On this Martin Luther King Day, let's reflect on how easily we human beings are shut out of groups. They may range from a neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona to a public relations agency in Manhattan.
The source of the bias can be simply the mindset of the tribe.
In Tucson, it took a while before I connected the dots on why I wasn't developing close relationships. Folks in the Roger Road part of the city were friendly, but not indicating they wanted to be friends.
Eventually, I had a clue why. I was sitting on a neighbor's patio. He was knocking back the beers. "How come Jewish families push their kids so much?" That inquiry came from liquid courage.
"I don't know" I answered I added, "I am not Jewish."
But to him and myriad others, a refugee from the New York Metro area, I looked, talked and walked Jewish. My facial features and body style were Eastern European. My mother's maiden name had been "Miksza." I had a deep Jersey City, New Jersey accent. And I had a determined stride.
The neighbor gave me a nod. The message was: "If you want to try to pass for non-Jewish, okay, but I know."
Another form of bias had been the tribal attitude in East Coast public relations agencies that over-50 lacks creativity and tech ability. That assumption triggered my decision to leave that area and reconfigure my boutique as a telecommuting one.
Given that the business would be remote, there was no longer a commercial reason to be saddled with New York Metro high-cost lifestyle. I high-tailed it out.
Meanwhile, my aging colleagues in communications struggle with magic thinking. Although unemployed or underemployed, they have not yet thrown in the towel on the severe age bias in our field. When they ask my recommendation, my answer is: Sure, try, to find work but remain open to relocation or a career change. Communications is a glam field. Glam is anti-aging.
No fool, it dawned on me that I was not a good fit for Tucson. Here in Eastern Ohio my social life clicked from the get-go. The cost of living is peanuts. In fact, some must-haves like shelter and car insurance are less than they had been in Tucson. It's a myth that the Southwest is the Promised Land for those needing to watch their pennies.
I have a dream that social systems will become less tribal. If they become more open who knows how much more prosperous they can be.
Simplification, Tone of Authority, Wit. Those are the NOW communications work-horses. Contact Jane Genova for complimentary consultation for your advocacy/marketing communications (firstname.lastname@example.org).