Standing Against Our Culture of Indignity

It feels like we keep going down and it won’t stop. People in positions of authority whose job it is to represent our citizenry and our values can’t be trusted to be ethical, compassionate and informed. We are living in a culture of indignity. We are consistently betrayed by our leaders.

Over the last few days, we have traveled around the country and been struck by how desperate people are to change this culture. In Dallas, we spoke to over 1,500 people at the Momentous Institute Changing the Odds’ Conference. In Chicago, to hundreds of Christian school administrators at the Council for Educational Standards and Accountability.

Over and over again we heard people saying we need to do something. People wanting to have hard conversations so we can begin to repair the damage we see in our communities–be it our national community or as local as our schools and families.

At Cultures of Dignity, we believe in speaking truth directly and listening respectfully and intently. We know that’s what people want.

So how do we do this? First, let’s say what is a waste of our time:

  • Complaining online

  • Changing the color/border of our social network profile pictures

  • Arguing with family and friends on social media over who is right and who is wrong

  • Giving up

We know many people are saying there is no point in coming forward. And while we are mortified that a woman’s experience with sexual assault seems to come as a shock to many of our national leaders and isn’t given the seriousness it deserves, we know that has been the reality for years. It was nauseatingly real to see Kavanaugh’s imperious rage at having his reputation questioned. He personified the narcissism and privilege that long ago infected people in positions of power.

With all respect to people who are frustrated and dispirited, it has never been easy to bring light to abuse. It has always been a fact that if you challenge people who have power for whatever reason, they will try to silence you, if not destroy you. People of color know this–it is and has been their lived experience every day for generations. What’s happening now has always happened, it just feels worse because people are speaking out more and still getting slammed for it.

We have a choice to make. How are we going to show up in these moments?

  • Accept that speaking truth to power is hard ongoing work that requires courage on your part.

  • Accept the fact that while people have the right to be treated with dignity, it has always been the case that there will be others who will try to take that dignity way.

  • Vow that you will affirm the dignity of the person who is coming forward with a story of abuse.

  • Affirming the dignity of this person doesn’t take away your responsibility towards the person he or she is accusing. We treat all people with dignity.

  • Look for ways to have meaningful uncomfortable conversations with others where you both can share.

  • Understand that people, especially, young people have questions and we have to create the culture where it’s ok to ask them.

  • When we do talk to our children, begin by asking them what they have learned about the world in the last few weeks. Listen and then tell them what you value.

We can’t wait for someone else to do the hard work of building common decency. No one else is coming to help us out of this. But we are more than up for the challenge. Let’s get to work.