In this moment, post 2016 election, it’s a fragile time. For those of us who lead companies and organizations, you have a double thing to cope with—your own personal reaction, and the reaction of your teams. For those companies who are filled with employees who wanted this president-elect, the task is easier. But for those who wished otherwise, the task is hard.
I wrote the following note to my team early this morning. Many found it helpful for sense-making. I am posting it here lovingly. In the spirit of that, please be gentle in your posted commentary about it.
Keith Yamashita, founder, SYPartners
Good morning, SYPeeps.
When we were on a particularly gnarly part of a project with Ms. Winfrey, she said to us, “I have sunrise faith.” She went on to explain, “When things seem really dark, and everything seems bleak, I have faith that we get a second chance when the sun rises again.”
I’m up early this morning.
And thinking about this America we all share.
I had not fathomed this particular scenario we now face. I had, of course, intellectually worked through the possibility of this president being elected — but I hadn’t fully emotionally grasped what would happen if he did.
And so as the maps on television turned red before my eyes, and I realized that it was not a glass ceiling that would be shattered, but our own dreams of a first female president of the United States, I wept.
There is the sadness of this moment for me personally about the election, but I’ve also come to understand why I’m so saddened. It goes far beyond the candidates.
It’s taken me the better part of my life to become comfortable in this America with who I am. I was always an odd kid. I was not the mainstream. I didn’t fit in. I didn’t look like my peers. I didn’t sound like my peers.
I came out late at 27 (or early?, as if there is some ‘right timeline’). In my particular life, that took courage.
I moved in with Todd, my boyfriend.
Much later, Todd and I married; we had kids.
I cry because it has taken me a while to love being ‘an other’ in America. To realize my differences as a human being are my gift. That every room I walk into, every conversation I have, every friendship I strike, can be made better by me being who I am, fully.
What I fear most about an era under the leadership of this president-elect, is that being an other in America could get harder. Much harder. My rights can be taken away. But more than that, that it will be okay again in America to taunt my family, to call me names, to say “Go back to CHI-na” (yes, that happens to me), to deny me equality. That, once again, any of us who are an other can be excluded from this American dream.
All these years of working hard to belong could now — would now — somehow vanish.
I fear not just for me, but I fear for my kids — who are just at at age where they can process this thought. And these thoughts do matter.
I was talking about this with my dad the other day.
He talked about a topic he rarely does.
In World War II, my Japanese-American family was rounded up by the government — stripped of their daily lives, they were sent to internment camps. Shamed out of their community, they were cordoned off, because of the color of their skin, the syllables of their last name. And there, in those camps, most of the family sat for the duration of the war.
Three of the men of the family enlisted to fight in the 442nd Combat Team — the Japanese-American unit, of the United States Army Reserve. And they went to fight.
My uncle was on the team that ultimately cracked the Japanese code, part of putting an end to the war.
What is it like to be held in suspicion by your mother country, but at the same time be called to serve it?
What does it feel to be at the same time excluded, but more needed than ever?
I realized something else as many states were turning red on the election map two nights ago.
I had failed to see fully the America that would vote for this president-elect.
I didn’t see how much they’ve felt excluded in this American story.
How they don’t think America is serving them.
How they don’t trust in the people in office now.
How they feel like outsiders in their own country.
Perhaps you voted for this president-elect, or your family did, or your extended family did.
And that too is a learning: I have been so concerned by preserving the sanctity of my own otherness that I had failed to see all these voters’ pain. I failed to hear the pain of half the country.
To me, this goes beyond rural versus urban. White versus people of color. The coasts versus the center. Or men versus women. Or economics divide.
This is about a country where too many feel like outsiders on our own soil. Depending on context, every American is now an other — because it’s very hard to find only one majority in our diversity, now. There is no average American.
My feeling is that I now have a choice. To sit on the sidelines to protect my ground. Or instead walk toward a new understanding of what is really going on in America and be part of a new path forward.
I do believe it’s possible to feel more excluded than ever, but more needed than ever.
I don’t really know how my family did it during World War II, but they chose country above all else.
I am going to choose love — of country, of possibility, of reimagining an America for all.
This is the start of a new belonging.