Not a Color!

Before leaving for a two-week long travel adventure (including one week of climbing active volcanoes), our class was studying volcanoes with Dr. Bodnar. During the movie Volcano, there was a scene where people ran frantically through the streets looting stores and houses. The lava was going to reach the city in a matter of minutes, so people tried to steal as many things as possible. Looking straight at the screen, the first few people I saw run out of the store were black men. Hmmmm…..I don’t think this was a coincidence on the movie maker’s part. Why black? Why men? Is this the way that society views black men? As thieves, convicts, and may I even say…killers?

Sure slavery is over and segregation laws have been destroyed, but we still live in an extremely racist and segregated society. After the movie, a group of students and I began discussing the racist implications from the movie. Next thing I knew someone had asked me, “Do you associate yourself with white people or black people?” What? Is this a joke? Sure I am mixed with an African American father and Caucasian mother, but what does that have to do with association? Am I supposed to choose one over the other? Love one more than the other?

I then realized that I never grew up seeking black and white. I had always seen myself as another person. I didn’t have a group of black friends and a group of white friends. I just had a group of friends. Looking back at photos I can now notice myself being the only person of color or being the lightest person in the group, but it never dawned on me before. I never consciously chose to hang out with one group or the other. Much of what had played into who I hung out with was my environment. I grew up going to a small, private Christian school where the vast majority of the children were white. I couldn’t change that, and I didn’t want to change that. People are people no matter what color.

Despite trying to convince myself that I am not racist, I realize that I am extremely racist just like everyone else. When I see a black man walking down the streets with his pants hanging off his butt, I immediately think – gangster straight from the hood. When I see a white girl dressed up in Lilly Pulitzer clothing on campus, I immediately think – preppy, sorority girl. When I see a Hispanic man doing construction work, I immediately think – illegal immigrant.

Although these racial stereotypes may be true, I struggle to understand why we use them. Why we can’t see people as people. Why we can’t look beyond the color of someone’s skin. I may be African American and Caucasian, but I want to be seen as Karli Bryant. Nothing else. Just myself…Karli Bryant.
Racial discrimination and jokes may seem funny until they are directed at you. Telling me that you wish you could be “black like me” is not a compliment when you are implicating that the color of my skin gives me the ability to rap and dance. Because the truth is I can’t rap. Maybe I can dance, but just tell me that you like my dancing. Likewise, saying that I “act white” is not a compliment either. I am proud of all of my roots.

I am not black.

I am not white.

I am not a color.

I am Karli Bryant.

We need to stop drawing lines between races and begin to build bridges. We are one people living in one world. We all deserve the respect of not being stereotyped. We are all people. Let’s start treating each other that way. No it’s not easy to break those embedded, society-driven stereotypes, but most things in life aren’t easy. It’s not impossible unless we decide to make it impossible.

So I challenge you to think before you decide to make a racial remark or begin to stereotype.

People are people, not just colors.

Behind the Scenes

The more I think, the more confused I get. Leadership is a word that often gets thrown out without second thought. Scholarship and university applications ask to list previous positions of leadership held by the applicant. From this standpoint, leadership is solely about status assigned through a title. However, I am realizing that leadership is way more complex. What does it mean for me to be a leader within a global context? (I still don’t have an answer to this looming question.)

Last week while continuing our study on leadership, I was asked to watch this video: Lead like the great conductors. The speaker in the video, Itay Talgam, attempts to make a metaphor comparing various music conductors with different types of leadership.

Itay showed a few videos displaying variations of conducting – from playful to commanding to dainty to carefree. The final clip is what concerns me. He ended with a video of an outstanding performance where the conductor stood still with his arms crossed while bopping his head to the music. The conductor seemed to put no effort into the performed piece. According to Itay, if all of the previous types of conducting he mentioned are combined then a conductor can reach this point of doing without doing.

However, I must put some resistance against this statement. The performance of the orchestra is all about the show the audience expects. The hard work, dedication, and tireless hours of practice that went into the musical piece are not directly conveyed through the conductor’s performance during a concert. The ultimate result is the quality of the music that the orchestra plays. It’s a show! – whether solemn or sprightly.

Most of the time, viewers only pay attention to the final product and do not give credit to those that lead everything behind the scenes. Note: I am not denying the credit needed to be given to those in the performance. Whether it is mostly the collaboration of the orchestra, the commanding of the conductor, or a combination of both, one cannot judge where the leadership originated from by the performance.

I have found this very relatable to my time in Europe with the PGS program. Some amazing, university distinguished professors have come through the program and pushed me to limits I never thought I could reach. For example, Paul Heilker made me really think about what my exigency is – what is the issue that I cannot keep quiet about. Although I wish I could solve all the world problems, I realized that I need to find a place where I want to focus my time and emotions. From conversations with him along with experiences within my group project on human trafficking, I have realized that I have a passion and compassion for women who are trafficked. The final output of the project is still in the air, but I know that whatever it is I cannot give all the credit to myself or even my group. Credit must be given to those that have pushed me and helped me further pursue this passion.

I encourage anyone reading this to think about the hidden leaders in your life. Most likely there is someone or many people who have helped lead you to where you are now. The show may be amazing, but don’t forget about behind the scenes. Without those people, the show would never go on.