I have never felt like a racist, but I understand that I’ve been shaped by racist views, including stereotypes portrayed by the media. I also benefit from a system of government that was built on racist views. I work to deconstruct these views in myself every day.
I care about diversity & equality & freedom, I always have.
In our time, though – it is not enough to be “not racist”.
We all need to be actively anti-racism. We need to make it explicitly known, in no uncertain terms, that we all deserve to feel LOVE & LOVED. Free from hate & fear. Safe to be exactly who and what we are. PERIOD.
Everyone would benefit from a world like this.
We’d all feel safer & happier in our communities, taking trips to the store with our families.
Maybe we could relax and enjoy our favorite bands live again without being on high alert.
We could help each other – regardless of differences and associated stereotypes – with the unique skills that each of us brings to the world.
We can learn from each other & come up with better ideas for the future, for our children’s future.
Life is not a zero-sum game; the more we have, the more there is. We don’t need to fight for our resources… we’ll be much better off building upon our resources together.
First, though, there are some issues that need to be resolved. Something is very wrong here. That’s clear in our society and our politics today.
Hate and fear are not the ways forward. Love is.
I’ve been increasingly curious over recent years about the tenants that hold up racist views in our society, especially in the spaces I inhabit… for instance, as a resident of rural upstate NY.
Upstate NY seems overall pretty whitewashed (most people are conforming to white perspectives) & white-favoring (people & systems favor “whiteness” & white skin, whether they’re aware of it or not). Not just here in my small town; I noticed this in the city of Rochester, too, though in Rochester, the conversation seems much more public & I noticed strong Black leadership in the area.
Clearly, there are still MANY places in this country that fit the category of whitewashed and white favoring.
In my small upstate NY town, and in other towns like it, it’s clear that some of our children are growing into racist and aggressive adults.
I spent time in conversation recently with a young man who outwardly expressed racist views.
Earlier that night, I’d actually considered leaving – rebel flags all around me let me know my values didn’t line up with where I was. Then, when presented the opportunity, I wasn’t strong enough to engage full throttle in conversation with a group of men about this obvious racist choice. They all claimed that the flag, to them, had nothing to do with race.
I was intimidated & fell quiet quickly after asking about the flags (even if I didn’t necessarily *need* to back off – they weren’t trying to threaten me). I’d been drinking, so I couldn’t drive away at that time.
I slowed drinking & got comfortable. As the group thinned out I was able to have more deeply personal conversations, including with one of those rebel flag-waving men. He generously answered my questions about how he grew up, inspiring several people with us to share their own stories about violence they’d witnessed or experienced directly growing up. This is not an uncommon story, definitely not in this area.
That night, I also heard stories about multiple school-age boys threatening gun violence.
In all cases, responses were already in progress with teachers & professionals involved. “Stop playing violent video games” was one main course of action.
The relationship between aggression & violent media is one of the most widely researched in psychology. YES, in almost every case research has shown that violent media & games present a risk factor for aggression. However, no direct causal relationship between violent media & violence has been found.
We need to realize that our children conform to & learn from their environment. They are deeply influenced & shaped by what they see & hear the most.
Video games aren’t the cause of this issue, neither are guns – these are all just symptoms feeding back into a bigger issue.
We have been exposed to violence throughout our history, and we keep on continuing the cycle.
Did you know that corporal punishment – including spanking – is illegal in more than 50 countries? The United Nations & several other entities have encouraged people to abandon the practice, because the research is clear that physical punishment has a negative impact on our development. Yet, this is still a common parenting strategy here in the United States.
Our violence is supported by a deeply rooted belief system in this country – based on fear & tribalism & survival & conquest – passed down in droves generation to generation.
We’ve held onto our fear & survival based beliefs despite the fact that our world is changing.
These beliefs are quite literally what this country (as we know it) was built on. Our lands were forcibly taken from the Native Americans who already lived here – because we ourselves were unwilling to go back to oppression in Europe. We took on a “kill or be killed” mentality, and built our society around it. We built on & maintained stolen lands, fighting wars to defend them on the back of African American & Hispanic people.
We as Americans are *ALL* impacted by this history & our collective views, which are intertwined with our current structure of government & the patriarchal values system we share.
There’s a lot of violence happening in inner cities, abuse happening at our southern border, conflicts between government entities & people of color/their allies – all additional symptoms of the same foundational discord we’re experiencing right now.
We are clinging to fear, conflict, and violence to survive. We need to prioritize differently moving forward.
At a very foundational level, we are still sticking to our own to survive — sticking to our chosen groups & smaller circles, succumbing to limits in our minds… as opposed to reaching out and embracing each other as one big interdependent community – where EVERYONE is capable, shares similarities, & has value to contribute.
We need to remember our *real* goals of finding freedom & expansion. Moving forward, that will require a new strategy.
Violence is perpetrated by once little boys and girls – who were not as fortunate as me, to be exposed to many supportive open-minded adults & diversity, education, and affluence growing up. Instead, they were witnessing violence and racist views all around them, sometimes growing unsurprisingly into violent and racist adults. These kids were largely fending for themselves, confused, struggling to survive. Kids who absolutely *needed* to conform in their community or find a new one. Kids who literally might not have survived without a group to belong to.
This is a similar story to the one that’s told about inner-city kids, who are vulnerable to gangs and shady dealings to get by.
Yes, everyone has choices, and I will never condone violence… and, it’s really not hard to see where all of this is coming from when we’re willing to look a little deeper.
I want to understand the views of my racist white neighbors and ancestors, I want to understand these parts of myself where unknown & fear still lingers… I want to find ways to deconstruct this issue of racism and violence at its root.
What kind of “different” are you afraid of? How did you learn to be afraid?
We can no longer say “not us” – not in our hearts, not our sons, not our brothers, not our friends.
We can no longer say “damn them” – they’re hateful, they’re crazy, they’re broken, they need to be dealt with or removed from society entirely.
In arguing amongst ourselves & falling into fear we are making what’s already done even worse.
In pretending that we aren’t a part of this issue, we’re making it worse.
Yes, our leaders need to act instead of encouraging of violent, racist views.
Yes, we need better gun laws, better healthcare & mental healthcare.
Yes, something on a large scale needs to be done right now.
Yes, we DEFINITELY need better prevention of these issues moving forward.
And, we ALL need to accept our individual responsibility for making LOVE the contagion we’re spreading, not hate.
We ALL need to be willing to go deeper, so we can look at the hardest parts of this issue & understand the ways we’re contributing to it. Because WE ARE ALL CONTRIBUTING to this issue.
We need to accept that our neighbors are violent shooters, our neighbors are being killed. We are all one community, one country, one collective human race.
What’s real for one of us is real for all of us.
We all have the choice to devolve into more fear and hate, or to choose compassion, kindness, and love – first inside of ourselves, for ourselves, and then for others.
We cannot continue on like this.
“We must live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Responses based on love, with our long-term problems and goals in mind, will have an impact on this huge problem of violence in our country. This issue is impacting every single one of us. What can we do?
*My main suggestion – self-reflect on how you might be contributing to this issue, and take action from that place every day.*
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
What kind of “different” am I afraid of? Where did I learn to be that way?
Is living in fear of differences helping me or contributing to my life in any way?
What am I most interested in about the topics of violence & race, that I can google & learn more about today? (I’ve learned a lot following @rachel.cargle @shaunking & @nowhitesaviors on Instagram, to name a few).
What’s one small action I could take today to welcome more love, newness, & diversity into my life?
What else can we do? Spoiler alert – there will *ALWAYS* be more to do.
Better structured gun regulations, gun safety, yes, yes, yes.
I recently wrote a blog series on suicide prevention; keeping all firearms safely secured is a huge part of prevention there, too. So, if you must own guns, please maintain all proper safety precautions & keep them locked up. Take these steps not feeling limited in your freedom, but with intentions for love & protection of your children and the people around you. Guns allow us to feed/protect ourselves & our loved ones, right? Practicing/teaching good gun safety is how to make that happen in the safest way possible.
And, are automatic weapons *really* necessary for you? Are you military trained and/or qualified to have them? Are you feeling satisfied, loved & clear in mind? Let’s get real here.
We can always provide more education & support (especially support to parents) around early prevention of racism & violence.
We need to arm parents & teachers with the knowledge & tools they need to shape young minds that will be the future of our society.
We can continue to support causes that are diving deeper into this issue…
organizations/leaders who are promoting love & equality, related research initiatives, organizations providing preventative action on race & violence-related issues. I intend to add some great causes to this post – which ones are your favorites?
We can provide empowerment resources that encourage self-awareness, self-realization, individuality, & relationship-building skills for all people.
We need to stop hiding from the depth & the reality of who we are & the power we hold – both as individuals and united as a collective. This is my life’s mission. For instance, I’m hosting a free class on Thursday 8/8/19 @ 7:00 PM EST called Harvesting Power in Challenging Moments, and I’d love to have you there. I also host a free group called The Cocoon full of support & strategies for developing a deep & strong self-connection.
There are all kinds of ways to connect with me, and many other people you could choose to learn from.
Once we’ve done some inner work around racism, we can strive to create open conversations, connecting with each other & exposing ourselves to different viewpoints on this issue. When we commit to talking to each other, we can find common ground to start from. Be willing to be compassionate & loving when the people around you are sharing themselves with you.
Alway start with compassion & love for yourself. Love can always emerge to dissolve fear & hate.
I will strive to create conversations in my online communities & in my real-life conversations that work to deconstruct the belief systems holding racist views relevant in our society. I would *most* love to host conversations where people of all colors are free & safe & comfortable to contribute to discussions on this issue amongst each other.
What else? Feel free to riff on thoughts & ideas or share the causes you’re donating to today in the comments section.
I want everyone to know that you’re seen, loved, & safe with me.
If you’re hurting today amongst these mass shootings, I’m with you.
Thank you for reading.