Miscommunication, Racism And A Garden

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By Brian Chisholm
Delegate, District 31B

My first 30 days of representing you have been filled with scores of new faces delivering introductions, droves of information, motives, agendas, questions, concerns, ideas, philosophies, stress, impossible demands, and schedules filled with overlapping meetings. That said, I thank all of you for trusting me with this incredible opportunity and wouldn’t change it even for a moment. Jimmy Buffett once penned and recorded a song titled “Manana” with poetic talent, expressing, “Don’t try to describe a Kiss concert if you’ve never seen it.” I will not fully defy his advice here, but I would like to undertake one occurrence I will try to describe here.

In my first 30 days, I have been confronted with a multitude of issues, but this one in particular called upon my attention. Recently, a local publication used the headline “Simonaire and Chisholm must apologize to the citizens of Pasadena for missing a community based meeting on racial tensions.” I was a little taken aback but not overly surprised. I do fully understand and respect the role of the media and the demands outlets face with deadlines and the relentless push to sell papers and advertising. I am not sure why this publication felt compelled to call me out, but I will take this opportunity and address my absence. I have also supplied my thoughts on racism in our schools and society in conclusion of this letter.

Although I was unable to attend this particular meeting, I attended one of the first of these meetings held at the Eastern District Police Department on Pasadena Road just prior to Christmas. We attendees all left feeling strongly that we better understood the problem and had some positive direction for beginning the formula for taking on this dilemma.

We all agreed that much of the problem was multiplied by a lack of communication or simply miscommunication. Miscommunication plays a major role and is at the root of a bulk of the problems we face today and this controversy is not exempt. To combat this danger, we must work to communicate more effectively and avoid miscommunications. There are three basic but important components to all forms of communication.

Intent is the first stage of communication and it falls in any one of three categories - good intent, bad intent and neutral intent. I know in today’s electrified, polarized information age, this may sound absurd and I may be in the minority, but I believe 90 percent of the people we encounter daily have good intentions at their core. I propose we move forward assuming most people have good intentions.

Approach is second. This is how we deliver or communicate our intentions. This is the trickiest and most complex of all three stages because it can take on a multitude of forms, deliveries, opinions and beliefs. This is, of course, the stage where things often go flying off the track and become disagreeable, but this is often the place where we can find great understanding if we believe in the good intentions of others.

Impact/Results is the final but vital component of which we can learn the most. Here’s where the greatest of intentions can produce some of the worst results. It is possible in some cases to actually have good results from bad intentions. I would hope most of our communication has good or neutral intentions with the hope of a positive result, but I fear the negative could be the unintentional outcome.

So where am I going with all of this and how in God’s name does it relate to racism, newspaper headlines and a garden?

When we read headlines boldly exclaiming far-reaching racial problems in our school systems and communities, it has the real possibility of implicating many innocent people. It can serve to become counterproductive and lead to negative results for many, regardless of the intent. I fear these well-intended miscommunications far too often can create a narrative that serves to divide rather than move toward working together to solve complex problems. I furthermore assume the headline suggesting that I owe the Pasadena community an apology was meant to serve as sound advice, but I believe it could be misconstrued by some that I do not care about these serious issues.

Now to the garden and how I will use it as a metaphor for taking on the scourge of racism. I borrow the following from one of my favorite teachers of all time, Jim Rohn. “We must all wage an intense, lifelong battle against the constant downward pull. If we relax, the bugs and weeds of negativity will move into the garden and take away everything of value.” This is how I believe we must approach and handle these racial acts and issues. If you allow me the liberty of playing the gardener, we should first identify the weeds that look to destroy the entire garden if they are not removed. The weeds can soon overtake the entire garden and destroy all the good vegetables, plants and food, so we must be vigilant to remove the weeds. This does not mean that we should yank out all of the healthy and enriched plants that can nourish the entire good crop in an effort to destroy the weeds that may be growing around the flourishing plants. These healthy, good plants can multiply twelve-fold to the benefit of all of us. If, however, we decide to poison the entire garden in order to remove the obstructive weeds strewn about the garden, all of us lose.

I love this community and I am proud to call it my home, but we are not immune to real problems. We should all work consistently to better the lives of those around us and be a strong example of a high-quality neighbor.

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