I was asked this morning what I think needs to happen for honest discourse to occur, for polarizing to stop, at least from the white perspective. And these were my thoughts.
I think, first, that people have to really think. Use their brains. Too many people want to put themselves on autopilot, simply regurgitating what they heard someone else say. Second, people have to be willing to be uncomfortable, and be truly willing to listen to others, especially those who have walked a different road, and really hear their story and perspective, and be willing to be made uncomfortable and maybe have their values challenged, so that they don’t just judge, or even sympathize, but truly empathize.
I speak so boldly, not because I’m a sheeple on one side or the other, but because I have the unique experience of having lived, in the trenches, on both sides of the issue at hand right now. I know both sides’ arguments, perspectives, and struggles. I know what it’s like to be white, and lower class, and the white minority some where. I know what it feels like to experience reverse discrimination and to be judged because I’m white. But I grew up believing that all police were my friends, all authority was fairly worthy of being trusted, and that if people struggled it’s probably because they chose to make bad decisions. And now my experiences of my last twenty years, have flipped many of those beliefs upside down, or at least leveled out the balance.
So when I share something, it’s not because I’m jumping on some bandwagon. This is my life being lived out in real time. Every day. And I don’t speak about what I don’t have personal experience with. To me, I haven’t earned that right.
Of course there are amazing cops, I know some.
Of course there are black folk, just like every other folk, who are immoral, violent people.
But what many white people fail to understand, or don’t want to understand, is that for the most part, white people get the privilege of having a bad day, even a bad month, year, lifetime, and they are given space to be human, to be acknowledged in the struggle. But black people, and honestly, you could plug in anyone else who’s not white and middle class and straight….. But their bad day becomes a judgement of their character, their race, their gender, their religion. They aren’t given the freedom to have a temper tantrum and know that they will still be safe and treated with dignity. And I do believe that black men get the worst treatment, and I believe that our history in this country is still the mind set of many in the present, just with different wrapping.
You can legislate action, you can’t legislate the heart.
Many people do not believe that all people groups should be truly valued the same. I believe that there are many white people that really want America to go back to what they believe were better times. But better for who? Not for women or anybody of color, or a different religion. America wasn’t founded as a bastion of white pride and culture. And if that’s what the founders really wanted, they shouldn’t have chosen a land already inhabited by Native Peoples and Mexicans. And they shouldn’t have imported millions of slaves, treated them like animals for centuries, then expect a law on paper freeing them to miraculously right and equitize a million wrongs. And they shouldn’t have imported Chinese to build the railroad. We can’t create a multicultural society to meet our capitalistic needs, and then dispose of people, or suddenly expect them to fully be a healthy functioning group, fully intent on supporting our country’s institutions, when it was those very organizations that devalued and dehumanized them in the first place.
And are there white people oppressed in some ways? Yes. But that group, in general, has very little power to create change either ( although I do believe that’s why Trump has grown in popularity, he has tapped that vein of anger at being white and poor, while I don’t think he personally cares about them at all). Their voice is definitely an important thread in the fabric of our country. And unfortunately, they’ve often been pitted against people of color, being told that “those” people have made them poor. When in reality, the top 5% keeps this group from truly succeeding as well.
But our country has put band aid on bandaid with our history without truly opening the wound constructively, cleaning it out, and really beginning the nasty and painful job of true healing.