This is not about Kanye. This is not about spreading hate. This is the opposite of that. This is about feeling included and accepted, without needing to ask for it. This is about belonging.
There’s been a lot of news stories centered around hate the last few years (of course, these have always been there, but social media helps spread the ugliness so much faster). As a Jewish American, I am often faced with the horrors those of my faith deal with daily, from derogatory graffiti to synagogue mass shootings. And I’m a lucky Jew, I’ve always lived in places where there were other people like me, where I had a diverse community so I wasn’t alone. There are plenty of places around the world and in this country where people like me are not accepted, many places where we are hated simply for being Jewish.
While I’ve been mostly lucky, I’ve still had my share of prejudice. I spent my first semester of college with a roommate where at first we hit it off great, but once she learned that I am jewish, everything changed. After questioning how, and unable to fathom that I didn’t celebrate Christmas, whether intentional or not, she never treated me the same. But again, I’m lucky, I was able to simply change roommates the next semester. But that experience of not belonging did make me question who I might share my religious beliefs with after that, a religion I am proud to call my own, that I never questioned claiming before that time.
Fast forward to 2022, and I’m working at Thunder. I don’t hide my religion, I am still proud to be Jewish, but I don’t necessarily share that fact in the business world without reason, as you never know who might treat you differently for knowing. So when leadership came to me recently to create a social post about supporting the Jewish people (leadership who are not Jewish themselves) surrounding the Kanye business, I was almost brought to tears. They could have easily ignored this issue, it had nothing to do with our company, and was certainly a sensitive subject for many. But they understand that diversity, equality and inclusion are not just lofty ideals for companies to tout to look like they care. They are real life values that make the people at those companies feel like their humanity is just as important as everyone else’s. Values that provide that priceless feeling of belonging.
Something as simple as a post of support for my people, people that my team didn’t know were mine – but that they simply supported because it was the right thing to do, means more than I can say. After the request was made, I proudly shared with my team that I am Jewish, and how grateful I was for their unsolicited support. It wasn’t even a question. That’s just what the culture is like here, inclusive and supportive in every way. We have each other’s backs, both in business and personal affairs. If more places were like Thunder, perhaps more people could proudly claim who they are without fear of being treated differently afterwards…wouldn’t that be a nice story for a change? A story of belonging.