CHICKS ROCK! is happy to have Kristina back as a guest blogger this week. Kristina Leonardi is the founder of The Women’s Mosaic. She is a coach and speaker in the areas of career development, work/life wellness and personal growth.
You can follow her @clearlykristina and like her Personal Growth Gab (PGG) page on Facebook to get more thought-provoking, inspirational and motivational tidbits like this!
Feeling somewhat awkward in my solo budget travel state, I was in the midst of sipping Earl Grey when something clicked within me on the most profound of levels. It occurred to me that due to the mere fact my skin was white - with the bonus of having blonde hair at the time - I was essentially given free rein to go wherever I desired and do whatever I wanted, and no one would ever question me, look at me strangely, or think I didn't belong.
A couple of years later while waiting in the cold for an MTA bus on First Avenue in the East Village I got to experience this overtness in reverse. Two Black women chose to ditch the delayed public transportation, and I watched in disbelief as two, three, five, six open taxis passed by as they tried to hail them; disgusted, I asked if they needed help, and of course the next cab stopped for me but when the driver realized the Black women, not me, were getting in, he drove away. Finally I asked where they were going; I was so appalled I decided I would just get in and share it with them. Of course the irony was that they were only going to 78th between First and Second, probably one of the whitest blocks in the city...It was perhaps the closest I will come to know what it must feel like to deal with race on a daily basis, simply trying to accomplish the most mundane of tasks.
Fast forward to February 2012. After my talk at the NY Science, Industry and Business Library a young Black man came up to thank me for what I had shared, how it made him think differently about his life, and pointed out to me what he had written down so he could make positive change going forward. He then said he had recently been released from federal prison, would I be willing to work with people like him? Well, this began a journey in which I learned more specifically about the consequences of race and the criminal justice system, the roots of mass incarceration and the many barriers to re-entry. It has since widened and deepened my understanding of the unhealed wounds, scars and repercussions of our country's history of slavery.
What we are dealing with in the aftermath of injustice after injustice against people of color are symptoms of a very sick system that is made up of people, and people are crying out for transformation and healing. It is not a Black problem; it is not a White problem. It is a human problem. No matter what card-carrying member of our race you proclaim (or are deemed) to be, we're all in this man-made mess together - and we will only solve it one story, one interaction, one aha moment at a time.