Just because someone votes for republicans doesn’t make them racist.

People fear what they don’t understand, and race is one of those things many people fear to talk about, or when they do, they misinterpret it.

I recently heard an exchange on a podcast between the host and his guest saying something that has since been on my mind. “Just because someone votes for republicans doesn’t make them racist.” It got me thinking: if this is the perception of racism, then we are missing the whole point of racial equity and justice.

Bringing people together and bridging the gaps between diverse communities requires all of us to understand that being a conservative, or voting for republican party doesn’t make anyone racist. Racism is not a political party, and anyone who thinks this way may be missing the whole purpose of racial equity work. It’s about bringing people together despite differences in race and other sociological constructs. We can agree to disagree on politics, as long as we agree on the fundamentals of integrity. Race and racism cannot be used like they are ping pong balls we toss around each time we are frustrated or upset. Race is not just about black and white, there’s a lot of other colors in between. Solving race issues is about taking responsibility for our own human behaviors and extending kindness to our fellow humans who may have lived different experiences, and yes, that include liberals and conservatives.

Racism remains a major problem in the United States and around the world. As an immigrant first to Canada and then the United States from East-Africa, I came to understand the nuances about race and racism, and the benefits of creating inclusive workplaces and communities. In all my work, I offer practical advice and insights for how we can live in harmony with one another, learn to appreciate and celebrate our differences, and create a better world for all.

At the heart of my latest book, Unlocking Diversity: How to Create Inclusive Cultures in a World of Differences is the need to listen to one another’s diverse stories and take responsibility to create a world in which we can all live together in harmony. Our differences don’t make us good or bad, for good and bad cohabite in all of us. At the end of the day, it’s not about the party you vote for, or the leaders you root for —it’s about the humanity you see in yourself and extend the same to others, and working to nurture the good in you. If we want to see more good in the world, we must be willing to put more good into the world; and we shouldn’t take more than we are willing to give because it creates an imbalance in the resources.

This wisdom of seeing harmony in the opposites is my guiding principle. In every work I put forth, I try not to point fingers, but explain that everyone needs to be responsible for themselves and their efforts in developing an inclusive mindset. We are in this together, so we all need to be kind to each other, as we sort out our political, racial and social differences, and how to create a more diverse and inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.

Creating inclusive cultures primarily requires greater education about what inclusion means. More inclusion should mean more, not less. Just because we want to include more people from diverse backgrounds does not mean other people will be excluded—as it is the fear too often held by people in more dominant cultures.

As we end 2020, a year that has been one of the hardest in recent memory, and as I write this article, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 300,000 people in the United States according to CDC (Center for Disease Control), making the headlines that more people in the US have died of COVID-19 than the number of fatalities from five past wars combined. Added to the pandemic challenges are the striking disparities in wealth and opportunities, from education to health insurance, and to everything else that negatively affect people of color.

The US is at a turning point, and the world is watching. The killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many other unarmed black people at the hands of police officers have caused a global recognition of the realities of racial discrimination, and the importance of creating space for conversations on race and other social issues. Obviously, our handling of race issues in America has a long way to go, and it’s time for us to find new ways to work together. I often say that systemic injustices didn’t put themselves into place; people did. And so, only people can take them down. Each one of us is called to step up, use our privileges whatever they may be, and meet our local and global challenges with an inclusive consciousness. We should remember that inclusion is not about taking away someone else’s privilege, but rather, inviting more of the others to become part of us. There are no strangers in this life—only other people living their own human experience.

We can learn so much about the harmony of opposites from nature. In nature, all forces are beneficial; both positive and negative forces are needed and coexist in harmony, balancing each other out. If we want to live in harmony, we need to embrace our opposing sides, turning the negative force into a positive one, and never taking more than we are willing to give. And so, in order to move forward, we must first stop and reflect on our differences and commonalities, listen to those with differing views, and not be quick to judge them as racist. We need to open up conversations and not race debates, increase our understanding of one another, and do our part in making the world a better place for all. Learning how to live in harmony despite our differences may be the greatest challenge to overcome and life lesson we have been put on this planet to learn.

Happy New Year 2021. May it be a year of joy and healing for ourselves and our families, our communities, our countries and our world.