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At BIF, one of our core beliefs is that a good story can change the world. By sharing our insights and perspectives, we can connect, inspire, and transform to enable purposeful networks. Guest contributor Ann Keehn shares her thoughts and emergent takeaway from BIF2018:

One emerged theme from BIF 2018:

Breaking the silence from the (unintended) consequence of political correctness.

George Carlin wrote, “Political correctness is America’s newest form of intolerance, and it is especially pernicious because it comes disguised as tolerance. It presents itself as fairness, yet attempts to restrict and control people’s language with strict codes and rigid rules. I’m not sure that’s the way to fight discrimination. I’m not sure silencing people or forcing them to alter their speech is the best method for solving problems that go much deeper than speech.”

Alan Simpson noted that “Political correctness is like wearing duct tape on your mouth because if you really are a person filled with hate, prejudice, and bias […] then that stuff comes through like a fissure through a volcano.” As a young boy, Alan Simpson’s father (a Boy Scout troop leader) took his son, Alan, to the Heart Mountain Japanese internment camp (a part of our American history we were so powerfully reminded of in Julian’s songs) to hold troop meetings because “those imprisoned were also American boys.” It was during this time that Alan Simpson and Norman Mineta (an imprisoned Japanese American boy) began their life-long friendship; Alan became a Republican senator and Norman a Democratic congressman – both fighting for freedom of speech and against discrimination.

I heard several of the storytellers putting out their own story, unpacking their own biases, and asking us to have the courage to have the conversation. Name it, talk about it, find a way to make it better for all. They called for greater recognition of structured bias in our systems, but also the recognition that “we” are the systems. That it begins not with solving the problem of the 100,000 homeless population in a city, but one person handing a token to and seeing that one man or woman who is currently without a home.

I am more hopeful for America’s future when I hear that many conversations are taking shape. That individuals are having the courage to stop the censorship, to take off the duct tape, and to have those often uncomfortable but always enlightening conversations. Sam Siedel’s image of the two worlds back-to-back and Yolanda’s poem reflect these ideas because they retain the complex beauty of our world while challenging us to see in a new way.

Ann Keehn
Health Services Director of Operations & Senior Consultant
John Snow, Inc.

John Snow, Inc., and our nonprofit JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., are public health management consulting and research organizations dedicated to improving the health of individuals and communities throughout the world. Our mission is to improve the health of underserved people and communities and to provide a place where people of passion and commitment can pursue this cause.

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