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.

What I dream beyond 2016

This post has been inspired by a comment I made on a post by Deborah Bryan titled “What do you dream beyond 2016?

We often tend to use words in a succinct and terse manner without having the knowledge, experience, or willingness to back it up with tangible actions. Our words should be descriptions of our actions, not what we feel is the right thing to do but never do anything about. Social media is full of people making absolute statements that have no basis in fact or are completely and totally out of context. Rather than be one of the masses that “says” what they want, I’m going to expand on my comment to her post so that it inspires others to do more. It all starts with one, one becomes two, two become four, etc.

I dream of a day when people don’t have to fear where their next meal is coming from.

We as Americans, throw away nearly half our food each year, or $165 billion according to a 2012 study published on The Huffington Post. Considering that there are hundreds of thousands of people that don’t know where their next meal is coming from, the fact we throw away all this food is inexcusable. Not singling out other first world countries (if you can consider America first world these days), there is no reason that we should as a society have people going hungry in the world. The idea that its an “us vs. them” with everything in our lives, it’s no surprise that we waste this much food every year.

The problem is utterly complex though and it can’t be fixed quickly. If you track it back, the trail just keeps going and often splinters into several root causes, almost like a pyramid turned onto its point. We waste a lot of food because portions are larger, there is a “throw away and forget” mentality, and we sacrifice the right thing to do in favor of convenience. Portions have been made larger due to changes in our food directly. Most of our food is processed into a dense and calorie packed convenient package that forces us to eat more of it to feel satisfied. Most people can eat a fast-food cheeseburger that is roughly 500 calories and usually not feel satisfied. Try to eat 500 calories of vegetables and, due to the shear amount, I doubt anyone could finish that before feeling completely stuffed. Food processors are to blame for this as they’ve made it so that unhealthy food is cheaper than healthy food, further compounding the problem of food related disease. A box of Hamburger Helper is less than $2 and feeds a family of four easily, two bunches of broccoli are about the same amount, but barely feed two people let alone a family. Taking another step back, the growers of the corn, wheat, and soy in this country have turned to GMO seeds from chemical companies that can only be used once per season, locking in the growers to having to purchase seeds the following year. I’m sick thinking that 83% of corn and 92% of soy are GMO and that most GMO crops are classified as “pesticide” and the fields are unfit for unprotected humans. The plants’ seeds are covered with a pesticide and the plants are engineered to produce their own pesticide through the leaves.  How does that exactly make the food safe for consumption?

We grow enough food in this country to feed the entire population with millions of tons of surplus to help feed the rest of the world. I won’t begin to understand how this system became the normal, but I am knowledgeable enough to know that if we take the time to learn about this system, we can take small steps to affect the market as a whole. One person does not make the difference, people do. If enough people stop buying GMO where possible (sometimes its impossible), use local farms, cook and store seasonal food, and teach others to do the same, enough people doing the opposite of the status quo can and will make a huge impact. Here are the things that I do personally that I hope, passing it along, will start to make a small difference.

  1. Buy from local farms as much as possible (meats, fruits, vegetables)
  2. Shop the outside edge of the supermarket
  3. Blanch vegetables to vacuum seal and freeze for the off-season (see #1)
  4. Learned to cook with appropriate portions to reduce waste
  5. Donate to local food banks within my means to do so

I want to be able to trust government to do what’s best for everyone, not just the affluent.

I’m sure we can all talk about government until we’re blue in the face. We all have our opinions and values and will support a politician that aligns to those values, at least in rhetoric. The problem with this is that once in office, they no longer need to listen to you as much and will usually focus on what brings them more money, status, or power. Having followed politics off and on for almost 20 years, this is based on my observations rather than tangible facts, so take it for what it is. Our government has lost site of the fact that they are elected to represent the people, not themselves. The people who elected them are the other side of the problem and the sad truth is that so many people don’t vote anymore. Consider the 2012 Presidential elections. Approximately 125 million votes were cast, 65 million to Obama and 60 million to Romney. There were around 308 million people in the United States in 2012 give or take a few million. Removing the under 18 population, there is an estimated 234 potentially eligible voters in the country. Putting that into perspective, 53% of the total population cast a Presidential vote, of which, 52% of those votes went to Obama. If you’re doing the math correctly, that equates to just 27% of the potential voting population choosing the President we currently have now. Call me crazy, but how can people complain about a system that isn’t working when only about half the population even bothers to go and vote. I stand by this statement: “If you didn’t vote, you have no right to complain.” If we can’t trust the system, how can we begin to trust the politicians elected by that system?

This is probably the only topic that I’m not able to provide a suggestion on how to fix, its just too big a problem and I struggle with where to start every time I start to think about it. The few places that we could start to repair this system is to eliminate the Electoral College, give a fair chance to all parties (not just Dems and Repubs), and pass legislation that makes it harder for the affluent to gain an unfair advantage. None of these are by any means easy.

I want the out of control anger and hate to be replaced with acceptance of differences and mutual respect.

Disappointment in me is extremely high right now and has been for weeks. I fail to understand why so many people are driven by anger and hate when it often doesn’t accomplish anything meaningful. History has hundreds of examples where meaningless death, anger, hate, etc. has been used as justification to continue spreading these ideals. The core of the problem is that most of these behaviors are instilled in us during our childhoods by our parents. My father was verbally and physically abused by his mother and step-father for most of his life growing up until he finally moved out to go to college. My grandparents were bigoted and racist people their entire lives, most of the time hiding it unless there was a trigger. I recognized this behavior and started asking questions once I understood it better. My father told me that he had chosen not to be angry or racist, give everyone an equal chance, and use his parents as examples of how not to be in life.

I took that to heart and have lived my life to the best of those instilled ideals, but I’m not perfect, no one is. There have been incidents in the past that I’m certainly not proud of and acted ugly towards another person out of uncontrollable anger. I’m not excusing the behavior, rather, I’m admitting to my mistake and decided to learn from it. In all but one situation, my apology was accepted and forgiveness was given. By admitting my mistake, in my own words, paired with my understanding of why it was wrong, I was able to articulate and demonstrate that I had learned and grew from it. This growth not only strengthened my relationship with this person, it also elevated our interactions to a new level that transcended the reactionary anger and hate into a greater respect for our own strength of being different. We accepted each others faults and momentary lapses in judgement to in turn help each other grow in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. The more we all try to be part of the solution instead of perpetuating the problem, the quicker we will all benefit.

I want a political system with more than two choices so that in coming years, we’re not faced with a “who do you not like” the least choice.

Now here’s a topic I can talk about all day, but I’ll do my best to keep it to the heading statement. Our political system has, since inception, been essentially a two party system and perpetuated the “us vs. them” mentality. There have been six party systems in the history of the United States, largely only two parties though. Third parties have always been around, but did not take significant hold until 1971 with the formation of the Libertarian Party. Gary Johnson is a candidate for the Libertarian Party that will most likely make it on the ballot in all 50 states for the 2016 election cycle. Faced with a choice where I don’t like the Republican and I don’t like the Democrat, the third choice is appealing especially when their platform is based largely on scaling back government across the board. Big government is showing that it doesn’t work so well, so logically trying the opposite, small government, appeals to me as a plan and idea I can get behind. Still not sure if that will help, keep things the same, or make things worse.

One of out strengths as Americans is our ability and right to choose. We are faced with so many choices that it’s hard to quantify in words just how free we are sometimes. There are a few exceptions, our two party system being one. Another is how we fuel our vehicles, most of us are locked into unleaded gasoline. Go to another country you’ll see a multiple party political system and a fueling station with unleaded, diesel, hydrogen, compressed natural gas, and most likely electric charge ports as well. A two party political system promotes an “us vs. them” mentality whether we’re ready to admit it or not. A two party system can create, as we’re finding out this year, a lesser of two evils sort of vote. The trouble lies with how the system is fundamentally setup, it favors a two party system by design. Third parties are forced to jump through hoop after hoop to just be included on a debate, show up on the ballot as an actual candidate rather than resort to “write-in” votes, and perhaps the most troubling, almost never get any type of news coverage. I’m not sure who I’m voting for in November, but my decision will be based on what I’ve read about each candidate (taken with a grain of salt) and who I think could potentially do the best job. In the end, once the vote is done, we’re with them for four years and what they said they’re going to do and what they actually do could be polar opposites. Only re-election after the first term could limit what promises they keep and break, a second term will generally have them doing what they want regardless of what they said. One thing is for sure, a wall won’t fix anything and fixing “Wall St.” won’t fix anything either. Decisions.

I’m tired of being upset with my fellow human beings and failing to make a difference despite really trying to do unto others as I want done unto me.

I grew up Methodist and attended church regularly until I turned 15. Religion wasn’t ever a big part of my life despite my being involved with several activities with the church. I view religion as one of the mechanisms that help us understand all the things in life that don’t make much sense. For me, I viewed religion from a different point of view that created a lot of internal conflict. I saw the hypocrisy of religious leaders preaching one behavior and type of thinking to their congregation while behind doors, doing the opposite and causing pain to others. My opinions and beliefs about religion in general run very deep and this is not the appropriate place for me to expound on them.

What I do believe in is that, although from the Bible, we should do unto others as we want done unto ourselves. It’s a powerful statement that honestly has nothing to do with religion. We have an inherent ability to observe and mimic the behaviors of others whether we’re aware its happening. Think of any conversation you’ve had recently that concerned a controversial or sensitive topic. Did you mirror the other persons emotion? Show empathy? Sit or move the same way they did to demonstrate you were listening? We all do this and most are unaware they’re doing it. Our body language is a very powerful tool that is seldom used to the fullest ability. You see this behavior in nature all the time though. Apes show remorse by lowering their heads and holding their hand out to the alpha. Lions understand sitting down and turning your back to them as being submissive and non-threatening. Elephants show a warning they’re threatened by pushing their ears out and squaring off their stance to match yours, leaving you to decide if you want to back off or challenge.

Much in the same way nature does this automatically, we as humans have dismissed these subtle behavior queues. When something wrong is done to me or I’m hurt for any reason, I choose to forgive when there is remorse or apologetic behavior because that is what I would do if the roles were reversed. By doing this, I am able to show my daughter that this is the correct behavior to emulate and it is instilling in her that human life is valuable and worth forgiving other’s mistakes. Of course, that goes two ways and some people no matter what you do will never return the same behavior to you or others. There is a special place for those types of people where it takes more than one or two people to demonstrate to them its not worth the anger and hate they feel. We’re all going to be angry sometimes. We’re all going to feel hate sometimes. The lesson I’ve learned is that although we have these feelings towards others, it’s important to not get lost in them and move towards an understanding that demonstrates respect for our differences. Preconceptions, stereotypes, and judgments are the enemy: Just because they’re white doesn’t mean they’re rich. Just because they’re black doesn’t mean they’re poor. Just because they’re Hispanic doesn’t mean they’re an illegal alien. Just because they’re Muslim doesn’t mean they’re a terrorist. Look past the surface, see the inner beauty, because we’re more similar on the inside than you might think.

Change starts with you.