As I was looking at old photos the other night, many memories came through my head of my life as a teenage girl in Santo Domingo. I started thinking about my late aunt Anairis, who probably never knew the huge impact she had in my life, as she always made a point in telling me that I was a natural leader. As we know, words are powerful and having different perspectives about biases, race inequality and violence really helps to shape the way we see those issues.
That’s why I love TED; it provides a platform to discuss important topics and broadcast those messages to the masses while at the same time being inspirational in a diverse and multicultural environment. Of course, I particularly enjoy talks that address diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism and love that these topics are being discuss from very different perspectives and levels of expertise.
Going back to my late aunt, tía Anairis, and her always encouraging and inspirational words, I know they have shaped me have had an influence in the work I’ve chosen to do. That’s why I know it is very important to increase our awareness, and for each one of us to seek opportunities to hear diverse voices about the issues that our society faces.
When it comes to issues like biases, race inequality and violence, the need for conversations and inspiration couldn’t be any greater at this point in time. Since we are constantly witnessing so much negativity, and many are fearful of our future due to the demographic changes we are experiencing, it is very important to highlight those who are showing communities of color in a different light, and also talking about the issues those communities are facing.
As a TED fan, of course, I have curated a list of talks that address biases, race inequality and violence that I think everyone should watch in order to increase our awareness of the reality we are living today.I firmly believe that through our awareness and common commitment to look at each other’s humanity, is how we are going to achieve harmony and continue to move forward as a society.
In case you are not hook to TED as I am (yet!), or maybe you’ve missed some of these incredible talks, I’ve done the legwork for you and created this list of TED talks you must watch about biases, race inequality and violence in the United States. They provide different, facts, stories and views that encourage each one of us to think about which biases we have, how to overcome those in order to embrace diversity and move towards an inclusive society.
These talks will move you to think about injustice, racial tensions, and standing up for yourself; they will make you laugh and maybe even relive your own childhood memories of people who have encourage you and inspire you. More over, these talks will show you that when we concentrate in our shared humanity and allow ourselves to see others as we see our families and friends, we will be unstoppable in our growing, we will be experiencing true freedom and will truly be living in peace.
Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice
This is my first pick because it is my favorite one from this list. Bryan Stevenson is a human rights attorney who spends most of his time in prisons with convicts on death road and paints us a picture of the unfair and unjust American justice system. I think what I loved the most about his talk was the way he talked about the influence his grandmother had in him, and how that shaped who he is today. Of course, he is also an eloquent speaker who makes a compelling argument about the great racial disparities when it comes to incarcerations of blacks and Latinos. This one will make you think about the moral dilemma of the death penalty. It will also make you laugh and feel inspired!
Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.
Vernã Myers: How to overcome our biases?
The reason this one is my second choice is because it invites everyone to reflect on the biases we hold towards people regardless of who we are. She shows you how dangerous can these biases be when they spread and become bigger in the form of an unwritten rule of sorts. By acknowledging our biases, Myers says, and I agree with her, we can move from being uncomfortable with certain people and topics, to having a better understanding and eventually removing that bias as it transforms into knowing a whole human being. She is compelling, funny, and also candid. You can see she is not only invested in a diverse society, but also that she has encounter in her life some of these biases we tend to have about those who seem different than us. Loved her call to action and enjoyed how she demonstrates how passionate and compassionate we can be as human beings, if we set out to be.
Vernā Myers is a diversity consultant who encourages us to recognize our own biases in order to actively combat them, emphasizing a “low guilt, high responsibility” philosophy.
An artist’s unflinching look at racial violence
This is a very powerful talk and a testament that art is one of the most real and radical human expressions. Biggers is able to expose us to the violence, and make us feel as a part of it in a direct and compelling way. Prepare for a very intense five minutes of our racial reality in the form of sculptures that were created with the intention to ignite dialogue. The artist mentions how people don’t like to talk about slavery and racial tensions, and about the need to do so in a thoughtful way. Sanford Biggers pushes us through his creations to have the difficult conversations we must have at this point in time, and analyzes with candor the history of social injustice experienced by black America. This one is tough, tragic and beautiful all at the same time.
Sanford Biggers creates art that upends traditional narratives about topics ranging from hip-hop to Buddhism to American history. Biggers is Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s Visual Arts program.
What does my headscarf mean to you?
Perception is reality, or so we’ve heard. What happens when our perception comes from a place of a prejudice, a bias planted in our heads at some point in our lives? I loved this talk because it confronts some of our biases directly through a simple change of outfit and a quick story about an accident, showing how our brains are already wired a certain way by society or life experiences and that it is up to us to realize it and change it. Going beyond our initial thoughts, our prejudices and what is a comfort zone of sorts is not hard, nor difficult, but it takes the willingness to confront ourselves and recognize what are those things we have built barriers from. She is funny, relatable, candid, and makes you feel like she could be your sister or daughter, or at least you want her to be.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied wears many hats, including a hijab. She’s a mechanical engineer, writer and activist who campaigns for tolerance and diversity. Magied is on a mission to promote diversity throughout society, however and wherever she can.
Safwat Saleem: Why I keep speaking up,
even when people mock my accent
I know I keep telling you how I really love each one of these talks, but it is true. I connected to these stories at different levels, and that’s why they made it to this list of 7, because of their insight and the way they allowed me to understand different issues. Also, and in this case in particular, because I can relate to some extent to each one of them. Although I didn’t grow up with a stutter, on the contrary I’m known for talking too much a lot. However, having moved to the United States and needing to use mostly my second language, one that I learned when I was 20 years old, has presented some of the same challenges described by Safwat Saleem. As you may know, having an accent is often seen as synonymous for not being smart, for lower educational level, for being inferior.
I love that this artist decided to reclaim his voice, not only in his animations, but also being on a stage like TED to talk about things like bullying, and the notion of what’s normal or not. He argues that the standards of what’s “normal” depends on how well one fits into the expectations of other people. Thought provoking and another way that we can acknowledge that what we think we know for sure might not be so.
Safwat Saleem is a Pakistani-American visual artist, graphic designer and filmmaker. He’s best known for making politically charged satirical art. Safwat’s artwork has used a variety of media, including illustration, writing, animation, audio, film and sculpture.
Mellody Hobson: Color blind or color brave?
For a person like me, talking about race, color, diversity and discrimination is so common that in my life is a topic that is always present. Unfortunately this is not the norm for most people in America and we are seeing the devastating price we are paying as a society for avoiding the subject of race and race relations. Mellody Hobson asks us to be bold, to have the courage, as a society of being color brave to show the children of today that they can dream big dreams, and they’ll be welcome anywhere they choose to go in life. Hobson encourages the audience to initiate conversations about race, to learn to be uncomfortable so we can get to the point of being comfortable with diversity. She argues that not only diversity is the right thing; it is also the best business practice.
Mellody Hobson is president of Ariel Investments, a value-driven money management firm — and an advocate for financial literacy and investor education. Beyond her work at Ariel, Hobson has become a nationally recognized voice on financial literacy and investor education.
My road trip through the white towns of America
While being very funny, Rich Benjamin shares with us about his 2-year journey through the whitest towns of the United States. I left this one for last on my list, because he addresses a very important social phenomenon with a funny approach. Through his experience, he shows us how there is a trend of people moving to what he calls a “Whitopia”; a pleasant and safe community, usually rooted in a medium-upper class environment in which comfort, beauty and nice neighbors are a synonym of segregated communities. Follow Benjamin’s journey as a black man in Whitopia, and laugh with his learning and anecdotes. Then, you will face a reality that suggests we are moving backwards. He questions why is it that we have been able to move forward as individuals in our relationships with one another, while at the same time seem to be going backwards as a country.
Rich Benjamin sharply observes modern society and politics. Benjamin is a senior fellow at Demos, a multi-issue think tank, and is just completing a novel on money, loss and heterosexual melancholy.
I hope you enjoy watching these talks as much as I did; I would love to hear what you think about them: How did they move you? What did you learn? How are you different after watching?