Ir­shad Manji

Newsweek - - Politics - manji is an Oprah “Chutz­pah” award win­ner, founder of the Moral Courage Academy and the best-sell­ing au­thor of the up­com­ing Don’t La­bel Me: An In­cred­i­ble Con­ver­sa­tion for Di­vided Times (St. Martin’s Press, Feb­ru­ary 26).

True story: a young hiphop artist from Biloxi, Mis­sis­sippi, wants the stars and bars in her state flag re­placed by an in­clu­sive and uni­fy­ing de­sign. She in­vites a sup­porter of the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag to her home, where they dis­cuss his per­spec­tive. Soon after, he re­al­izes that he cares more about de­fend­ing her dig­nity than about pre­serv­ing a sym­bol. He then stops fly­ing his own Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag. What sparked the trans­for­ma­tion? Re­spect. The ac­tivist re­spected the flag-wa­ver enough to en­gage rather than la­bel him.

The word re­spect comes from the Latin word mean­ing to turn around and look again—to re-spec­tate. If I see peo­ple only as the la­bels that I af­fix to them, then I’m not tak­ing the time to look again. By look­ing again, I’m say­ing, “You have a back­story that I don’t yet know. Will you share it?” And by go­ing first in the lis­ten­ing de­part­ment, I set the tone, the cul­ture of the con­ver­sa­tion. That puts me in the driver’s seat rather than in the vic­tim’s po­si­tion.

Over the past two years, more and more of us have found our­selves say­ing, “Don’t la­bel me.” Don’t as­sume you know me just be­cause you think I fit this or that cat­e­gory. Let’s be hon­est: La­bel­ing is a game, a way of scor­ing points by putting peo­ple in “their place.” It’s ma­nip­u­la­tive, de­mean­ing and ul­ti­mately en­rag­ing.

On so­cial me­dia, hu­mil­i­a­tion hap­pens at warp speed. Each tribe


be­lieves it’s be­ing la­beled, but the side that feels vic­tim­ized is do­ing the ex­act same thing to the other side! Clearly, noth­ing will change— not cul­tures, not sys­tems, not in­sti­tu­tions—un­til we the peo­ple change. And since la­bels aren’t go­ing away, we ought to treat them as start­ing points rather than fin­ish lines.

Start­ing points for what? For ask­ing each other ques­tions in the name of re­spect.

Here’s a coura­geous ex­er­cise that more of us could turn into a con­crete habit: When you’re be­ing dis­agreed with, ask not how you can change the other per­son’s mind; ask what you’re miss­ing about the other per­son. Most young peo­ple aren’t be­ing taught this les­son: that if you want to be heard, you first have to be will­ing to hear the other per­son. And ap­pre­ci­at­ing that is key to a life­time of suc­cess. Sin­cere re­la­tion­ships make for so­cial progress that en­dures.

The fu­ture’s more uncer­tain than ever—po­lit­i­cally, tech­no­log­i­cally, eco­nom­i­cally. But, thanks to hu­man psy­chol­ogy, you can pre­dict what moves your op­po­nents to co­op­er­ate with you. Step one: Re­place la­bel­ing with lis­ten­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.