Core Principles Explained: Principle #1

Core Principle #1: Guilt and politeness are the glue that holds prejudice and stigma in place.

When was the last time you felt like you couldn’t ask a question because you were afraid you were going to offend someone? How about a time where you wanted to know more, but you were nervous the words you were going to use may be outdated or “politically incorrect?” As a society, we have been taught that it is better to look away and not say anything when we encounter someone who identifies differently than we do.

The problem with avoiding these topics is that we continue to solidify our implicit biases about the social identities that we don’t know as much about. We are not willing to dig deeper because we are afraid that our curiosity or confusion will be seen as nosy or problematic. Like the idea of “cancel culture,” it is quicker and easier to shut someone down than to have difficult conversations. And much like what is stated in the core principle, this makes things sticky.

Many of us have likely been taught that it is better to not talk about things like race, religion, or politics, because it will often end in an argument. Core Principle #1 is about changing that narrative and encouraging each other to step past our comfort zones and be willing to say things like, “I may not have the right language,” or, “If this isn’t an appropriate question, please let me know.” It does not take politeness and avoidance to be kind. Instead, by recognizing our own limitations and understanding that the things we learned as children may not be the same as what we are encountering as adults, we can move toward understanding ourselves and those around us.

As we continue our deep dive into the seven core principles each month, we encourage you to reflect on the principle. Think about the ways that the core principle applies to you. Also consider what you may disagree with, feel moved by, or want to bring into your own Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) efforts. US² uses each of these principles in every aspect of the work that we do. As our name states, it is necessary to understand self in order to unite society. If we start with ourselves and make positive changes at the individual level, we can better address the difficult conversations and change hearts and minds around us.

What are some ways you are going to apply this core principle over the next 30 days?