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My Reflections on Racism
The killing of George Floyd sent shock waves across the US and all over the globe. The killing prompted protests and disruption and some long overdue dialogue. It prompted me to do some reflecting.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a big fan of American football, especially my hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks. Recently I read a newspaper article quoting a retired player, Doug Baldwin who is black. He remarked that he is frequently asked by white people, “What can I do to help end racism?” Doug Baldwin says he replies by asking people another question, “Why are you asking me? The person you should be asking is you.”
I think Doug is right and I’ve been asking myself this question and reflecting. I want to share some of what I realized. Maybe what I share will encourage you to do some reflecting as well.
I do not want to imply in any way that I know what it is like to endure racism. I do however have some experience with discrimination. I entered the workforce in the 70’s and even though I held a degree from a prestigious liberal arts college, I was consistently directed toward applying for positions as a secretary or executive assistant. As a woman, I was viewed as a less competent professional and rarely as a potential leader. In the 90’s I was the first woman in it’s 75 year history to be inducted into the Tampa, Florida Rotary Club. Up until 1992, women were not welcomed as members.
That said, whenever I have been stopped by a police officer, I have feared for my wallet and my driving record but never for my life. I have never been threatened or treated disrespectfully in a restaurant, convenience store, or gas station. I drove across the continental United States three times, twice by myself. I was never afraid.
The other day, I pulled my car over to the side of the road to make a phone call. During the 10 or so minutes I was pulled over, several cars drove by. Many of the drivers waved. I never once worried that someone would call the police to report a “suspicious” person was parked in their neighborhood.
What would my life be like if I did have to worry?
In my reflection, I have realized just how unconsciously ignorant and unconcerned I have been about racial injustice – leading to my silent, insidious acceptance. Yes, I knew racism existed but I wasn’t racist. (At least I did not think I was.) What could I do to help?
As I continued asking myself these questions and reflecting, I also realized a deeper appreciation for the design of the human mind. The principles behind how the mind works, level the playing field. We are all part of the intelligent energy that makes life possible. No one is more or less a part of that intelligence. We are all conscious beings with the capacity to experience reality. And we are all gifted with the capacity to think. This crisis has put a spotlight on just how powerful the reality-creating capacity of the human mind is. These principles allow all of us, all of the time to either recycle our thinking from generation to generation or to use our minds to evolve out of the problems that currently oppress us.
And I observed in myself and in others, that the design of the mind gives us instant feedback. When I think about others as less than or bad, I feel that thinking. It feels hostile and fearful. When I remember that we are all the same, doing the best we can given how we think in the moment, I feel that too. It feels like empathy and compassion and love.
Because of the way the human mind is designed, we can always have new thinking and now more than ever we need new thinking.
I need new thinking. This is the biggest revelation of my reflection. I have a lot to learn. It is not enough to “not be a racist.” I am going to learn, without defensiveness, about the privileges that have been afforded me because I am white. I am going to stop being silent when I see inequality in its many forms. I’m going to be a better ally to people of color and those who are different from me. I must also look to learn from those who hold racist beliefs. I can not influence someone I don’t understand.
But mostly, I’m going to listen – listen without the noise and limitations of past ideas. I’m looking for new thinking. Won’t you join me?