Can you change the system while being part of it?

Read time – 9 mins.

Reva Patwardhan – Dialogue Lab Podcast

Can you change the system while being part of it? This is the question that Melanie DewBerry raised in a recent interview with Reva Patwardhan on the Dialogue Lab Podcast, a show dedicated to helping social impact leaders thrive as they create change.

The interview was a dynamic one, and a number of questions were skillfully brought to the table on the subject of being an impactful leader in a way that is grounded in a deeper truth.

Each week in the Equality Hive blog series we explore powerful and thought provoking speeches or interviews with thought leaders who are bridging the gap of inequality with their spoken or written word, and in this blog post we will take a deep dive into the interview between DewBerry and Patwardhan, because it raised some crucial questions that we all need to ask if we are stepping into a leadership role to support others to make social change.

Leaving Consensus Reality

One of the core themes of the interview was whether or not we can create change from within the current consensus reality. “If you are trying to change the system you can’t change it by being part of it,” DewBerry shared. She went on to explain the challenges of trying to change the system from within.

“The consensus reality was created on violence and bloodshed. The system was not designed to support the average person in this world. Instead, it is a system that was created for the rich, white male, to keep them—and their sons—in wealth, and to keep their business running.”

“So they send their sons to colleges to understand how to run the businesses and they open it up to the rest of us to understand how to comply and become great little worker bees, and work hard for raises, and then get attached to things, because things require more money, and then we will work harder so we can have more.” She outlined, “We are not going to win by playing their game, their way.”

Whether you are someone who is stepping into a leadership role or down on the ground doing social impact work with your local community, DewBerry highlighted that we all have to make the same leap. “If you want to shift you have to start with the man or woman in the mirror and decide you are leaving consensus reality. Because most of us don’t understand to what level we are consciously or unconsciously subjected to the influences of how we think and how we operate, since we were born into this consensus reality.”

Consensus Reality and Self-Perception

Melanie DewBerry – melaniedewberry.com

DewBerry talked about how being part of consensus reality had influenced her self-perception, until she was able to recognize and break out of it. “Consensus reality wants me to believe that I am black, and I should be angry. And part of that I still hold onto because I am angry, and I’m not afraid to be black, and at the same time, they don’t get to write my story for me.” This point was central to the message she was sharing in the interview, because it helped her listeners see beyond the perceptions that others had about them, and to shape who they were outside of the projections of others.

“So when you can leave the consensus reality, it’s not about who they told you that you are, but more about how you embody your truth,” she shared.

“Listen to the real voice that is speaking to you, that wants to show you what real peace and real freedom are. We can’t be that when we are busy fighting and disagreeing with the others. Because the truth is, as long as you are standing even a little bit in opposition you are being unconsciously manipulated by the opposition. You have to leave it to create change.”

But what about folks who are doing important work down on the ground?

In response to this notion, Patwardhan asked how this works practically, with those advocating for change within the current system. She spoke for her listeners who are making a difference in the world, including those who are trying to serve their communities, make healthcare accessible, or bring services to people who are locked away in prison, and so on. She asked, “How do they carry out the work that they care about outside of the consensus reality?”

DewBerry responded, “I’m not asking you to leave the work, but more to think about your calling, where your sense of self is so aligned that you are being led at a higher level to do the work from that place.”

She referred to Harriet Tubman as an exemplary example of this. “As a slave, Tubman freed people. But how? She looked at her situation and thought ‘I can’t participate in this anymore. You are selling my family members. I can’t give birth because who knows what would happen to my children. I have to change this.’ And she was prepared to step out and surrender despite her own safety, and not need to know how it should be done, instead, following the voice within. People say she was guarded by angels because she should have been caught many times. And she was not. In her own words she followed divine inspiration. She was outside of their system.”

DewBerry then spoke directly to the audience. “Many people have said to me what you are probably thinking now. ‘I’m no Harriet Tubman or I’m no Gandhi,’ and I say to you, ‘Yes, you are.’ We all have a calling. If you think you can do it within the system and fight that system then you are doing it without divine inspiration. And you will make changes but you won’t evolve us as a people.”

She then went on to highlight the common theme among many of the respected leaders over time. “Somewhere they had a point of awakening and they started following that divine messaging that took them out of their own thinking and out of the thinking of the consensus reality and gave them the higher way to see this.”

So working in opposition means we are being shaped by the opposition?

“So we have to be in the work in a way that is rooted in something deeper than framing the opposition?” Patwardhan asked. Then again, bringing it back to the practical she inquired, “How can we find a way of talking about this that is going to be something that people can use.” She highlighted how she works “with people in advocacy and organizations that are shaped by an oppositional framework,” and shared, “When you are fighting to reunite families, driving to the border with a law background to help families who are being separated and detained, and so on, I’m not ready to say all the system stuff needs to go away.”

The System is a Mindset

And this is where DewBerry brought everything that she was sharing together. “Being inside of the system is just a mindset,” she shared. “That’s all I am talking about.”

She highlighted that instead of reacting or responding to the current climate that we have to unite. “I think we need to come together maybe in small pockets and reframe ourselves. We have to tell our ancestral stories that help us remember who we are and what our medicinal properties are, and then start to organize ourselves from that place.” She went on to explain, “From there we could pluck out the remembering and the wisdom and embody it.”

She went on to share a story about how she shifted her mindset out of consensus reality. She told the audience that there was a period of her life where she had been understandably angry, and she knew if she carried on as she was then she would end up reacting in a way that would lead her to prison. The underlying theme was not feeling safe, so she asked for the universe to show her a sign that she was. Starting small, she went into a Macy’s store. As a black woman, she had always been followed by security guards in department stores, but on this day, she decided to ask for something different. She’d always kept her hands in her pockets in these times to show that she wasn’t stealing anything, but this time she walked around touching things. A white security guard approached her and, exasperated, she asked him, “What? What do you want?” and he turned to her and said, “I just want you to know that you have the most beautiful smile I have ever seen.” She shared how this was a turning point for leaving the mindset that had been projected onto her from the outside world.

So how do I advocate for larger social change?

Patwardhan, asked if there were any further ways that the audience can apply this teaching to social change, and DewBerry shared another important story about when she took part in a Native American vision quest a number of years ago.

“I think you have to leave the idea of change. Put it down for a minute. I’m gonna tell you a story that will frame that. So I was 4 days into my vision quest, no food, no water, and praying, when I was greeted by the Thunder Beings. They took me into a bubble where there was a world full of chaos. The sky was all grey. Children were being molested. Elders were not cared for,” she described.

She went on to outline, “Then they took me into the next bubble. The elders were resting under an apple tree. The girls there were taught to love their bodies. Children were protected. You get the picture.”

“‘Which world do you you want to live in’, they asked. And I said, ‘Easy. The world of beauty.’ And they replied, ‘Go back and create the world of beauty from the world of chaos.’”

“So instead of changing what already is, I have to take people home to the world of beauty. So, how do people create change? We have to have the vision to take each home. Instead of fighting them, let’s create a unified vision.”

She finished by sharing, “It took me 10 years to realize I had to go inside of myself and change my chaotic way of thinking and being that had been created by the consensus reality, and inhabit the beauty inside. And now I can honestly tell you that I have more beauty that I am creating from and that is making change in everybody I touch and everybody who touches me.”

You can listen to the full Dialogue Lab interview with Melanie DewBerry here.


In my new book Catalyst: Speaking, Writing and Leading for Social Evolution, I share different ways to craft evolutionary messages that contribute to social change. DewBerry shares a social evolutionary message on a number of levels which you can apply to your own messaging as an evolutionary thought leader.

  1. Visionary – One of the most powerful aspects of a social evolutionary message is sharing a vision with your audience that is based on a reality that they may not be able to see yet. If you are leading others to create change, one of the most powerful components is helping your audience envisage a world outside the one that they are currently experiencing.
  2. Deconstructing the Status Quo -An evolutionary thought-leader helps their audience break out of the limitations of the status quo. DewBerry’s explanation of consensus reality not only challenged the status quo, it explained the framework in which it had been constructed, and highlighted that it was a mindset that the audience needed to break out of for themselves and those around them.
  3. Grounded in History – Sharing Harriet Tubman’s story offered a practical example of the way in which DewBerry’s message had been applied historically.
  4. Personal Story – The story that DewBerry shared about the moment with the security guard that created a turning point, as well as of her vision quest, created a powerful, authentic and relatable connection with the listener. Stories such as these (and the context she shares with readers about why stories are important in the full recorded interview), ground concepts in real life experiences.
  5. Vulnerability with Strength – Before the story about the security guard (which she went into in much greater detail on the recorded interview), she shared with a mixture of vulnerability and strength her own path with her anger, how valid her anger was, and how she had worked to break free from it. The mark of an evolutionary thought-leader is someone who is willing to own their challenges and share with the audience how they have overcome them.

These core qualities can be applied to crafting your own social evolutionary message. However, it’s also essential to understand that much of the wisdom that DewBerry shared comes from a lived experience outside of crafting a powerful message for change. With a leader such as DewBerry—alongside a powerful interviewer such as Patwardhan—the teachings shared are not just carefully crafted, they are deeply lived too.

You can sign up for further social evolutionary blogs on our homepage. Each week we break down powerful speeches and interviews, as well as sharing our expertise on crafting messages for social change.


For the past decade, Sasha Allenby has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest through-leaders of our time. Her journey started when she co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 12 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, Sasha has written over 30 books for global change agents. Following the events of 2016, she turned her skill set to crafting social messages. Her latest book Catalyst: Speaking, writing and leading for social evolution supports thought leaders to craft dynamic messages that contribute to change. 

Why Tone Is Everything

Read time – 6 minutes.

According to several of our friends, it was the place to visit if you wanted to go somewhere that was open and accepting.  

Since the 2016 elections, we’d started to ask more questions about our destination before visiting. My partner, Mammad, is from Iran—one of the seven countries that are on the list of the Muslim ban—and leaving our bubble in New York (where over 40 percent of us are immigrants), and travelling to unknown parts of the US, is something we’d started to put more thought into. We were always glad to take a recommendation for a liberal and welcoming city.

But when we got there, something seemed a little off. As we stepped out of the taxi, a cyclist, who had been riding past us, screeched to a halt in the street. “You,” he said in an exaggerated tone as he pointed to Mammad. “You are welcome here.” He then rode off before my partner had a chance to speak, and we stood for a moment in silence.

“That was a bit much!” I said, after a few seconds, and we looked at each other and laughed. Neither of us is easily thrown but there was something so theatrical about the welcome that it was almost too much to bear. We shook it off and went into the house, thinking it would end there.

It seemed that we were wrong.

For the rest of our 4-day visit, every time we left the house, we were greeted with a similar story. Gardens, storefronts, cafes, and bars were strewn with huge signs saying, “Immigrants, Welcome,” and everywhere we turned, the message was there. The only brown face in a sea of white faces, strangers would cross the street to gaze sincerely into Mammad’s eyes, grasping his hands as they greeted him with intensity.

Now don’t get me wrong. Obviously, we’d rather have it this way than reversed. And I also don’t want to come down too hard on people who are trying to be inclusive. But there was something so suffocating about the delivery of that message that he could hardly wait to leave.

Same Book, Different Cover

Rewind back six months to when we visited Austin, Texas, and he received the same message, but in a totally different wrapper.

If you ever visited Austin, then you’ll know that it’s an anomaly. While Texas is famed worldwide for its conservative viewpoint, Austin sits in the middle like a huge heart; that friendly relative who is always there with a hug and a smile. On the first night of our visit, we were at a rock concert, and as the concrete courtyard began to fill on that muggy August evening, I saw him looking around.

“You realize I’m the only brown face in the village?” Mammad asked me with a smile. Never one to be phased by these things, he was simply pointing it out. He’s also not one for holding anything back either. He’s always the loudest, the craziest, the most outspoken, whatever’s going on around him. So, on that boiling summer night, despite his observation, it wasn’t long before he had his t-shirt off, and was spinning it above his head, cheering at the top of his voice.

When the first guy came over to him, I thought there might be trouble. He was about five foot nine, and almost as wide as he was tall. He was dressed in a faded, black heavy metal t-shirt, with a baseball cap and khaki knee-length shorts. Covered from neck to toe in tattoos, he had a long beard and wore a blank expression on his face. As he walked over to Mammad, my heart began to race. But all he did was make the “cheers” sign with his beer bottle against my partner’s glass, before nodding and walking away. That night, maybe seven or eight guys came up and did something similar. A “cheers” with their beer, a high-five, a friendly and unassuming pat on the back.

The message was clear and easy to receive. “We’re cool. You’re cool. It’s cool for you here.”

That’s Why Tone is Everything

If you think about the two above experiences, they have something major in common. They are the exact same messages, but with a totally different delivery. The difference they have is their tone.

Many people think of tone as something that just involves the voice, but you’ll find tone in everything, and it’s particularly essential if you are working to dismantle prejudice and create more equality because your tone can be the difference between succeeding and falling short of your mission. Just as a director of a movie is not only thinking of the words that the actors are saying, but also how the set, light, and music are affecting the feel of the film, if you are sharing a message with an intention of impacting change in the world, you need to consider the mood you create when you write or speak.

Tone has too many aspects to cover in one blog post (and we’ll be breaking it down and looking at different parts of it in further posts too). We’ve got many factors including the difference between your tone in your spoken and written word and how you can use tone to engage emotion, inspiring others with your words. But we also have a clear starting point that you can work with, even if you are a novice at creating tone.

Tone – Starting Point

There are two questions that will highly influence the tone of your message. “Who is your message for?” and “What’s the outcome that you want to create?” If you think about where your message is going to land and the audience you are creating it for before you start writing or speaking, it means you can adjust your tone to match your audience and create the greatest chance for what you are sharing to actually making an impact.

It will open up further questions such as whether a formal or informal tone is more appropriate for your audience and how you can alter your message to get your point across most effectively. Just as in the two stories above where the same message was delivered in two different packages, so too can you can start to think more carefully about the packaging for your message so it lands and has the desired effect.


For the past decade, Sasha Allenby has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest through-leaders of our time. Her journey started when she co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 12 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, Sasha has written over 30 books for global change agents. Following the 2016 elections, she turned her skill set to crafting social messages. Her latest book Catalyst: Speaking, writing and leading for social evolution supports thought leaders to craft dynamic messages that contribute to change. 

Spiritual or Political?

Read time – 5 minutes.

When he was born, the doctors named my partner ‘Siren of God’ (or ‘Aazhir Allah’ in Farsi). He was born to the sound of Saddam Hussein bombing his city in Shiraz, Iran. They called him the Siren of God, because every time his mum went down to give birth to him, the air-raid sirens would go off and the birth would be delayed. It happened countless times. It kind of fits his vibrant, fiery and charismatic personality that he came into the world that way.

Now, there’s no doubt that Saddam Hussain probably needed more hugs as a child, but I’m guessing that if you said to the people of Iran during that time, “Just think positive thoughts about him and all will be fine,” then it wouldn’t have gone down too well. The thing is, there are times in history where we just need to change our perceptions about what is going down and suck it up, and there are times where we need to take direct action. It doesn’t take a genius to work out which kind of times we are in right now.

The challenge for me is the growing number of ‘spiritual’ individuals who are saying that they feel that now Trump has been elected, we should just focus on the positive. I know my partner is relieved that nobody around him said that when Saddam was in rule, and I feel the same about my grandparents in WWII.

“I’m Spiritual, Not Political.”

I’ve heard this message many times since the 2016 elections and from some of the people that I respect. And I get it. I really do. I think we all have a period of living in our ‘spiritual bubble’ and thinking it separates us from the world. I’ve definitely had that period in my life, and it was probably a lot longer than I would like to admit.

But the situation that we are facing now is not one of politics. It is one of humanitarian issues. It is one of civil rights. It is one of ensuring that the steps our ancestors took to create our freedom and our civil liberties aren’t stomped upon or over-ruled, regardless of where we have come from. It’s one of ensuring that we don’t devolve where we have evolved. That’s what we are facing right now.

Ensuring that our fellow human beings experience equality. Ensuring that they aren’t racially profiled or mistreated because of their sexual orientation or gender. Ensuring that they feel safe in their homes and communities and that we provide shelter for them in times of crisis. You can’t really get any more ‘spiritual’ than that.

Spirituality or Personal Development?

There has been a period of our evolution where spirituality has been enmeshed with personal development. It’s been tied up (and sometimes even confused) with self-improvement and bettering ourselves. And it’s true, that in order to evolve, we have to go within, take a deep look, see what’s there and face ourselves. But it doesn’t stop there. If we stop there, and think that’s the end of the line, we only take half the journey. We get stuck on a never ending loop of “I, me and mine.” Because the piece that comes next is the question of how we take what we discover within us out into the world so that we can create more equality, fairness, expansion, love and freedom for all, and not just for ourselves.

Stepping Back into Activism

To be perfectly honest, I thought my activism days had been and gone. As a daughter of a laborer and a union man growing up in the North of England, I saw my fair share of action in the ‘Thatcher years’. There were many months spent on strike, resources were limited, and I remember countless days of fearing for my father’s life as he left the house for the picket lines.

In my teenage years, and into my twenties, I took the injustices of the world personally and the march was the perfect place to express it. I marched against fox hunting, I marched for women’s rights, I marched for the environment, I marched against McDonalds, I marched against war. If stuff was going down, you could pretty much count on me to be there on the frontline. But as I took on more spiritual values, I marched less and less. Something Mother Teresa said about going to a peace rally rather than an anti-war demo really stuck in my heart, and the more I softened, sobered up and woke up, the more ‘peaceful’ I became.

But what I came to realize this time around is that the most damaging thing we can do is have a list of ‘spiritual clichés’ or a predetermined way of responding based on our spiritual conditioning.

Beyond Spiritual Clichés

It’s way too easy to get caught up in spiritual clichés and stereotypes. We think that in order to be spiritual we have to be in one single mood of peace, joy and bliss all the time (hands in prayer position, eyes rolled reverently to the sky). We feel we can’t challenge anything or anyone from this place. We practice our gratitude and our affirmations. We tell ourselves, and those who will listen that, “Everything is as it’s meant to be,” and that “We just need to see the positive in all,” or that “What we resist, persists.” We don’t rock the boat. We don’t want to attract anything by stirring things up. So we remain neutral. We remain silent. But as Desmond Tutu famously said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

A reminder that Gandhi, Tutu, King, Mandela, Mother Teresa were all spiritual beings who didn’t take anything lying down. In other words, they saw the injustices of the world, they got up and they kicked ass in order to create change. But we don’t just need to look to the past for our inspiration. One of the most touching pieces in this current climate has been how leaders from all faiths – from the Pope to the local Pastor at the ‘Hipster’ church in Brooklyn, from Rabbis, to Reverends, to Priests and Priestesses, to Swamis are saying a big “No” to the segregation and xenophobia that is occurring around the world today.

Practicing On and Off the Mat

It’s crucial that we don’t take a position of privilege and decide that it has nothing to do with us. I totally understand those that say they are already tired of it and wished that it would go away. Believe me, I’ve never hugged my partner so fiercely as in these current times. I think there’s a part of me that feels that if I hug him tightly enough it won’t affect him (as an Iranian living in the US) and it will all go away. But we don’t have an off-switch for this. So instead, we have to learn how to navigate it skillfully.

We definitely need to spend our time on the meditation mat, practice yoga, pray, do our gratitudes, and whatever else we do. In fact, they are more important than ever at this time, because that’s where we center ourselves, remember our core and get clear. Our practices enable us to get our nervous system into a place where we can respond from love and not from fear. They enable us to be proactive rather than reactive. And then, if we can, we go out into the world and stand for what’s true from there.

That’s the spirituality that I know and love. And that’s what I’m standing for in these current times.


For the past decade, Sasha Allenby has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest through-leaders of our time. Her journey started when she co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 12 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, Sasha has become a ghostwriter for thought-leaders worldwide and written over 30 books. Since the 2016 elections, Sasha turned her skill set to crafting social messages. Her latest book Catalyst: Speaking, writing and leading for social evolution supports thought leaders to craft dynamic messages that contribute to change. 

Smashing Up Middle-Eastern Stereotypes

Read time – 5 minutes.

On the 26th June 2018 the US Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the Muslim travel ban.

It’s not the first time in history that a particular group have been singled out and vilified, and the decision represented a devastating blow for those from the seven banned countries in the US, alongside a significant infringement of civil rights. It took me back to a blog I published in July 2016, following the lack of Western attention on a terrorist attack that had occured in Iraq. I’m re-sharing this post because within it lies some of the core issues of xenophobia and misperception that we still need to undo today.

In July 2016, something happened that literally cracked my heart open. I’m sharing this with you in the hope that you might allow your heart to open a bit more too.

That date saw one of the world’s worst terrorist attacks in over a decade. 300 people were blown up in a capital city, many of them in their twenties and thirties. There was no safety check-in on Facebook like there is when there is an attack on any Western country. Nobody changed their Facebook picture to the flag of the country where it occurred. In fact, outside my mum, I didn’t see one friend write a post with a prayer for that country. This was because that attack took place in Iraq.

I spent the majority of that week uncharacteristically angry and upset about the lack of support for the people of Iraq. Something was eating me and I couldn’t let it go. But I came to realize that it’s not directly the fault of the people of the West that we didn’t show solidarity for Iraq in the way that we usually do when there is an attack on a Western country. It’s that we have allowed the media to dehumanize the Middle East for us, and we continue to drink that Kool Aid, no matter how open minded or liberal we consider ourselves to be. I also realized that my work and life and brought me into such close contact with a great number of people from the Middle East, that I’ve had the luxury of breaking down the media and Hollywood stereotypes that also existed in me, and that others may not have had that same luxury.

When We Are Prejudice and we Just Don’t Know It

I always considered myself to have a really high standard in equality. I grew up in a fairly racist town in the north of England, and I remember taking a stand against racism when I was 7 years old. That was the first time I met someone from another race in a town that was almost all white. Sanjay came to my school from India, and as the only foreign national, he became the center of attention. The other kids weren’t excessively mean to him, but they often taunted him with a parody of an Indian comedy character from TV. I joined in once–and only once—for one sentence and it cut my heart like a knife. “Sanjay’s laughing with his mouth but his eyes aren’t smiling,” my 7 year old consciousness told me. I realized that it was inherently wrong and from that moment on I made the decision to stand against racism (although I didn’t know that was what it was called back then), and I consistently did so thought out my childhood and adult life.

Fast-forward almost 30 years to the success of my second book and I was invited to teach emotional trauma work in the Middle East. My reaction  made me look deeply within and realize that despite my liberal outlook, I still had an extremely stilted and prejudice perception of the Middle East. In fact, I think it was conjuring up images somewhere between Lawrence of Arabia and a Taliban stronghold.

Despite being well educated and considering myself liberal and open minded, here are some of the prejudices that I openly admit ran through my mind when I was invited to the Middle East:
  • Perhaps I’ll get kidnapped on a dusty road (if there are any roads).
  • I wonder how I will manage living in the desert.
  • I think the people will be pretty hardened by all that war.
  • People will generally be pretty cold and unwelcoming towards me.

Judging by the reaction of my friends and family when I said I’d been invited to the Middle East, I know I wasn’t alone in my perception. People around me reacted with the same prejudice I’d shown internally. They were worried for my safety and they told me to “be careful out there.” Some were extremely angry that I was going at all. One friend told me with disgust that, “Conscious people boycott these places.” And it’s true, I’d also boycotted several Middle Eastern countries in the past too.

Despite my reservations, something inside me was calling me to go. Here’s what I actually found when I arrived:
  • The cities and towns were literally like any city that I’d encountered in the West.
  • Yes, there were tarmac roads, even in the desert (although there wasn’t really that much desert – at least not how I had pictured it).
  • I felt safer walking around the city at night on my own than I had done in any European city.
  • I stayed in a house in a town like any other in Europe. The houses had their own unique character and charm, but they weren’t anything like the extremes of what I’d imagined or been fed by Hollywood.
  • The people had their hearts cracked open by war. It hadn’t made them more cold like I had imagined. The opposite was true. Many had experienced what might be called a ‘spiritual awakening’ at times when they had almost died. There was a level of wisdom and consciousness that I had not anticipated.
  • Many of the people I met were anti-war. The majority of them wanted to live in peace. They didn’t want conflict, either in their own country or with the countries that surrounded them. They felt powerless over their governments regimes.
  • Many of the people were among the warmest and most welcoming that I had ever met. I was invited and taken into people’s houses as if I was family. I was treated with the utmost love and respect. One time I asked a guy who was eating a plate of food where he had got it from. “Would you like to share it with me?” he asked. I had similar experiences over and over again.

Spending a significant amount of time in the Middle East helped me to realize just how much I had allowed my perception to be shaped by the media. I returned on several occasions and even called it home for a while. Just to be clear though, I was still pro-peace in the Middle East. I still supported an end to all war too. But I stopped demonizing the people or adhering to a single stereo-type. I saw with my heart, rather than my conditioning.

Fast forward several more years and I met the love of my life in New York: the funniest, most charismatic, charming, loving, kind and brilliant man I ever met in my life. It was love at first sight and like something straight out of a movie when we met. We literally kissed before we spoke to each other and moved in together on the day that we met. We didn’t ask each other where we were from right at the start. It wasn’t even relevant to us.

It’s funny, it’s only from the outside that others consider us to be in a “mixed race” relationship. We never even think of it that way. The irony is that despite growing up in seemingly different worlds, we are more similar to each other at heart than anyone else that either of us have ever met. My partner was raised in a strict Muslim, Middle Eastern country with very religious parents, while my parents where ex-catholic and ex-christian and both pretty atheist in nature. But these aren’t the things that are at the forefront when you fall in love with someone. In fact, they aren’t even really considerations. They are just facts about a life that went before. We are more interested in the places that our hearts meet than the contrasts that others might see.

Because we never thinking about our differences, I forget that the same ease isn’t shared by our fellow Americans in general. I know this to be true because when people who haven’t met my partner ask where he is from and I tell them, they often act in a way that reveals their own prejudice too. Whether it’s repeating the name of his country back to me in a high-pitched tone with raised eyebrows or giving me a concerned or questioning look, you don’t have to be good at reading people to tell that there are questions running through their minds that they are too polite to ask, or that they have some kind of concerns for me.

I totally get it. Maybe, before my time in the Middle East I would have done the same. But now, if we are really stirring up the race issue in the US and taking a stand for the prejudice that still exists here and in the rest of the West, I’m wondering if we are ready to look deep within, especially those of us who consider ourselves to be open-minded and liberal, and ask if the prejudice still exists somewhere in us. Are we able to admit that we might have heard about the bombing in Iraq and it didn’t touch us in the same way as the attacks on, say, Belgium and France? Are we willing to face that part of ourselves that we allowed to be conditioned and programmed by Hollywood and the media?

If we are even a tiny bit willing to admit to ourselves that we hadn’t cared about that attack in Iraq in the same way as other terror attacks, then without shaming or blaming ourselves, maybe we can start to crack our hearts open just a little bit more. Maybe it can be the beginning of realizing how, when it comes to the Middle East, we haven’t been taught to think freely for ourselves and we’ve been dictated to by a media puppet show. Maybe, just maybe, we can allow ourselves a little bit more freedom of thought than what we have been granted so far. Maybe we can end our prejudices just a little bit and see more of our similarities rather than our differences.


For the past decade, Sasha Allenby has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest through-leaders of our time. Her journey started when she co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 12 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, Sasha has become a ghostwriter for thought-leaders worldwide and written over 30 books. Since the 2016 elections, Sasha turned her skill set to crafting social messages. Her latest book Catalyst: Speaking, writing and leading for social evolution supports thought leaders to craft dynamic messages that contribute to change.