The Will to Dissolve Divisions
Becoming a United Nation
Every newspaper and every news station reminds us that today, we are more divided than ever before. However, that is not true. What we are today is more overt about divisions that have been with us for over five hundred years, and have been woven into the fabric of our nation. To explore how we dissolve our divisions and become a united nation, particularly about human rights issues, we need to be willing to move beyond the rhetoric and the research numbers, and dive deeply into our hearts. We need to journey into who we were, to understand who we are, if we are to change who we are becoming.
Hearts cannot be legislated, but they can be made to change with new and more expansive information. We must be willing to allow emotions, the language of the heart to carry us to our inner core where what we thought and what we believe can be forever transformed. It takes a willingness to engage with new ideas and new possibilities, to engage in a different conversation, and to create a common vision.
That kind of transformation requires courage. It requires a willingness to see ourselves a new, to risk vulnerability and to allow that we may have been wrong. It takes a genuine desire to take our personal brick out of the wall of separation to allow the wall to crumble. Then we can use those bricks to build an equitable path that leads to, as the preamble of our constitution states, “a more perfect union,” that allows us all to thrive.
Interview with Milagros Phillips
What is the most common sign that there is a race-related problem in the workplace?
- Look around the organization.
- Are people of color represented in all spheres of the organization?
- Are there people of color in top positions in your organization?
- Is your organization retaining talented people of color for more than two years?
- Does your organization ever use this phrase, “We just don’t get enough qualified candidates of color?”
- All of these are signs that your organization is struggling with race-related issues.
Why do clients typically hire you to speak?
I typically get hired by clients who want to bring greater awareness of the issue of race to their employees in a way that is non-threatening, grounded in history, and leaves participants inspired and hopeful.
How did you begin your speaking career?
This dates me. When I was a young mom, I became a Tupperware Lady, in order to rule my schedule and have more time with my family. I had become a manager in record time, and my distributors were very impressed with my sales performance. I happened to walk into my distributorship at the moment that my distributor had gotten a call that the person who was to do the training that evening would not be able to make it. My distributor looked at me and said, “I’ve been wanting to ask you to do the training for our managers. Can you do the training tonight.” The training was a huge success, and I became a regular member of the training team.
How have things changed in the workplace since you began your career?
Things have changed drastically since I began my career. When I started speaking about race, we didn’t use phrases such as White privilege and internalized racial oppression. The awareness of the impact of race in the workplace was simply not there like it is today. While race is still a difficult topic, more people are willing to have a conversation about it than they were fifteen, ten, even three years ago. There is greater awareness that we can no longer hide from the conversation.
Besides being a race literacy expert, you’re also a creativity coach. Can you give three tips to individuals struggling with creativity?
Human beings are naturally creative, even though some don’t see themselves that way. If you want to increase your creativity:
- Becoming more observant. Take a deep breath, while saying to yourself, “I am conscious, awake and aware,” and look around you. Notice what you become aware of at that moment.
- Journaling can be a powerful awakener for your creative self.
- Visualize and daydream. See yourself as someone who is always coming up with new ideas and possibilities, even if that’s not currently the case for you.
Do you have a favorite experience from your career?
One of my favorite experiences was being an expert in residence for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 1998. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but during that short period of time, I did everything from speaking before small groups of about fifty people to holding town hall meetings on race. It was a powerful learning experience for me, and I loved it!