Wednesday, July 13, 2016
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: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
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.