EQ 102 (b): Why We ALL Need It

In my previous post, EQ 102(a): Why We ALL Need It, I discussed how the skills and competencies associated with emotional intelligence (EQ) can help us challenge our everyday assumptions about others–those pesky little snap judgments. By considering our own patterns (and, indeed, imperfections) and putting ourselves in another person’s shoes, we can think and act like kinder and more compassionate people.

Still, while kindness and compassion are indispensable, they are never enough.

As the continuation of police brutality in communities of color, and the resurgence of blatant, old-school racism* have aptly demonstrated, there is much, much more that needs to be done. And engaging in this vital, life-or-death work requires us–yes, ALL of us–to challenge our assumptions on a much more profound level by examining the deepest, darkest places within our minds and hearts.

Allowing these places to remain hidden–out of sight, out of mind–feels comfortable and safe; however, it ultimately does far more harm than good. It prevents us from naming and claiming our own racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, ageism, religious intolerance, ableism, colorism, etc. It absolves us of the responsibility of admitting that we, too, are guilty of perpetuating prejudice and inequality. In short, it lets us off the hook, where far too many of us have taken up permanent residence.

One illustrative and disheartening example surfaced during a Q & A session with an influential leader. When asked how to best promote diversity, this leader stated, “as a white person, I just don’t think I’m in a good place to help with that; we’ll need people of color to come forward.” While I agree that people of color can and should play a key role in dismantling racism, this leader may have just as well stated, “Thanks but no thanks! I’d rather perpetuate the status quo so I can continue to enjoy my privilege.”

It’s time to muster the courage to move beyond our comfort zones, to examine our own taken-for-granted assumptions, and to admit our transgressions. It’s time to walk the walk–to act like all lives matter**, not just straight, white, Christian, English-speaking, U.S.-born male lives. It’s time to stop thinking about ourselves, and start thinking about others and how they are impacted by prejudice and injustice.

Not convinced?  Consider this….

If asked to make a donation, run a race, or attend a benefit for a physical illness like Parkinson’s, many of us would gladly contribute. Even if we couldn’t contribute, we wouldn’t dream of saying, “as a person without Parkinson’s, I don’t think I’m in a good place to help; let’s let people with Parkinson’s handle all that. ” And we certainly wouldn’t dream of accusing Parkinson’s victims of making mountains out of molehills, engaging in useless complaining, or vying for “special rights.”

It’s time for us to see prejudice and inequality for the illnesses they are. It’s time for us to recognize the role we play in maintaining racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance, ageism, ableism, etc. It’s time for us to recognize how our thoughts and actions–and, indeed, non-actions–help to perpetuate prejudice and inequality. It’s time for each and every one of us to take responsibility for making the world a more just place for all who occupy it.

It’s time for us to accept that:

  • Ending racism is everyone’s responsibility;
  • Ending sexism is everyone’s responsibility;
  • Ending homophobia is everyone’s responsibility;
  • Ending religious intolerance is everyone’s responsibility;
  • Ending xenophobia is everyone’s responsibility;
  • Ending ageism is everyone’s responsibility; and
  • Ending ableism is everyone’s responsibility.

Unfortunately, many of us will see this important, life-or-death work as too difficult.

For many of us, the thought of examining our beliefs about people from marginalized groups is enough to make us panic. We like to think of ourselves as tolerant, accepting, and open-minded people who treat everyone equally. What if we discover to our own horror that we, too, have prejudices? What if we realize that we, too, have done things (inadvertently, of course) that may have caused hurt or offense? What if we feel shame,  remorse, or embarrassment?  What if we end up thinking less of ourselves?

Only then will we have progressed.

Only then will we be able to make things right by thinking and behaving differently. Only then will we be able to ask forgiveness for the hurts and offenses we have caused, and to welcome opportunities to “talk back” to everyday racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Only then will we be able to open our hearts and our doors to those we consider “other.” Only then will we be able to let go of our fear, experience peace and harmony, and revel in a world that is delightfully diverse.

But how can we ever muster the courage necessary to do the right thing?

We can build our emotional intelligence. We can use the skills and competencies that comprise emotional intelligence to transcend our own discomfort, which pales in comparison to the discomfort caused by prejudice and inequality, to examine the deepest, darkest places in our hearts and minds, to challenge our taken-for-granted assumptions (e.g., stereotypes, limiting beliefs), to take a stand against injustice, and to become allies working with and for those who are “othered.”


*Old racism targets individuals on a personal and physical level, and is rooted in pseudo-scientific claims about racial inferiority. New racism, on the other hand, is institutional and resides in policies that are detrimental to people of color. Unlike old racism, new racism is invisible to those who do not experience it, making them believe (falsely) that racism is no longer an issue.

**Oftentimes, the phrase “all lives matter” is used to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement. This is not my intention.





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