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

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