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It’s a little like real life, no?
We’re all marinating in this together.
You may have heard about the uproar in Indiana, where the governor signed into law a hotly contested bill that is said to protect the freedom of religion while leaving room for potential discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population. I don’t want to discuss the bill specifically, but the rhetoric spilling onto Facebook about it and other recent events have provoked me to deep thought.
My thought is this: How do I choose to use my voice when things in the world are going down in a bad way (racism, politics, terrorism, etc.).
Turns out, this quote from Robert Service sums up my nature: It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones who win in the lifelong race.
Many years ago, I attended a National Teacher Policy Institute Symposium on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle. It was nearly a week of talking educational policy with people from all over the nation. One night, guided by a leader in ethnic studies, I experienced the most open, honest and evocative discussion on racism I have ever had. Many things said that night have never left me. I witness a woman from Kentucky vehemently insisting she was not racist to a black woman who was pretty clear on why Ms. Kentucky might want to rethink her defensiveness. I also remember a black man saying, “People who are openly racist don’t scare me because at least I know where they stand. It’s the others I have to watch out for.”
In those moments, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.
Several years later, I took a course on race, class and gender. It was full of rich, eye-opening information. One of the students in our class, a man from South Africa, explained to us that he pads his travel time to allow for pat downs, traffic stops and various waylays related to his appearance. I have had friends of various nationalities confirm they do the same.
When I’m stopped during travel, I am irritated at the inconvenience. Some people accept it as a matter of course.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
For me, the pivotal point of my class was learning about subliminal messages. I had to analyze and write an essay on a play, movie or television show and talk about how the use of subtleties influenced my view of what was happening. The use of colors, minor toned music, or hilarious jokes that quietly whispered something else wove together a psychological imprint reinforcing my already deep-seated beliefs.
The ones that are such a part of me, I don’t even call them a choice.
As part of my assignment, I had to tell how I would improve my own awareness and contribution to the betterment of society. I decided to gently provide alternative ideological considerations when engaged in conversation, using phrases such as, “Have you considered…”
I have never forgotten that paper or my vow.
I definitely remain aware, but lately I have not spoken up.
In a cycling class not long ago, we stationary cyclists were huffing, puffing and talking about education and the current state of our schools. The school teacher among us explained how teachers now accept homework at any time during the semester and let students redo assignments. Many class participants rolled their eyes and objected through grunts (we were exercising, after all).
Without missing a beat, the teacher said, “It’s okay because the good kids will get their homework done, and the other kids won’t.”
Her remark washed over everyone like sweat on my forehead. Maybe you see nothing wrong with the statement either. But I happen to have a kid who takes full advantage of extra time for homework. Trust me, I knock myself out trying to teach him the importance of timeliness and doing things right the first time, but he’s learned to redo tests (they are easier the second time, he says) and procrastinate because he can. Is he a bad kid? I don’t think so, but according to the teacher’s moral judgment about homework, she might think he is. Her unconscious belief might inform how she treats her students.
I was also eating lunch with a group of women and didn’t know them well, but assumed they were my people based on the context of the lunch. One of the ladies was headed overseas in the morning. Since I love travel, I started an animated conversation about her itinerary, the food, and the travel group heading up this trip. It was a trip with heart, developed to help locals improve the quality of their lives, with sightseeing and tours built in for fun.
A woman who had been to the area said, “Did you see them praying…?” And then she made an offensive sound.
To which the traveler-in-waiting whispered, “Yes. It was creepy!” Both looked horrified.
I was taken aback.
I wasn’t sure how payer in a foreign country where you are a visitor constitutes offensive and creepy, but everyone at the table acted like this was perfectly acceptable conversation.
I can get riled up and offended about things too.
But after my rant, I am now more willing to consider alternate ideologies.
And I’m totally willing to admit that I don’t know what I don’t know.
I have literally found myself considering this question: What if everything I know is wrong. What if the people I vehemently disagree with are right?
It’s crazy hard, but I can pull back the curtain and be okay with that.
And just because I can consider an alternative idea doesn’t mean I have to relinquish my own belief or fear someone else’s.
A consideration of alternate ideas can lead to compassion and a softened feeling towards an adversary.
And, I personally believe that serving up a warm bowl of soup along with thoughtful discussion based on curiosity is the first step toward world peace.
As the Android commercial says: Be together. Not the same.
Peace & Light,
The Busy Buddha
Talk Back to the Trio
How do you use your voice when you hear of injustice?