Can I Be Real: Taking Matters Into Our Own Hands

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Can I Be Real, the brainchild of IU Alum Marc Hardy, elaborates on the Black experience in America and discusses ways to begin healing some of our country's biggest wounds. While the book addresses a White audience, each chapter ends with suggestions and action items that I feel are useful for all races. We all have an opportunity to impact the three main environments that make up our lives: the crib, the career, and the community. I've broken down my favorite action items to serve three key points of every American's life. 

The Crib: Teach the history we don't learn in school.

We can all agree that there is always more than one side to any story. In Can I Be Real, Hardy discusses the importance of exposing our children to positive, powerful images of Black people in history. And Black children are not the only group that can benefit from such stories; imagine how stories of Black accomplishment before, during and after slavery could begin to change the perception of Black Americans for everyone. We have to take it upon ourselves to educate our household and our neighbors on our long history of #BlackExcellence. This Black History Month, let's actually celebrate by learning about historical Black figures we haven't heard about before. If you want to take it to the next level, invite a White friend/neighbor/coworker to participate in the lessons. Encourage them to share what they learn with someone else.

The Career: Push for diversity on every diversity board.

Hardy's book emphasizes the challenges that groups in power face when trying to relate to minorities; if we don't have someone there who truly understands our situation, our needs go unmet. This issue spans from leadership roles in our community sports teams all the way up to the White House, but today I want to focus specifically on the workplace. Over the next few weeks, turn your attention to your diversity board at work. Who's on the board? Is the board diverse? How will they ensure that everyone's needs are met if not everyone's needs are represented on the board? I encourage you to start some healthy conversations around the purpose behind a diversity board and what can be done to maximize the benefits of having one. Our challenges can't be improved upon if they aren't seen or heard. 

The Community: Share resources to even the playing field.

This last one was my favorite. The book discusses sharing community benefits with children who don't have access to such resources. For example, opening a private neighborhood park up to the public once a week or so. The concept led me to understand that we all have access to something that we can afford to share. What's your shareable resource? Maybe you can offer free tutoring once a week to those who have trouble hiring tutors. Maybe you can pass the books you've read on to a young Black student instead of collecting them in your library. These small changes can completely change the trajectory of someone else's life. 

As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have to keep in mind that our country still has a long way to go in ending the cycle of Black abuse. If we start getting comfortable approaching tough conversations, we can change the hearts of the people around us. What are you doing in your everyday life to improve our situation? Join the conversation at