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Knowing and Growing Beyond Shame and Blame (1 of 4) | For Ourselves and Each Other

This month I want to reflect on the ways in which shame and blame around diversity issues can keep us from knowing (ourselves and others) and growing into the kind of inclusive sense of belonging that we strive for in our offices, homes, and communities.

It’s been about one year since the George Floyd verdicts were announced. I can recall sitting in my den, on the couch, glued to the TV, barely breathing, and on the verge of tears, and that state of being in that moment of time reminded me of two things.

First, I could clearly remember my graduation day when I received my PhD. That day was a little bit anticlimactic. As I walked across the stage, I remembered how hard I'd worked for those three years. And I remembered the sacrifices that I made in terms of not being able to be with family members on birthdays, not being able to celebrate some holidays and really having to be on the grind by always having a book in my face, always preparing for the next milestone towards that goal of graduation. No one blamed me for making those choices – they knew why I was doing what I was doing, though there were some times when I might have felt a bit ashamed of making my “knowing and growing” a priority over them at times.

The reading of the verdicts felt a little bit anticlimactic. The members of the prosecuting team had worked so hard for 11 months to make sure they had plenty of evidence for the jury to support and believe what we all saw. They sacrificed countless hours at an unimaginable emotional, spiritual, mental, and psychological toll with having to review and relive the loss of life during those 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

I still can’t look at the photos, let alone watch the video. Truth be told, we had all worked so hard to prepare for the worst possible outcome. And when the best possible outcome happened, it was just one more step on the long journey toward equal justice. For me, and many others I have spoken with, it was anticlimactic. And I know there was a huge feeling of blame (and some sense of shame) that a lot of people felt then.

So, how can we move beyond blame and shame to knowing and growing? We’ll explore that more in the next installment this month, but I invite you to reflect on places and situations in your life where blame and shame might be getting in the way of your goals of diversity, inclusion and belonging.

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