I am often asked by my friends – particularly my White friends,
“What can I do?”
“How can I make an impact?”
“I’m only one person and the issues are so many and big!”
” Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” -Margaret Mead
The issues are many, and they are big, powered by a system of hatred dating back to slavery. From where I sit, they seem to be driven by hate and fueled by fear. And the hate and fear are rooted in a true lack of understanding and knowledge about people that do not look, think or act like you. You don’t know the other person, so you believe the “fake news” you hear about them.
But it’s not impossible!
“The first step to any form of action is awareness.” – Mellody Hobson, Investment Expert
I recently listened to a TED Talk from 2014 by Mellody Hobson, “Color Blind or Color Brave.” It resonated with me because I simply detest when my White friends tell me they are color blind. My response is always the same -”How can you be color blind? I’m a 5’9” Black women, you can not say that you don’t see me? I certainly know that you are White, with all its Whiteness!” And the conversation builds from there.
But here’s my point – if we are to truly get to the root of the problem – ignorance of each other – we need to have those difficult and often uncomfortable conversations, that seek to build relationships that are not based on being color blind, but based on being color brave (Mellody Hobson, TED2014, March 2014). These conversations need to be held with people that don’t think, look or act like you. Reach out to people from other cultures, join listening circles, volunteer for programs serving the poor, engage in civic movements that speak to your heart. Don’t make assumptions based on how someone looks.
I used to think people with tattoos were weird until people that I loved started getting them. It’s not weird or wrong, it’s different. Really, some of them are works of art –
beautiful. They are still the same lovable people and it makes them happy.
I also remember when Black People first started wearing natural hair – afros we used to say. Talking about public outcry from the Black community. It just wasn’t done. All good women straightened their hair. The cultural norm was to assimilate White hair, or “Good Hair” we called it. I am so glad we got rid of that norm – it was so limiting and in some ways unhealthy. And though some White people still find it uncomfortable to be around naturally curly hair, the dialogue is happening, people are learning and growing, and it’s getting better.
“Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being.” Mahatma Gandhi
Humans are communal beings and not meant to live in isolation. The world is a scary place, filled with all sorts of things known and unknown. Yet, we allow fear of our fellow man to keep us apart. We need each other to survive. Not to be subservient to one another, but to live in harmony, building each other up, providing strength and courage to face the world. We need to work together to make it a healthy place for all.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12: 16-18
We should strive to live compassionately with our neighbors. Not sympathetic pity, but genuine concern for what matters in the lives of others. We should listen, find understanding and share feelings with another. And when necessary and possible, act on that shared understanding to create a better community.