Chuck fear mongering under the bus

We, as a people, have used fear and anger to drive our existence for thousands of years. What we have to show for it is a dotted history of violence, genocide, war and generations of conflict. Are we not better than that at this point in our short history on this planet? What makes a person wearing a hijab any different from someone wearing a shirt and tie? They both breathe the same air, both walk with legs, have similar composition of blood pumping through their bodies. Our world culture has created a system where people are classed based on wealth, religion and nationality and made judging others a normal part of life. What right do we have to judge another person, that we don’t know, merely based on their appearance? What visual references do we draw upon that tells us, without impunity, that someone is a terrorist vs. a U.S. citizen?

So muslims wear a hijab, that doesn’t make them terrorists. Catholic priests wear a white collar and a black suit, we don’t see them as terrorists yet the Catholic church has a horribly violent past with wars fought over religious beliefs. It wasn’t that long ago that Protestants were viewed as devil worshippers, and publically hanged, merely because they rejected the Vatican and Catholicism. Christians are persecuted in countries primarily dominated by Islam in much the same way that Protestants were persecuted by Catholics (1300’s)and Jews were persecuted by the Germans (1900’s). It’s sad that we’re a violent species that terrorizes others based on perceptions of inferiority, to the extent that Americans do this to other Americans. The Civil War for example over the issue of slavery. Even after African-Americans being freed in 1865, flash forward 150 years and there are compelling arguments that African-Americans *still* aren’t free in the United States.

Call me an idiot for not fearing others that are different from me, I’ve heard it all in the last few years as my ideology has slowly shifted to what I’ve heard referred to as being a humanist. I see people for what they are, fellow humans, and attempt still with some difficulty to not judge based on appearance. It’s hard to break a habit that has been slammed into my brain for over three decades from mainstream media, educational systems and other powerful figures. We have a 10,000 year old instinctive response of fight or flight when presented with a situation we perceive as a threat to our lives that has been reinforced over the last thousand or so years to include everything from a charging bear to someone walking down the street wearing a hijab or a someone wearing a long trench coat in the middle of summer. I get it, we’re hardwired to act on our instincts, but I am arguing that we’re ignoring vital information that we sacrifice with our laser focus on only the perceived “bad” thing in front of our eyes.

I don’t believe that *every* Muslim in the U.S. is a terrorist much like I don’t believe that *every* African-American is a drug dealer or *every* Hispanic is someone’s maid or butler (which really are stupid stereotypes if you think about it). My grandparents had a dislike for everyone that wasn’t a white Catholic; a fact I found disturbing and an indicator of their learned, backwards thinking from their parents. I really could keep going, the common theme of all this is a common hatred of anyone that isn’t in *your* arbitrarily labeled group. We’re all flipping human beings, we’re *all* in the same group.

I consider myself lucky being an introvert in the age of the Internet. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to engage in deep conversations with others that wasn’t predicated on their appearance. I was able to interact with them on a human level, brain to brain, not caring about their religion, station, wealth or physical appearance. I’ve been like this for years, much longer than my awareness of the fact that we subliminally treat others different based on physical traits. My drive to take this into physical life, instead of virtually, is a rather large and difficult hurdle that I’m still struggling with on a daily basis. I ask stupid questions out of naivety, that I find is usually dismissed as I’m genuine about my curiosity. The answer is something that I absorb like a sponge, stored for later when I have the time to process through the interaction.

My outward interactions with the world, how others perceive me, has changed significantly in a dramatic and profound way. My view of the world has grown so much, in such a fantastic way, it’s hard for me to put into words even after thinking about this for several days. My interactions with others are getting easier because I’m no longer drawing on outdated prejudices or life lessons that feel as outdated as my grandparents’ views did years ago. This is something that I’ve had to work at, constantly remind myself to not judge based on appearance, force myself to look beyond the surface. Looking (and interacting) with what’s inside all of us takes time, effort and practice…. lots of practice. To put it another way, I’ve learned to love the taste of my foot 🙂

Enlightenment starts with the self, then becomes contagious to those around. This is one pandemic that I think would benefit the human race. Call me crazy to believe that we can do better than we have in the past, we certainly have a lot of history showing us what not to do going forward into the future. Why not start small, a little change that could have a large impact: resist the rhetoric and draw your own conclusions.

#anger, #catholics, #fear, #hate, #hijab, #humanism, #humanist, #muslims, #prejudice, #racism

Human first, American second

I’m not feeling Three Things Thursday this week. Having been absorbed into election coverage, reactions, and getting over my own brief shock yesterday morning, I have a renewed sense of purpose and see an opportunity for us as American people to stand together. This country is divided, decidedly so, but what’s done is done and the 45th President has been selected through one of the last vestiges of democracy we have left in this country. We have spoken, loud and clear, that we’ve rejected mainstream media’s attempted manipulation of this year’s election. Almost all news leading up to the election proclaimed an almost certainty that Clinton would win, ignoring the level of anger and rage people have had building up across the country.

I have chosen to accept our next President despite the fact that I didn’t vote for him. He is deserving of the same level of respect and open-mindedness that I grant to everyone. While I do know quite a bit about Trump already, becoming the President is just about the biggest life change any one person can have. I’m skeptically hopeful that he realizes this and uses this opportunity to become the President that this country desperately needs and uses his position to guide the government so that the American people come first, not the socialist elites. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that he won’t treat this like another reality show and media circus that his primary and campaign ultimately turned into.

I have chosen to be optimistic of our future for the sake of my daughter, who turns 10 next month. She has been asking a lot of questions about the election and has heard some really crazy statements from her friends at school. Some of the parents that I see and talk to on a regular basis have not been so optimistic and their children are feeling the negativity and anger of their parents without the context to completely understand. I took the time to sit down with my daughter and teach her about democracy and freedom in a way that she can understand and opened the dialogue for her to ask questions without fear of repercussions. We have had a few of these conversations with her friends over as well, and I’ve been careful and aware of the words that I use and how I explain things so that it’s heard without bias (not always easy). We have four years until the next Presidential election, it’s going to go a lot faster if we’re working together.

I have chosen to not be as opinionated when talking with people who already have strong opinions. I now understand that strong opinions often cause a knee-jerk reaction to dig your heels in and not listen to what is being discussed. My approach has been more subtle and fact based with sources cited as often as possible. I’m trying to encourage people to do their own research and start to understand the system that’s in place right now. You really can’t begin to change anything if you don’t understand it completely first, which is something that I’m still struggling with daily. Although I know a lot more now than I did 6 months ago, the system we currently have has been four decades in the making and mostly hidden behind mainstream media spin and misdirection.

This piece, written by a Canadian, is more American in spirit than how most Americans are their entire lives. It’s a call to arms to reject the hateful and disrespectful practices of the past and finally fight collectively for human rights. Human rights regardless of who, what, why, how we are. I have had a difficult time understanding how someone can be angry at someone else for something that happened before both their lifetimes. George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” and it’s as true today as when it was originally spoken. We moved past British oppressive rule and created our own country in 1776. We ended slavery in 1865 and the Civil War ended. We survived the 1960’s and appeared to have moved past racism and hate in this country; we elected an African-American President in 2008. I’ve always treated others as I’ve liked to be treated, but am offended when I’m judged by others that don’t know me except for my external appearances. I don’t trivialize or dismiss the pasts atrocities and do not pretend to know what its like to live anyone elses life. Without civilized communication and mutual respect, we’re doomed to continue repeating past injustices.

The air is thick with anger. It’s up to us to come together and work through our differences once and for all. It’s up to us to figure out how to accept our differences because it’s the differences that make us stronger as a species on this planet. Let’s do this!

#american, #anger, #call-to-action, #canada, #election-2016, #fear, #hate, #human-beings, #racism, #trump

Racism is easy, Understanding is hard

Inspired by: White Lives Matter group protests outside NAACP in Houston’s Third Ward

I support free speech as much as the next warm-blooded American. I’ve even taken positions that weren’t always popular due to the popular position being against what I stood for or supported. What we have lately is a tragedy of American freedom in that it seems we’re posturing more to antagonize others than to support a position. Protesting for White Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, whatever is your constitutional right. Using symbols of racism and hate to take a peaceful protest and turn it into something more akin to what we had in our past is crossing a moral line. At the moment that the American Civil War was over, the confederate flag became the symbol of racism and hate. At no point do I see that flag and think to myself “southern heritage” as the man in this article indicates is their reason to have them at the protest. My parents lived in the south for more than 15 years and during visits, I would encounter people who gave the impression the war was never won. Their views of the world were very narrow and I actually felt sorry for them for not having the opportunity to see the world any differently than their ancestors that fought in the war so many years ago.

Black Lives Matter has been warped into a battle cry against racism by whites onto blacks. I’ll let that sink in a little before I continue. The incident in Milwaukee partially proves my statement. The coverage of that was significantly less than coverage of the previous incidents in other cities. Milawaukee has a primarily black government, black police force, and black population. The majority of news coverage was not of the victim drawing a gun on the police officer and refusing to put it down. The majority of news coverage was not of the police officer using deadly force in self-defense against a gun being drawn on them. The majority of news coverage, actually, was the riot that broke out in protest of the police shooting where there was little to no Black Lives Matter protests. Why did everyone riot in the first place? I’ll admit there might be some naivety on my part here and welcome comments of differing points of view. I’m left being very confused at this fact because my understanding of that organization was the protection of all black lives against hate of all kinds.

Now, in Houston, there is a group of white people holding confederate flags protesting in front of an NAACP office with a banner that reads “#WhiteLivesMatter”. I’m disgusted by this display of hate to the point where I *had* to write about it while still at work. I get that the protest was against the NAACP and other black organizations in their failure to speak out about events that took the lives of white police officers. I don’t dispute the fact that every single person in this protest had a right to have said protest. What I am disgusted at and definitely dispute is the blatant display of items that were used in a purposeful manner to incite violence. Up until I read the line in the article where the group held assault rifles, I had an open mind. Assault rifles do not convey anything close to resembling a peaceful protest! I’m pro-gun, have been for a long time, but assault rifles in my opinion cross the protection vs. deadly force line. I see no reason short of fatal collapse of government where an assault rifle would be necessary. Owning one and keeping it in your home is one thing, but carrying it openly at a protest send the wrong message.

Why have we as Americans become so fractured as a society? Where did we go so wrong that guns and violence replaced conversation and mutual respect? Questions I think we all need to find an answer to before escalating posturing on both sides degrades into an all out war. I personally do not treat anyone differently until given a reason to do so, and then when given a reason, I offer my understanding and walk away. The thought of violence to solve problems really never enters into my mind and would absolutely never be an answer to anything I considered productive. One of the reasons I write is to convey my thoughts and feelings in a way that helps me to understand. It isn’t to make anyone upset, mad, or offended. I respect different points of view in that they’re ways I can broaden (not limit) my understanding of the world. Too many people are closed off to anything other than what they know, which in my experience, is often very little and matches what they learned from their parents and grandparents. My father chose to break that cycle and I am further breaking that cycle by being even more open-minded than my father was with us (he definitely has his moments). I’m instilling in my daughter an ability to see the world with an open eyes and an open mind, to see that there are peaceful answers to any problem and given the chance, people can be good.

I’ve had several deep conversations with acquaintances over the last several weeks that have been truly enlightening. They’ve provided a different point of view that in turn expanded my understanding in a way that allowed me to clean my “glasses” a little more. Prejudice, ignorance, racism, and other hate will keep your glasses dirty or foggy. Learning to understand others around you without any of that helps to clean them or provide a clearer picture. It’s easy to lean on anger and hate; it’s a lot harder to fight that reaction and instead lean on respect and understanding. Articles such as this one don’t help the growing problem, they only serve to exacerbate it.

#blacklivesmatter, #whitelivesmatter, #confederate-flag, #free-speech, #hate, #peace, #racism, #south, #understanding

Standing letter to alien visitors

I am a human being of the planet Earth. Please do not visit us. The human species of Earth is violent by nature, intolerant of differences, and will perceive a visit as a hostile action regardless of your intentions. We fight amongst each other and have for our entire existence. See references in our world texts regarding hate, war, and racism for example. We are not an enlightened species and most are motivated by fear triggered by the slightest change in their environment. For cripes sake, if you are an Arachnoid species, seriously, stop reading this and just keep going! No one down here likes spiders.

We are unable to get along with each other for any sustained length of time and multiple times have engaged in what can be described as world wars throughout our history. Our hate and intolerance of differences is what drives us to fight with each other. In regards to our wars and armed conflicts, the only option we are able to agree on is answering violence with more violence. There are exceptions though, as history shows Switzerland has not engaged in armed conflict for what seems to be their entire history as a country. If you had to visit, I would suggest dropping in on them as my opinion is that they are the best of the mediocre examples we have to offer.

As you can probably tell, our environment is less than appealing even to our own species. Our water is dirty, the air is polluted, we dump trash everywhere we can manage. A precious few live in extreme excess while the majority of others struggle to have enough food for their entire lives. We have stripped Mother Nature of her dignity and weakened her ability to sustain our species for the long-term. We are a society of chemicals and technological advancements that probably makes us look interesting but scratching the microscopic surface you will see us for what we truly are. There are individuals distributed throughout the world that are trying to help and may in fact be very enlightened, however how much can one individual do to fix our problems when the rest of the world is bent on destroying it for short-term gains?

Rather than deciding we have a chance to learn from your more advanced species, do consider that in our current state, we will never learn from you any more than we have learned from our own actions toward one another. Rather than deciding we can benefit from your technology to help fix our problems, do consider that while there will be brief gains, we will continue to take more until we end up eventually turning on you.  We are still inherently greedy and self-centered with a superiority complex that blinds us to a level of thinking that would be required to accept rather than reject your presence.

The only outcome of a visit at this point is a fundamental shift of our focus onto you, however that shift will most likely not be a positive one. See “Independence Day”, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, and “Knowing” for examples of how we handle visitors from other planets. All good examples of a few “good” people with a whole heaping lot of “bad” people. Once you realize we’re more similar to our primate ancestors than to enlightened humans, you’ll hopefully leave swiftly so that we can continue our focus on destroying each other. I offer you this letter as a friendly warning to just keep going, we’re not worth your time right now. At the rate things are going, we’ll end up destroying ourselves before you decide to return for a progress update.

Sincerely, Concerned Human

P.S. – Please feel free to probe our politicians, they’re not human by any definition.

#aliens, #hate, #politics, #racism, #war

Islamaphobia, the exit is over here

Inspired by The Washington Post article “Muslim couple says they were kicked off Delta flight for using phone, saying ‘Allah’

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with all of us? Why are we all so afraid of each other?

A muslim couple, American citizens for 16 years, were singled out on their return flight from France to Ohio, USA because she was wearing a scarf and using a phone and he was sweating. Others heard them say “Allah” while seated. Trying to put myself into the shoes of the flight crew that reported this to the pilot is an impossible task for me. I can’t even begin to start forming thoughts that could justify the flight crew persons motivation for making this report to the pilot. Then, the fact the pilot forced them off the flight or he wouldn’t take off just added more fuel to the racist and bigoted profiling that had already taken place.

The rhetoric is already at a feverish level causing everyone to revert to thinking “with the crowd” instead of relying on their own, much more logical individual thinking. The article doesn’t indicate it, but I can be sure that most of the flights passengers were siding with the flight crew as they watch the couple being taken off the plane. They were probably thinking things like “Another terrorist is caught”, “I’m glad they’re not on *my* flight”, “They should have stayed in their own country.” What is apalling and absolutely disgusting is that it was their appearance and only their appearance that prompted the crews actions. The pilot didn’t even see the couple, they were going by the report from the flight crew only.

I’ve been on a lot of flights in the last several years. I can honestly say that until the flight takes off, I’m usually quite uncomfortable and sweating because a plane on the ground is warm inside. The difference here is that I’m not sitting with someone in a scarf, using a mobile phone, and saying “Allah”; I’m also not Muslim “looking”. I’ve been on flights where people pray before the plane takes off and pray again before the plane lands, it’s certainly not out of the ordinary. One particular flight I was sitting next to a devout Jewish Rabbi that prayed in the middle of the plane for over an hour during the six hour flight. Although that seemed to be like a bit of overkill, it wasn’t certainly anything I would report him for doing. In fact, I was slightly relieved he was doing this as it gave the flight a better chance of not crashing, every little bit helps for a guy that doesn’t like flying.

Shame on the flight crew and any of the passengers that fed into this fear that this couple were indeed terrorists. Shame on the pilot for blindly taking the flight crews report without first asking a few questions of the couple before dismissing it as ridiculous racism. Yes, I may have a broad “trust first, ask questions later” attitude, but I’m so exhausted with stories like this. People have to choose to not be racist and see the good in people until proven otherwise. The majority of people want to do the right thing but choose to ignore that due to their circumstances. It takes one person, one action, to cause someone to question their actions and be given the choice to do the right thing. If I was in a situation where I tried to accept the other person and offer the opportunity for them to do the right thing and they choose wrong, I won’t be afraid or hate them becuase *I* did the right thing.

I choose to do the right thing, always, regardless of the consequences to myself.

#islam, #muslim, #profiling, #racism, #terrorism

Why some whites are waking up to racism

Inspired by the article of the same name published by The Washington Post

It’s my lunch hour when I usually read the news from the previous days events. As I opened this article I was preparing myself for a one-sided and biased article about all the things “whites” do, or not do, to support their “non-white” neighbors. Before I even started reading the first word, I was already in a frame of mind that was making me angry at the lack of dialogue and increasingly negative rhetoric in the media. As I started reading though, I was surprised as to the tone of the article and was immediately guilty for feeling angry at the onset before even starting to read it.  The title of the article, while completely appropriate, implies something all together different out of context, at least in my opinion.

Reflexive actions

We all have reflexive initial thoughts about everything we experience through the day. Whether negative or positive, they’re the actions and thoughts that we were brought up to believe by our parents. As much as I’d like to think of my parents progressive and enlightened, they’re not. Little comments and facial expressions when certain topics come up tell me they’re not. I have several examples from my past where the reflexive thought turned into the action of speaking out loud with truly negative and hurtful consequences. I immediately realized, even as I was saying the words, it was utterly wrong and very much a white stereotypical statement. In all cases where this has happened, I’ve alienated co-workers and friends and lost friendships to never get back again. The consequence of a reflexive action is damage that can’t be undone, a statement that can’t be unsaid.

Black Lives Matter

I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t completely understand this movement despite having read quite a bit on the subject. I admire and respect the fundamental meaning that is being implied and supported, however what confuses me is how it can be warped and twisted to justify what seems to be escalating levels of violence. I’ve known for years that answering violence with violence, creates a slippery slope of exponential consequences to the point that it seems there is no end to how far it can be taken. To even begin to understand something is to admit that you just don’t understand in the first place. Then, once there is a small dialogue open, listen to the other person, really listen.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Steve Covey

No one seems to listen anymore, they have their dialogue already queued up and ready to fire out their mouth not truly understanding themselves in most cases why they’re even angry. I am inspired right now to find the local BLM chapter and attend some meetings to understand the problem and then seek to find ways to help, not fix, the root problem. As much as I like to think that I understand certain things, I am naive in a lot of ways to the world outside of my circle of influence. Having watched the video embedded in this article, I’m left with more questions than answers due to the fact that there are so many meanings behind the singular phrase.

Enough blame to go around

Police, blacks, whites, Hispanics….. It’s no one person or groups fault. We’re all to blame to varying extents to the problems we’ve created. I’m in a place where I recognize this. I fully accept that I’ve not done everything I can to help the situation. In this age of technology and instant communication, the injustice and inequality is being brought to the surface and shoved in all our faces. It’s saying “Here I am, you can’t hide from me, you’re isolation is no longer tolerable.” I’m excited to see that we’re finally all waking up to the problems we’ve been hiding or suppressing since the 1950’s, because in many respects we as a nation have not moved forward from this point. Stop blaming and pointing fingers, stop the negative rhetoric, stop wasting energy that only serves to divide us as a society further apart. I’m a logical and open-minded individual that is willing to listen to anyone provided they’re not judging or putting me into a category based on my outward appearance. I’ve said this before, and will say it again, everyone I meet starts at the same level of respect and acceptance until their actions dictate otherwise.

Individuals are smart, “people” aren’t

We’ve all heard it before, mob mentality. A group of people will tend to follow someone if they see others around them doing the same thing. It happens in nature all the time in flocks of birds, herds of deer, etc. An individual is instinctively vulnerable and perceived as weak. In nature, the individual often will become dinner for a predator. In our case, we have to fight the base instinct of individuality being weak and question the crowd if something doesn’t seem right. A large crowd of people listening to a singular leader on a megaphone will chant along with them regardless of whether they think the person is right or wrong. In a group, you’re individual view is not important or overruled, for most people, it’s impossible to fight that. There have been times that I fundamentally disagreed with a group and had to force myself to walk away. The group didn’t speak for me and I disagreed with their point of view and disassociated myself so that I was free to have my own view and opinion that I felt was the correct one to have. This is one of the reasons I never agreed with “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” as I disagreed with their purpose being anything other than a protest against the Black Lives Matter movement. I have since removed posts to Facebook that contradict this statement as they were made without understanding all the facts.  I even wrote about this subject before, but I left that post published to provide me with perspective.  My anger in that post was apparent and it was based on my naivety of the movement in general.

Listening, tolerance, and repair

There is nothing we can’t fix given the right amount of effort to do so. I’m sure if I was still in contact with the people I alienated with my intolerant comments that I could start to fix the damage done. I can only take that so far though as it requires an equal amount of effort from both sides, which is the true root cause of our problems. No one is listening to each other. Hate an anger from the past is being instilled into each new generation going forward. Someone or something has to break the cycle. What has to happen for all of us to finally stop and listen to each other? After 9/11, we united as a country behind a single idea, we don’t tolerate terrorism in any form. What has to happen for us to unite behind not tolerating racism, inequality, and hate has not happened yet. That is what truly scares me, all the horrible things that have happened in the last few years hasn’t been enough for us to question or ideals and morality. It would seem at this point that we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes from the the last century.

What is the next generation learning from the hate?

That’s a question I ask every single day to remind myself I choose to be part of the solution, not the problem.

#black-lives-matter, #education, #inequality, #listening, #racism, #respect, #tolerance, #understanding

Fearful of the future

Once again, I read about another situation where civilians targeted police officers and people ended up being killed. I’ve seen conflicting information about whether the gunman called police to the scene on purpose or if it was just something else entirely, such as “wrong place at the wrong time”. There isn’t enough detail in the news that I can completely trust enough to know which side is right. To be honest though, it really doesn’t matter, people died for something that didn’t need to happen. I’m referring to the gunman AND the police officers, not one or the other. The thoughts and feelings I’m experiencing are hard to put into words.

I’m the first one to admit that I’ve said and done the wrong thing at the wrong time. In some cases, I was provided the opportunity to apologize and in others I wasn’t and lost the respect of the other person. That is all my fault, partly because I wasn’t thinking, partly because I was naive, partly because it’s what I had believed at the time and hadn’t been given all the details or facts. In all cases, I learned from those experiences, rather, the experiences that I was provided the chance to learn from. The individuals that enlightened me rather than hate me understood that some things just aren’t known to everyone all the time. They took a chance on offering their knowledge to me in a time when I probably didn’t earn it or deserve it, but had hope that a fellow human being could be helped to understand the bigger picture.

I grew up in a white neighborhood and went to a primarily white school. It wasn’t until I entered high school that I had fellow students that were not white. I was dumb, naive, and stupid about the larger world that I hadn’t experienced yet. At no point though did I treat anyone differently. Everyone started with the same level of respect and acceptance when first meeting me. It was only after their actions dictated a change in respect, I never got to a point where I didn’t accept anyone. My life the past 40 years has been dotted with situations that fall into the “shouldn’t have said that” and “shouldn’t have done that” moments. What most don’t see when they only look at the surface though is the fact that I’ve learned from every situation where I had done or said something stupid. As I progressed through high school, college, corporate work; those situations where I said or did the wrong thing have grown farther and farther apart.

A particular experience, that I’ll never forget, involved a co-worker at one past job where I was in my early 20’s. For months I picked up on negativity directed at me and others on the team that were white. Meetings were especially brutal for me specifically as I didn’t have the operating knowledge required to back up my ideas or suggestions. This person continually had the upper hand with me and I can’t recall a single idea that didn’t have a “devil’s advocate” approach from them. Months of this took place and I just accepted it. At the time I had no idea why I was the usual target, but reflecting now I can see why. One particular day, a specific comment was directed at me that struck a nerve as it turned personal that was directed at my wife. I asked, politely, to meet with them privately and they reluctantly agreed. I asked them why I was being singled out? I asked why they never gave me a chance? The answers weren’t surprising, but my follow-up caught them off guard; “Why does the color of my skin determine if I’m worthy of your respect and acceptance? At no point in the last 6 months have I been anything but respectful and accepting of you as a fellow co-worker. Do I not deserve the same?” I asked they just think about my questions before answering and excused myself from the room, I didn’t feel it was necessary to stay after confronting someone so personally. It was a few days later that they called me into the same room. I got answers to my questions that confirmed my belief that I was superficially judged and they didn’t allow themselves to see past that. Our working relationship improved from that point forward but it never progressed farther than that, mostly because of my unwillingness to mix work and personal life. I did earn their respect and acceptance and I like to think that I learned a little from the situation in that until you let someone know where you stand, nothing will ever change.

I try so hard to not judge others. I’m a fallible human though and nothing is ever perfect. It’s the imperfections in life that makes everything so interesting. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I tend to accept more rather than reject, a fact that isn’t lost on me as this usually happens in the opposite direction for most people. I can’t recall how many times I’ve talked to my Grandparents and realized over and over that they were truly racist and bigoted people; a product of their time unfortunately. My parents chose not to instill those ideals with my brother an I and I’m thankful for that. It helped me to see and recognize the behaviors that perpetuated the violence and hatred from centuries past. I’ve lost friends over the years because they got angry with me for my refusal to polarize “with my own kind” (their words, not mine) when violence erupted over race. I’ve also distanced myself from people that perpetuated that kind of hate and rhetoric because I just don’t think it does any good to get that angry over something. Sure, there are bad people out there, sure things will happen regardless of our best efforts, but I cling to the hope that we’ll start to learn from our mistakes and expend energy on positivity rather than negativity.

I’m fearful for the future for the first time in a long time. Seeing and hearing about escalating violence is a major contributor to that fear in that it being a cycle that really never ends. It can get worse, or we can recognize our negativity and decide collectively to make a difference. I consider myself part of the solution more so because I’m willing to accept and learn from my mistakes, but that only works if others recognize that I’m going to make mistakes. Mistakes due to lack of knowledge or life experience, not due to malice, racism or bigotry. Where are things going to go? It’s up to the human race to decide, because in the end, our brains are grey and we all bleed red.

#acceptance, #black, #fear, #learning, #racism, #respect, #violence, #white

Be color brave and achieve on your own

MellodyHobsonMellody Hobson: Be color blind or color brave

Having been a TED viewer for a few years now since Jamie Oliver did his documentaries on school cafeteria food in the U.S., this one struck a cord with me.  It’d definitely worth the 15 minutes to watch the whole thing.  I was overly impressed with her ability to convey what she was thinking in a manner that didn’t cause shock and awkwardness, which she explains during her talk.

A friend has posted this to their Facebook page for a clearly different reason than what the talk is actually about.  Their focus was on the two points in the talk.  The first point was her going to a prestigious talk with a colleague and being mistaken for “the help”.  Their second point was focused on the question “When will it be weird to walk into a corporate board room and see all white men?”; a point that took less than 30 seconds to explain and which they were also totally out of context and off base with their comments.

Here is a woman that has faced adversity her entire life, for many reasons I’m sure.  A few she touched on in the talk.  Despite her having to endure this adversity, she has become a successful woman as a Board Chairperson, one of two in the country of Fortune 500 companies.  I personally don’t find that surprising given that I’ve known for years that hard work, perseverance and determination to get what you want always pays off in the long term.  I’ve also long held the belief that if you’re qualified for a position you have as much a chance as anyone else to receive it.  Nothing other than experience and education should be considered but unfortunately that isn’t the world we live in right now.

Prior to the real world, our children are learning that “everyone wins” and you get as many chances to get it right.  Everyone doesn’t win, its a fact of life.  I grew up with the ideal that few win and many lose.  I’m OK with that, I’m stronger for that.  I’d like to know when that changed so drastically that a millennial will cry and complain when they don’t get a job or their friends are hired before them.  The culture that was pressed into them was one of inclusion and winning, but the real world, approximately 80% of their life, is completely the opposite.  Why are we condoning this kind of teaching to our children?  The children that will be running the country in 20-30 years that we’ll, as pre-seniors, rely upon to make decisions on our behalf.

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School where he gave them 11 rules that weren’t taught to them in school.  These are the same kids that will be looking for jobs and expecting the same type of treatment they had in school.

  1. Life is not fair – get used to it!
  2. The world won’t care about your self-esteem.  The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
  3. You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school.  You won’t be a vice-president with a mobile phone until you earn both.
  4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.
  5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity.  Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping:  they called it opportunity.
  6. If you mess up, it’s not your parents fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
  7. Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now.  They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were.  So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
  8. Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT.  In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer.  This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
  9. Life is not divided into semesters.  You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF.  Do that on your own time.
  10. Television is NOT real life.  In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to real jobs.
  11. Be nice to nerds.  Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Tying this all together, Mellody worked her ass off to get to where she is.  She didn’t have to learn any of the rules above because they didn’t apply to her.  Her Mom was the inspiration she needed to just “know” nothing wasn’t within her reach to achieve.  My views on teaching and the school system are the main reason that I do not have a strong relationship with my only brother.  I’m not willing to accept my daughter learning how NOT to be and struggle for years until she learns these life lessons.

I’m about to embark on a new job in a few weeks that I achieved on my own.  No one helped me, no one gave me a pass.  I worked hard, learned tough lessons and most importantly “lost” a hell of a lot before I started winning.  These kids should listen more to people that know better, instead I witness a 20 something check his mobile phone during an interview I’m conducting.  WTH?

#awareness, #education, #life-lessons, #racism

We all bleed red, so shut up!

I woke this morning to the radio, guess I didn’t push the slider all the way to buzzer.  A radio DJ was talking about the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  He was debating with another DJ how it supports black supremacy in that it incites violence on police officers and others.  The conversation devolved quickly from there and I tuned it out because my opinion on the matter doesn’t quite align with the accepted views.

We all bleed red

I can recall with vivid detail the first time I said the statement “we all bleed red, so shut up.”  I was in high school, primarily white at the time, and my views towards race and violence were naive at best.  There were over 1,200 students in my high school with less than 100 minorities.  My high school was like any other, clicks of people aligned to common interests:  jocks, nerds, cool, not cool, black, etc.  I never subscribed to the juvenile separation as I viewed everyone the same.  Immediate respect until your actions dictated otherwise.  It was a simple rule that holds true now as I round out my first 39 years on the planet.

This particular incident involved my befriending of an African American that shared 4 of 8 classes, all in the afternoon, with me.  Lets call him Joe.  Joe and I literally walked in the same direction, every day, for weeks, until I finally decided to start talking to him.  At first it was awkward, almost like we shouldn’t be talking, but it was more than that.  Even now as I recall, I can’t quite come up with an explanation as to how or why it felt that way.  Regardless, we ended up becoming decent friends.  It was months before I actually ventured up to his click one morning to say good morning.  His reaction towards me was the polar opposite of how we had been for the last several months in the hallways walking to classes.  It caught me off guard.

Being the type of person I am, I persisted and shrugged off the reception.  I asked a question about a class later in the day.  Joe’s friends (I guess) turned to him and asked “You hang out with this dude?”  He didn’t answer right away and I responded “We have four classes together in the afternoon, it’s not hanging out, but we do talk every day.  What’s wrong with that?”  Well, lets say that I got an earful that included several phrases that don’t need to be recorded here.  Joe did nothing to stop the tie raid unfortunately.  I listened to this for a few minutes and just put my hand up once three of them had joined in the conversation.

They all stopped and just looked at me after I put up my hand.  That’s when I said “We all bleed red, so shut up.”  Still, they kept staring at me.  I turned to Joe and said “I thought you were better than this, obviously I was wrong.”  I started to walk away at this point and just said, not directed to anyone, “Don’t worry, I won’t be coming by again or talking to any of you again.”  I didn’t turn around after walking away to see any of the reactions, but the conversation started up as I turned down the hall.

That was the last day I spoke to Joe directly.  It took me a few days to understand what had happened and I became angry.  I couldn’t get past the fact that our skin color defines how we interact with the people around us.  I recently finished watching Falling Skies and there was a profound statement at the end after we had defeated the alien invasion forces.  “We’re not alone anymore.  There isn’t any black, white, yellow or brown anymore.  We’re all human beings living on Earth.”  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  Here was a fictional show, about aliens, that managed to sum up what I believe the majority of people already think.

Our news is filtered

Watching the news is something I don’t do anymore.  I realized a while ago several things that I didn’t like about the news in the United States:

  • It’s filtered
  • Every broadcast ends with a happy/humanitarian piece
  • World news doesn’t include the world majority of the time

News stations know this already of course.  If the story is too radical or heinous, it is never reported on.  War coverage was probably the most ridiculous of all in that what is really happening is no where near what is reported as happening.  I’ve seen documentaries on past wars, unfiltered and raw, that ripped at my gut as I watched.  I *know* current wars are the same, yet no one ever sees that.

The coverage on #BlackLivesMatter is just as ridiculous.  I won’t go into a tie raid about it as that isn’t the point I’m trying to make.  When you see videos urging people into action to cause violence against police under the guise of #BlackLivesMatter, then take action, you in turn are contributing to the problem that created the movement in the first place.  Human beings have an instinct to protect themselves that is race blind.  It’s a flight or fight response that no one has any control over.  Having a weapon in hand that can determine whether you live or die, it’s no surprise that these things are happening.

#HumanLivesMatter

There are some that will say that #BlackLivesMatter is racist.  There are some that will say that #AllLivesMatter is racist.  I call bullshit to both of them.  The true movement here is, and should always be, #HumanLivesMatter.  It doesn’t take a huge effort to treat others with respect and dignity.  I’ll admit that in a society that is pushing 7 billion world wide, there are going to be some truly disturbed individuals.  If society was more willing to truly treat others as you want to be treated, those unsavory individuals would stick out like a rice kernel in a salt shaker.

We all bleed red, so shut up.

#dignity, #racism, #respect, #violence