I love what I'm going to address in this blog post because I think it falls completely within my purview of expertise, if I have any area of expertise at all. Conceptually speaking, leadership is the art of directing, motivating and giving purpose to a group to meet an objective. See how that rolls off my tongue or off my fingers in this case and I can say that a hundred different ways. In a couple of months we will vote for the leader of our country. From a leadership viewpoint, I want to analyze or actually, evaluate their slogans and the approach they have to leading.
Joe Biden hailed his motto this week at the Democratic National Convention and he is currently running many ads with the pitch, "Build Back Better." I immediately thought to myself, "building back" seems to imply that we will rebuild what was built before but "better." I immediately began to contrast that with President Trump's slogan of "Make America Great Again." His words too seem to hearken back to a time that has passed, "great again."
Here is the challenge for both. What if the new normal is something that we've never seen? What if we never return to the "structures" that existed in our society before? What if tomorrow is so different from our past that we can't recognize it and need new sights in order to see it? If that is the case, what then is "better?" How then is being "great again" relevant? I don't think that either slogan works if the future bears little resemblance to our past.
I am not saying that the future will bear little resemblance to the past, but I am saying that if it does, then the focus of the two potential leaders is inadequate for the road ahead. "Better" only works as a reference for something that has been done before. "Great Again" only works if the standards for greatness are the same as in the past and surely we understand that much has changed and is still changing.
THE FOLLY OF COMPARISON
So what's my point? Here it is: Comparisons only work by looking backwards, because when you make a comparison you can only evaluate now against some previous standard. If we really want progress, we need to go places, i.e., think in our minds, about places we've never been. To what could they compare the first moon landing? To what could Orville and Wilbur compare their attempts at aviation? To what did Garrett Morgan compare the first stop light? These people weren't trying to create "better" or do something "great again;" they were envisioning possibility beyond comparison.
How does that relate to ERASE Race? Here it is. We need to see the possibility beyond comparison in our social realm. It is comparison to say we want less "racism" or even to stop "racism," but it speaks to a greater possibility to do away with "race." It is comparison to say that we want to close the wealth gap, the education gap, the health care gap or create equal opportunities for "black" and "white" people, but it speaks to possibility to get rid of the idea that there are "black" and "white" people. And finally it speaks to comparison to say that we have African-Americans, Irish-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Italian-Americans and other hyphenated Americans of any sort, but it is the ultimate in possibility for our country to be able to appreciate our various roads of descent and to finally proclaim that we are all Americans.
We could compare an orange to an apple and we could fight forever about which looks better, tastes better or is better for you and that would be comparison. Alternatively, we could take both of them and blend them together into a smoothie that provides nutritional benefits to the entire body and that would be possibility. Yes, comparison can make one "better" or "great again" but it is only possibility that will allow one to see beyond the past and envision a greatness never seen; a United States of one united people. That is where we need to go; a place we've never seen, and that place is a place that has no comparison.