Feeling helpless in the face of the
Pandemic Racial Tensions?
It is normal to feel helpless in the face of something as huge as both the Pandemic and the current atmosphere of Racial Tensions. Both are national in scope, and in some cases international. Sometimes, if you can do even one thing, or more than one thing, it can help make a difference. You and I can help to make a difference right where we live.
The required disclaimer is, that I write as a white woman who is over the age of 55. I do not know what it feels like to be a black person. I only know what I see and hear in the news media and social media. The chances of my being stopped by a member of a police force for simply “driving while white,” is unlikely. That being said, I want to offer some suggestions that I think can help to make a difference.
The second disclaimer is that it is, not unlike the Commandments, it is difficult to phrase them all in positive language. Here goes:
Stop sharing negative posts on Social Media. Why? They are designed to stimulate animosity and limit communication and compassion. If you doubt that, pay careful attention to the photograph that accompanies the post, and the responses that it garners. The result is little better than an inflammatory tweet. It is like throwing gasoline on a fire.
There is a difference between protesting and rioting: I do not know anyone who thinks that rioting, looting and violence will solve anything, and those actions are upsetting. They also get in the way of our being able to hear the pain and anger of the protesters. Not all protesters are rioters and not all rioters are protesters.
Some people are taking advantage of the situation and are intentionally making things worse. Please do not let that stop you from hearing, learning, speaking up and acting in positive ways.
Do not engage the haters. They will not listen to you and you will be wasting your breath, and perhaps even making them happy because they succeeded in getting you riled up.
It is okay to “agree to disagree” with someone. It is okay to walk away from an unproductive conversation. I would go so far as to say it is healthy to do so, when you cannot come to an understanding or a meeting of the minds.
Don’t be dismissive. Have you ever shared a story of a deep, personal pain with someone only to have them dismiss your feelings, hurt or experience? Sometimes people say things like, “You think that is bad, wait until I tell you what happened to me!” I know that has happened to me; and I know that I have probably done it to others. It may be unintentional, of course, but it hurts nonetheless.
From an outsider’s perspective: When you look at the protests, riots and demonstrations and ask, ‘How is this helping the Floyd family?’ Try to understand that the initial response that sparked demonstrations was in response to the murder of Mr. George Floyd. It was for many people, the last straw, on top of many other last straws.
There is a significant list of similar deaths that have occurred in the last eight years. I see the demonstrations and protests as responses to a combination of all of that; the murder of George Floyd and many others. Say his name. Learn their names. They mattered. They were somebody’s son or somebody’s daughter.
Seek Understanding: Have you ever said in response to the statement, “Black Lives Matter” “All lives matter,” or “Blue lives matter” or something like that? The “Black Lives Matter” movement is in response to the large number of black people and black bodies that have been murdered or killed by police. It is it’s own statement and does not need to be edited by us. It is a statement that tells a story and deserves to be respected.
It does not mean that all police are bad or evil or murderous. But there are sufficient document cases where this has happened, and for the most part gone unpunished. The last time I checked, the role of “judge, jury and executioner” is not accorded to police at any level. I do realize there are circumstances when the taking of a life becomes necessary in the performance of their duties. Black Lives matter!
Taking a Knee at a football game: People I know, love and care about have been upset with this demonstration of protest in National Football games. I am sorry that I kept silent. I did not want to offend them.
Those I know who vocalized their frustration, and perhaps anger, saw this action as disrespecting the flag. I wish I had said, as often as necessary, that it was an act of silent protest in response to the frequent loss of black lives at the hands of unethical police practices. Protest is still a civil right. Football players taking a knee in protest on a national stage could have started a needed conversation. We just did not hear what they were trying to tell us.
“I am not a racist.” I do not know anyone who is racist. But there is a difference between not being racist and being anti-racist. The distinction may seem subtle to those of us who are not inclined to be activists.
In not being a racist, most of us would not think to do anything against a black person. But it is time to do something positive: Be an ally; educate yourself about the problems of racism, and racial injustice. I will include some resources at the bottom of this post and hope you will seek others on your own. Perhaps through your local library, your church or clergy person.
Make Friends with someone who does not look like you. This can be a challenge where I live and serve, because our communities are pretty white. Our churches are pretty white, too. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been quoted as saying that 11:00 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in the United States. Fifty plus years later, that hasn’t changed from what I can see. So, maybe it takes effort, but it should not be impossible.
Listen to someone’s story of racism. Do not interrupt, do not counter share, that is counter with your own ‘you think that is bad’ story. Just listen. Perhaps if more of us had listened things would not have gotten to this point.
I know that I am not always a good listener. I am such a talker, that I get in my own way. When we listen, we are supposed to be paying attention to the words that are being spoken and the feelings that are being shared, not listening for a place where we can jump in and talk. Just Listen.
Don’t just tweet, or post or make a poster. Resolve to do something positive to be part of the solution. These are all simple ways to overcome that feeling of helplessness and I believe we can make a difference. We can learn to know better and then do better.
Not holding back the tide,
Some resources worth exploring: