Updated: Jun 14
June 13, 2020
My Reflections this week
What I know, what I heard, what I learned
When I had conversations last week, I had no intention of writing an article. I didn’t take notes. I merely wanted to connect, and actively listen. But when I woke up Saturday morning with all these thoughts and emotions, I felt I just had to get down on paper. So, what I wrote was what I heard, what I absorbed, what impacted me. And what I was able to recall with a 54 year-old brain!
I clearly shared parts of conversations. But what I realized later is what I did not share is how I felt. I was sad, I was shocked, I was disgusted, I was incredulous. The situations people are still in, 50 years after the Civil Rights movement. I had a conversation with 4 white women last week who are part of my Community meditation group. A couple of them had participated in local town protests and one of them who participated said she can’t believe that she’s protesting the same thing she did 50 years ago. Sadness.
In these conversations, I also felt good. I liked connecting with people. I liked to think that maybe possibly I was offering some support. I may have been a little anxious, just striking up conversations with folks, but the conversations were easy. They were genuine. I was also remiss in not sharing that we didn’t just talk about racial injustice. I heard about their personal lives too. We talked about families, background, education, hobbies, favorite things.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I grew up in a racially diverse area in Central NJ. I also attended a large university, Rutgers, in an urban area, also racially diverse. Right after college, for several years, I travelled the country for work and interacted with many people. But I was different then. I was very shy and quiet, and somewhat sheltered. I could have learned so much more about people.
I have learned a lot from my 23 year-old daughter, who is much more “up” on world injustices. She is very kind and compassionate, and feels deeply for people. She has signed over 400 petitions on “Black Lives Matter”, racial justice, freeing innocent jailed black men, equality, Black Transgender equality. She edits my articles :) She helped me understand to change my language from Person of Color to Black.
I wrote in last week’s blog post about the couple things I was going to do to make a difference. I was connecting with others, hearing their stories and I was reading 2 books. Most people know that mindfulness and emotional intelligence are my thing. Practicing mindfulness certainly helps me in these situations, being present in a conversation, noticing my emotions. Mindfulness can teach us a lot.
It’s interesting to read articles and opinion pieces. The common misconception is “I’m not racist because I have black friends”, What is the common scenario asked of people? “If you were walking down the street, and a black man was walking towards you, would you cross to the other side of the road? What if it was a white person?” I know I do judge by how the person looks, but not based on the color of their skin.
Mindfulness can help stop you to recognize a bias. I have been hearing the word “complicit bias” but didn’t quite know what it meant. This is what I found I this article https://www.npr.org/2020/06/09/873375416/there-is-no-neutral-nice-white-people-can-still-be-complicit-in-a-racist-society:
“Racism is the foundation of the society we are in. And to simply carry on with absolutely no active interruption of that system is to be complicit with it. And in that way, we can say that nice, white people who really aren't doing anything other than being nice people are racist. We are complicit with that system. There is no neutral place.”
But what is implicit (or unconscious) bias? – This means “The positions we hold about others that are influenced by past experiences, forming filters that cause conclusions to be reached, about groups or ethnicities, by ways other than through active thought or reasoning.”
This link gives more details - https://insighteducationsystems.com/unconscious-bias-implicit-bias/
I like to get up early and go for walks, because I like it when it’s quiet and still. The other day I was walking near the pond near my house, and there was a Black man fishing. I didn’t think anything of it at first, then I thought to stop and think; I didn’t have any reaction to the color of his skin. But I felt this need to say “Hi”, (this connection thing), but I couldn’t catch his eye. It was probably a good thing, because maybe my friendliness would have caused him to be afraid of me! On the same walk, I saw a white man who did not have the cleanest appearance, walking across the parking lot of a liquor store. I wondered where he was going. I wasn’t afraid, but it gave me more pause for caution. I noticed the difference.
I learned something else this week. I was told a story last week, where a comment was made, that I didn’t understand could be portrayed as racist. It bothered me all week, so I asked my friend this week about it. And I learned that the seemingly innocent comment had underlying derogatory meanings in the Black community, of which I knew nothing about. Education accomplished.
I care about caring. I care about kindness. I care about respect. I am an introvert but I like to develop relationships with people. Relationships are important. I would like to say that I don’t judge people, but I do. But I don’t judge people by the color of their skin, the size of their house, their job title, the kind of car they drive, how much money they make. I “judge” people on one thing only. How they treat me. This sometimes means I tend to like people that others might not for various reasons.
In that article about complicit bias mentioned above, these 2 points also hit home.
“…It was inevitable that I was socialized into this system. It's inevitable that I will have blind spots. ... And so I'm going to focus my energy on how I've been shaped by the system, but not if.”
“…But the key is: What will happen when those cameras go away and when it's no longer — for lack of a better word, for white people, anyway – "exciting" or "righteous" to go down and protest? In some ways, that's the easier kinds of actions. What are we going to do to sustain it when we no longer have that kind of pressure, when we're back into our racial comfort zone?”
There are 2 recommendations of books in the article about DOING than just reading.
One is Dr. Eddie Moore's 21-Day Racial Equity [Habit] Building Challenge — it'll walk you through a daily practice. And Layla Saad's Me and White Supremacy Workbook. That's a book you do rather than read.
I am grateful to have continued conversations. I am grateful to learn how to be an ally. And I hope to have others join me in DOING.
Educate. Act. Engage. Stand Together.