Tag Archives: advocacy

Quick Review: The Skin You Live In


A book that I wanted to offer a brief review of that I’ve read recently is Dr. David D. Ireland’s The Skin You Live In: Building Friendship Across Cultural Lines.

The author hides his own ethnicity until the end of the book to avoid any potential reader bias, which I found interesting. I did not know the author’s background until the end and at many points I found myself wondering.  But that choice does allow one to engage the content of the book without any potential bias against the content and where it’s coming from.

Diversity efforts are occurring everywhere. This is a helpful and somewhat brief treatment on how to take steps from cultural isolation towards cross-race relationships.  There’s a lot of helpful insights throughout the book – particularly related to ethnicity and identity. There are prophetic challenges to both majority culture folks as well as ethnic minority folks who can find their identity in their ethnicity or their political-social situation. From a Christian perspective – both sides of this divide are challenged related to fundamental identity and to live out a God-given identity to reconcile and bridge difference through meaningful relationships.

A part of the purpose of this book is trying to help provide a roadmap to what he calls being “racially attractive.” By that term, he means someone who can form meaningful relationships across racial or ethnic difference.  From the author’s own doctoral research he asked people who were consistently living life with these types of relationships about what makes them “racially attractive.” Here are the responses:

  1. Offer hospitality.
  2. Be free to laugh and joke.
  3. Go on social outings.
  4. Engage in vulnerable conversations.
  5. Have cross-race friends.
  6. Seek mutually rewarding outcomes.
  7. Demonstrate comfort in the friendship.
  8. Practice honesty in the relationship.     (pg. 71)

This list was interesting to me and links to several other models, but noticeably Andy Crouch’s matrix in Strong and Weak.  I’m currently reading and researching a lot related to multi-ethnic negotiation and there are some connection points here as well.

This book is written primarily with the U.S. ethnic context in mind, but it was interesting to read this through the international lens as well as much of the suggestions about building relationships are just as relevant here in Asia as elsewhere, maybe they are even more crucial here because of the weight of relationship and community in collectivist cultures.

Many people today, despite increased political polarization, do want to experience diversity and cross-cultural relationships even if there is systemic racism and hidden personal racism that prevents those desires to be realized. It always starts with identity and relationships and this is a helpful resource for people on the journey. There’s other helpful sections related to cross-cultural forgiveness, advocacy and other aspects of diverse community so it’s definitely worth reading if this is an area of development for you.

Stemming the Tide of Scapegoating

In the Systems & Power Leadership Community I facilitate yearly, one of the dynamics we explore relates to anxiety in groups and emotional systems and one of the things that we explore is scapegoating.   Last weekend, we had an epic NFL championship Sunday in which two games came down to the wire and ended amidst dramatic circumstances.  They had something in common:  they both featured horrible mistakes that led to a couple players becoming scapegoats for the loss.

In the aftermath of the 49ers v. Giants game, the scapegoat Kyle Williams even received death threats towards himself and his family.  A game suddenly is no longer a game and toxic anger takes over on a wide level.

The question our leadership community has been tossing around these last couple of weeks has been, “What is needed to stem the tide of anxiety when scapegoating is set in motion – in a family, in a team, or in any emotional system?”

Then a friend tweeted this article out and I was struck by it’s relevance to these discussions and it was a powerful example of how a father stemmed the tide of scapegoating in his own family and then how his 7 year old son has begun to stem the tide of scapegoating in the larger sports world.

Here’s the article here: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/awwww-read-seven-old-heart-melting-letter-kyle-214810120.html

Observations about diffusing anxiety in systems that starts to get over-focused on an individual that are reinforced in this example:

  • There’s a needed capacity to be sad, to grieve, to let go after dealing with hurt and loss honestly
  • There’s a needed capacity to be able to think about, empathize with, and move towards others even while we are hurt or angry ourselves
  • There’s a needed capacity to ask questions to those who are wrapped up in anxiety to the point where they are lost and help them refocus or reframe all of the emotion and anxiety they are feeling
  • There’s a need to maintain a larger perspective as best as we can

Those are just a few of the things that diffuse scapegoating systems – that help guard against toxic anxiety coping and pain relief and that can free us up to function in loving and peacemaking types of ways.

Don’t be a party to scapegoating and don’t let others become scapegoated.  Make this a key part of your leadership convictions and be a part of redemptive and forgiving community. Let’s guard our own hearts and help guard others from unjust blame and judgment.

What other observations might you have about what it takes to stem the tide of scapegoating?

**Addendum – Since posting this, I’ve heard a couple different interviews in which Kyle Williams did.  I think this was a smart decision on his part and he came off really well.  By staying silent or being defensive he feeds into the dynamic.  But facing the music, he infused the discussion with a reminder of his (and all of our) humanity.  It’s harder to treat someone like dirt when they are humbly and courageously owning up to their mistakes.