We hope that we have reached critical mass as a country. Along with a pandemic that continues to wreak havoc on the world, we have widespread social unrest. People have taken to the streets to protest, riot, and loot. The social unrest erupted at the unnecessary and tragic death of George Floyd. There are many varied takes on the situation, but no one can dispute how wrong and horrific that event (and those similar) was. While we do not condone rioting and looting, we want to caution the reader that poor behavior is always a symptom of a larger problem (poor behavior encapsulates all acts of violence: rioting, looting, and police brutality).
The larger problem is this: Racism is still prevalent, and we have large portions of our black communities who feel unheard, unvalued, and deeply wronged. Long story short, these violent behaviors are happening because all other cries for help have fallen on deaf ears. Or, positive change has not happened fast enough. Regardless of what each of our personal feelings is on this topic, the numbers do not lie. People of color do not have an even playing field in our society. This needs to change.
The contributors to this site have zero tolerance for racism. In this great world that we live in, it still is bewildering that racism is still as prevalent as it is. It is high time for all of us to stand firm and push this darkness out of the world. This post is dedicated to how ALL of us can take action in our own lives to ensure that we eradicate this ugly beast. To be clear, ALL of us need to take action for this change to be sustainable.
A strong theme throughout many of the posts on this site carries the following message:
Do not expect lasting change to happen externally if you have not changed within.
We can fund, defund, elect, remove, riot, loot, and fight all we want, but those things are merely just sticks planted in a river. Sure they impede some of the water, but it does little to nothing to change the river’s flow and direction. We, the people, are the river.
Societal change only happens when the personal change has happened. When enough of us change our hearts, the world will flow to a better place. So how can we change to make sure that all of our cultures are taken care of? Awareness, education, and action.
Let’s start with awareness. Awareness is like flicking a light switch on in a dark room…you begin to see things. Once you see things, you can start to take action to change things. In this vein, I want to flip the light switch on one thing: Everyone has a bias in their life.
Having a bias is not a right or wrong thing. It is a natural process. Biases develop and are a normal process of the brain. The key here is that this is how we are wired as human beings. We have experiences and form thoughts and feelings around those experiences. Our brain, to be efficient, associates past experiences with current circumstances to protect itself. A simple example is as follows: A boy is bitten by a dog when he is young. For the rest of his life, they avoid dogs because their brains tell him dogs equal pain. It goes in the other direction too. A boy is raised with a dog and has only positive experiences with it. For the rest of his life, they get excited when they see a dog because it reminds him of love and home. In both cases, the boy has relied on past information to influence current action.
However, here is where biases get us into trouble. Biases become problematic when we are not even aware that we have them. So often, we take blind action without conscious thought. It further becomes troubling when we group with others who feel the same way as it reinforces that our belief is correct.
When we blindly act, we model for the world on how we do business. We also model these behaviors for our children to pick up on. They can assume our biases as “this is how it is supposed to be.” To learn more about biases and how they develop and unroot them, please check out this article: Think you’re not biased? Think again. Alison Pearce Stevens does a great job of outlining how the mind works, how biases are created, and what we can do to become aware of them.
The great thing about becoming aware of bias is that you can choose a better action in light of the brain’s conditioning. Become aware and chose the highest. Over time, we will undo the biases we have that do not serve us and our world.
I want to reinforce to the reader that it is perfectly ok to question your beliefs (political, religious, and whatever else you hold onto!) as well. It is ok to questions all of your silent preferences. Shine them to the light and see if they still have value. And don’t shame yourself for questioning all of your beliefs. When we question, It does not mean that we are no longer faithful or lack loyalty as we are merely figuring out if they are worth keeping around. This is the first step to becoming an independent thinker (don’t let others do your thinking for you).
So the next time you have an adverse or visceral reaction to something that happened automatically, take pause. Think about why that happened. Examine your thoughts, feelings, and memories that produced the negativity. Weed the garden of the mind. Why do we do what we do? Why do we get triggered on certain topics? How do we get off of the automatic pilot mode of life?
The answers we seek cannot be found in our media outlets or through our politicians. All of our answers are found in the heart.
Photo from JB