What To Do When You Feel Like You Just Can’t

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For the last two days I’ve had a blank page open in my blog editor. Staring at a blinking cursor and not knowing what to do. Writing about weddings and vacations and business-as-usual doesn’t seem appropriate right now, when so many people are hurting. From the sidelines, I am hurting, too. I am scared and I am sad and I am angry.

I am angry that people are murdered during traffic stops.
I am angry that people are murdered for being police officers.
I am angry that little kids are murdered at school.
I am angry that college students are murdered at school.
I am angry that adults are murdered at night clubs.
I am angry that people are murdered at movie theaters.
I am angry that people are murdered at churches.
I am angry that people are murdered at work parties.
I am angry that travelers are murdered at airports and in airplanes.
I am angry that shoppers are murdered at markets and malls.

I am angry at our society. We are better than this.

I am not in a position to post some rally cry, nor am I qualified to speak on racial issues, but I feel I cannot stay silent anymore.

America, we have a problem with subconscious bias. I have it, you have it, we all have it. We are all biased based on our life experiences. We are biased about race, religion, politics, everything. It doesn’t mean we are racist (although some people are) and it doesn’t mean we can’t tolerate different religions (although some people can’t) but these beliefs are so ingrained in us, and in our society, that we don’t even realize we have acquired them somewhere along the way.

The problem doesn’t necessarily lie in the bias itself, but in the lack of acknowledgement of this bias. Admitting it and being aware of it is the first step towards a more compassionate society. When we don’t acknowledge our subconscious bias, or even explicit bias, we are unable to be empathetic towards people who lead lives that are different from ours. And with the events of the last couple days, I just can’t anymore.

I can’t stand by while people try to spread a message that racism – and subconscious bias – don’t exist.
I can’t stand by while people say our society has moved past its horrific past and some people need to just “get over it.”
I can’t stand by while some people try to speak for ALL people, based on their tiny, biased own reality.
I can’t stand by while people value some lives more than others.

Why does our society have such a strong subconscious bias about race? I, again, will not claim myself to be an expert on the subject matter but consider the following:

When my great-grandparents were born, slavery had been abolished only 50 years earlier, after over 200 years – TWO HUNDRED YEARS – of slavery in our land.
When my grandparents were born, black people were free citizens but segregated – “separate but equal.”
When my parents were born EVERYTHING WAS STILL SEGREGATED. THIS IS CRAZY. THIS WAS NOT THAT LONG AGO.

When I was born, the Civil Rights Act was in effect. Schools and restaurants and public transportation had only been *really* desegregated for about 15 years. When I was born, black people were recovering from centuries of inequality. At present time, 2016, right now, black people are still recovering from centuries of inequality. Just because you didn’t witness it during your lifetime doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Just because you personally aren’t experiencing it, doesn’t mean it’s not currently happening somewhere.

Now with instant broadcasts and cell phone videos, we cannot shrug and say we don’t know what’s happening. We can’t say, “I’m not experiencing this so it’s not my battle.” We can see it. We are watching it. We are witnesses. We are ALL a part of it.

We have the power to step up and speak up. We have the power to be allies. We have the power to stand up against inequality and injustice. We have the power to tell our friends and colleagues when they are wrong. We have the power to denounce awful behavior. We have the power to teach future generations that this inequality exists right now but it doesn’t have to. And with every new generation, we become further and further removed from the sad events of our nation’s past and hopefully closer to true equality. But 300 years of oppression doesn’t resolve itself overnight.

I’m not pretending I know everything and have all the answers. I don’t know what to do to fix all of this, obviously. But I know what I can do – I can listen. I can empathize. I can show compassion. I can speak up when I see wrong-doing.

I can give someone a compliment. I can greet all my friends with a big hug. I can clip some roses from my yard and give them to a neighbor. I can pay for coffee for the person in line behind me. I can let the mom with the crying baby go in front of me in line. I can smile at people more and look at my phone less.

We could be angry, yelling about everything into our own social media bubble. That’s what we are conditioned to do. React to anger and violence with more anger and violence. It’s the path of least resistance. It’s in our DNA.

Or we can get outside and try to make someone else’s life better, one smile or compliment or hug at a time. It takes more effort, but it’s worth it, I think.

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