Let’s Talk, America
My invitation is to join me for a conversation: an open, honest dialogue about the matters of your heart and mine.
I don’t care if you’re white. I don’t care if you’re a woman. I don’t care if you speak English. I don’t care if you voted for Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump, Mr. Johnson or Mr. Elmo.
What I care most about is that you’d join me in starting a conversation that’s long overdue for this country.
Let’s talk, America. I’m ready to listen. Are you?
Mondays from 6:30a-7:30a at Friendly Bean Coffee (420 NE Barry Rd, Kansas City, MO 64155)
Fridays from 6:45a-7:45a at The Roasterie Factory Cafe (1204 W 27th St, Kansas City, MO 64108)
Comment below or Tweet Me @jtsotojr if you’re planning to join. You can also message me on Facebook. If neither of the times listed above work for your schedule, feel free to propose another time and we can try to meet.