It's Black History Month... and lately, I've been thinking a lot about race relations in this country. From shootings of black boys to having a black president, I think about where we are and where we are going. The progress in this country seems vast, but actually we really have not come that far.
I was attacked for standing by my views during the Michael Brown hearing. I still stand by those views, proudly. Nothing will change that. But I will say that I've learned a lot about how people choose not to listen to each other by watching, reading and responding to banter shared during this epic moment of conflict. Growth is painful. Maybe as a country, we aren't growing as fast as we thought and recently, we had to actually face that fact. Unfortunately, facing that fact meant that lives were lost; lives that people believed to be expendable.
There has to come a moment where all of us- black people, white people, Asian people, Hispanic people and anyone else I didn't name- looks at their own racist beliefs because everyone has them and to say that you don't is ridiculous. Welcome those thoughts, rationalize through them and see if they are rooted in fact or opinion. Why do you feel like this? What experiences have caused this response in you? Let's move forward, because until then we'll just keep oppressing each other which ushers us once again down a dark spiral of blame-game and staunch opposition.
No one is ever 100%, completely justified in their stance. Educating ourselves and each other shows a strong investment in the time we have on this Earth together. Here are four general areas that individuals, communities, this country and even the world can work on improving (no matter what color):
Polarity: As citizens we need to mature our understanding of humanity and society. Life is a layered experience with many opportunities for influences on many fronts. Deciding something happened solely because someone is old or young; black or white; male or female; gay or straight is a very immature way of looking at life. It's true that some factors weigh more heavily than others but taking a step back to see the whole picture, provides many avenues to tackle the problem and it doesn't leave anyone out of participating to find a solution. Choosing to forgo participation in the complexity of an issue is just as bad as saying a kid should die or holding firmly to a racist issue. It's just as ignorant, insulting and egregious.
Denial: Ignoring a problem is just as insulting as saying that there is only one solution. The problem won't go away. That problem probably goes to school with your kids, sits next to you on the train and may well be your supervisor at work. There's no way for us to tap out and stay insular anymore. Welcome to the 21st century, eveyone's hands are dirty so it’s time to take action and move forward.
Irrational Anger: There's no reason to be angry. Nothing good has ever come from people getting "mad" about anything. In fact you become less rational in anger. Anger breeds fear. Solutions driven leadership is far greater than leadership driven by passionate rage. Most dictators lead by passionate rage. Ask their subordinates and underlings if they really enjoy that- I’m certain they’ll tell you they don’t. Temper tantrums make individuals and communities look like children. A reaction should be calculated and planned with educational understanding of the impact of the act. If you march, plan and march with purpose. If you’re on television speak with purpose with a sound mind. If are protesting, go with a heart filled with peace.
Accountability: Holding communities and industries accountable is each individual's civic duty. Hold the entertainment industry accountable for serving each of us negative messages and imagery about groups. Hold our governing and civil safety systems accountable for keeping ALL citizens safe. Hold your neighbors accountable for looking out for each other and caring about each other. Hold parents accountable for raising civic minded citizens. Change can only happen with love. Love is a grassroots movement; therefore change is a grassroots movement. It takes time and patience but the impact is great.
In retrospect, a lot of discussion, disturbance and passion were uncovered by the Michael Brown incident and the shootings that followed. When I think about it, there's a complex burden of raising any non-white child in america because all of us have privileges and prejudices associated with our respective ethnicities and race. What's more, when we add class, sex and geographical location on top of these complex issues, we begin to see that there's a multilayered and intricately constructed system of oppression and misunderstanding still present in modern America.
Unfortunately I think too many of us are too lazy to see the intricate web and would rather lean strongly on one causality. The complexity is what makes each situation unique, relevant and a societal learning opportunity to improvement. What can we learn from our ugly American past that will help make the present and the future much brighter for generations of multi colored children everywhere? How can we ensure that we are all working together; working inside ourselves and inside our communities; working in our own homes; working with our neighbors; working with other communities? If we want to be the change, then we need to work at it. Period. To see a world in black and white means we lose on opportunities to empower everyone in between. If any of us are oppressed, then all of us are oppressed.
The original post and YouTube Video: An Open Letter To The Mothers of Future Michael Browns
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.