Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Juxtaposed Lives

I am going to delay my summary of my last three push-up days until tomorrow, as I am having some rather profound thoughts I'd like to try to make sense of.

I had a staff meeting yesterday.

For those of you who don't know, I work for an office focused on Health Equity and Inclusion as part of a health system. We are trying to set systems into place so our environment is more welcoming to diverse groups of people—diverse not just in a racial sense, but in terms of (dis)ability, sexual identification and orientation, age, socio-economics, religion. All of it. Because while our experiences may allow us comfort with one or another type of diversity, the fact is, we all have groups we have not been exposed to, and it takes some training to be open in the face of the unknown.

Anyway, because of the work we do and who has a passion for the issues, about half of my colleagues are black. And you know what has been going on.

Our meeting was sort of a workshop—scheduled weeks ago, but at the end there was a moment where a very brave coworker pointed out that US, in our space and with what we do, cannot really separate our mission from what has been going on in the outside world. She admitted to the difficulties championing our mission, when she has had to have very difficult talks with her kids about the realities of how to stay safe.

Another coworker confessed when he started college he thought he'd be dead by 21, because that was what happened to young black males in this country, and that recent events have brought back fears some fifteen years later.

Think about that. Belonging and identifying with a group where you honestly believe you are likely to die before really reaching adulthood, not because you are doing anything wrong, but because of a group you happen to be born into.

And then on my way home... I ran across swarms... of a totally different sorts. Groups ranging in sizes from one to ten, all chasing down a damn Pokemon.

Now I don't have any problem at all with this—it seems fun and people are getting outside and getting exercise (though it is the perfect set-up for a sci fi story, which I plan to write ASAP). At the time that sci fi story was all that was churning in my head—the plot to distract us all...

Only when I got home did I realize how much these two things created an enormous contrast. Who has the luxury to be distracted? How can people disengage from the seriousness of what's happening. It feels to me like things may go really wrong before we wake up and I can't help but be afraid. Afraid partly because I sort of think it needs to happen. I can't see power yielding voluntarily.

I think though, there are things all of us can do. For starters, I don't think most people are intentionally racist, but because of media and cultural messages, and because we surround ourselves, most often, with people who are “like us” we all have inherent bias—and we all should make a point of knowing ourselves well enough that we can at least learn to be conscious of it.

Go take this test:

Young Turks covered this last night—I will watch for the link to share that coverage, too. I watched it live. (am watching it) but they post segment links later. Here it is.

Also, can we all pledge in our daily lives to try to talk to and get to know people who aren't like us. I am sure most of you know, but in case you don't, you will find, in the end, people are people. There are good and bad people of all sorts, but MOST people of all sorts are good people.

Most black people are good.
Most white people are good.
Most Muslims are good.
Most police are good.

And so on and so on.

So by all means—have fun, get your exercise, seek your Pokemon... but let's not lose sight.

Please please please practice compassion. People are protesting because they are hurting and things are bad. Cops have hard jobs and deserve our support, but when lines are crossed, they can't be above justice. But assume people mean well until you see otherwise. Don't paint groups based on the bad actors.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd read that science fiction story.
I grew up all over the country and in several foreign countries. People are people to me.
I like that first photo. There are still good people out there.

Kathleen Valentine said...

I watched the Young Turks, too. Yes, we need more compassion and more empathy. We need to put ourselves in another's place. It makes such a difference in the world.

Andrew Leon said...

I'm not in the "people are inherently good" camp. I think people are selfish, which makes their outward actions more often bad. People with implicit privilege are worse than others and people with privilege and power are the very worst. I suppose that says who I think are the worst kinds of people, and they're not black.
I do also believe that people can overcome their inherent selfishness, but it takes more conscious effort than most people are willing to give to it.

Chrys Fey said...

I think the Pokemon thing is harmless and that sometimes we do need a distraction from what's happening. We need happy moments. Doing fun stuff like this doesn't make us blind, it just gives us a break. :) I did not participate in the Pokemon hunt, but after hearing about it I keep thinking how it would've been fun to bond with my nephews doing this.

I like that pledge about how most different types of people are good. So true.

I loved your final paragraph. Perfect ending.

Jan Morrison said...

This is a difficult time in the world. I work, as you know, for a treatment centre for indigenous families. Trauma is the root of addiction in this culture. It is also the root of violence and sexual abuse. If we don't treat the racism, the colonization, the trauma inflicted on the dispossessed by the possessed then we will just continue to have poverty, violence, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and general misery. The only somewhat bearable thing about the last few weeks is that it is out and being discussed. Finding pokemon hasn't hit Labrador. The bears would get you. Love you, dear Tartlette, please remember lots of self-care while you do this important work.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hart - great post ... and I bet many work-groups have been upset by the recent goings on ... it's so difficult ... I've always dealt with people from all walks of life and having lived in South Africa and worked with East Europeans I can understand and appreciate others' ways of life ...

Pokemon - can't get grips with it - and some things like this and social media can be so corruptive and addictive ... we need to get 'lives'- read, educate ourselves more, learn about others' ways of life ...

I sincerely hope we can help and encourage all comers - Cheers Hilary

G. B. Miller said...

Sorry, I have zero compassion for BLM protesters. They are selective in their outrage, bullies to the nth degree (death threats to those who actually had the temerity to disagree with them) and disavowal that their actions have caused these police shootings in the past two weeks.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

You say it so well. Most people are good. There are people in very profession that shouldn't be there, teachers, priests, politicians, doctors, and police. We can't judge everyone by the actions of a few. And we can't ignore the problems that are real and with us.