That Time I Was Told “Our Kind Must Stick Together”

15/11/2013 — 6 Comments

Writing about cultural intelligence in teams and leadership brought a memory back from the recesses of my mind. I don’t know why some weird things happen to me in public spaces.

Once I had a guy responsible for cleaning bathrooms at one of my favourite malls start speaking to me about his relationship problems. Talk about awkward… Sometimes people just walk up to me and tell me about their problems.

On another day, a waitress called me out… This post is not about all these incidents though. Let me get back…

So, a guy at the mall just felt he needed to recruit me. Maybe make sure I was on the team same with him. He spoke about how “our kind” needed to stick together. By “our kind” he meant people with the same colour skin. He lamented people who interacted with others across skin colour lines.

He told me that “our kind” was better in “our” own little huddle. I listened to his weak reasoning. My policy is never to discount anyone until I’ve heard him or her out. But in this instance I didn’t agree with him from his first line, but let him speak his peace.

As he was about to conclude making his case, there was an awkward moment.

ingrid and i

Ingrid, my wife, came up to the till, where we were, and held me. Yes, that awkward moment.

I didn’t hang around to be berated. I didn’t think much about him. He’s not the first to talk like that. Many share his opinion. In case you still haven’t got it, I’m not that guy. The one who believes in “our kind”, whatever that is, “sticking together…”

It Won’t Work

This is dumb. Worse than naive. It is impossible to “stick together”. We cannot live as if people different from us don’t exist. There will always be people different from us. I’m talking deeper than skin tones.

We miss out on the richness of diversity in perspectives and strengths when we want everyone to be same. Beauty can only be magnified through contrasts. When everything is the same, nothing is different. Doh.

When we don’t cross the lines to interact with people who live, see and act different from us, we will be locked into the weaknesses of our similarities.

At some point we will need something from people different from us. In differing circumstances we will be the minority and we will need to be recognised. To be seen and be reminded we matter.

Sticking to “your kind” is lame [Click to Tweet]

Can’t we all get along? Isn’t it time for you to reach out to people different from you before circumstance pushes you to that. Can we break “sticking to our kind”? Can’t we all just get along?!

Blessing Mpofu

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