The horrific massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston set off a battle of banners, making us all feel as if the Civil War had not ended 150 years ago. Five decades after the Segregation has officially ended in all US states, incidents of bigotry are repeatedly surfacing. These incidents are not exclusive to the former Confederate states, but are happening all over the US, from New York to Los Angeles, signaling that racism is entrenched deeper than we thought, and requires new measures to defuse it.
In and of itself, the phenomenon of racism is ingrained in human nature. It relates not only to people of different color, faith, gender, or culture, but basically to anyone who is different from me. In fact, racism is a hyponym of xenophobia, whose subsets can be traced in every element of human relations, from welcoming new classmates to absorbing new immigrants to a country.
In other words, if we want to solve racial tensions, we must tend to one of our most basic fears—the fear of the potential threat of the unknown. To do that, we must learn to develop mutual trust.
We grow up in a society that teaches us our rights, preaches to us that we are entitled, and that everybody else also feels that way so if we want to get what we deserve we may have to do it at someone else’s expense. There cannot be trust in such an atmosphere.
But while we are busy surrounding ourselves with walls, reality insists that we do the opposite. Today’s scientists are largely interdisciplinary; today’s corporate world is relying more and more on positive communication among employees and between employees and executives in order to maintain transparency and efficiency of production. Without trust, it will be very difficult for companies to survive in today’s integrated corporate world.
Recent studies have shown that achievements, both in the corporate world and in the academia, improve dramatically when people of diverse backgrounds participate, and collaborate positively! That is, as soon as trust is established, diversity becomes an advantage rather than a hindrance. People’s diverse perspectives help foresee obstacles, and their mutual enrichment helps them create innovative and original solutions far more quickly than teams comprised of like-minded people.
What is true for the academia, and what is becoming increasingly prevalent in the corporate world, will work for the American society as a whole. Over the last few years we have developed Integral Education, in which we conduct Round Table discussions and Connection Circles, which are a special type of discussion constructed to establish unity above differences among participants. We conduct these discussions with great success in North America, Europe, and Israel. In all of these places and events we find that differences that seem impassable at first become a springboard for profound rapport, and so we learned to welcome them instead of fear them.
If we will learn to work together rather than alone, and think about our society the way we think of teams at work or sports teams, our lives will gain tremendously, both materially and emotionally. In the 21st century, a nation that does not embrace the unique contribution of each of its factions is bound to disintegrate. But a nation that thrives on multiplicity and variety is bound to succeed. Such a nation will easily ride the ripples of rifts over banners, and will set an example of personal and national strength through trust and mutual commitment to the success of society as a whole.
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