I had a conversation with someone today about Black Lives Matter, not surprising since I write about it almost daily on my personal Facebook page (www.facebook.com/kimolver). We discussed why there are so many older white males, in particular, fighting the concept of Black Lives Matter. The person posed that the opposite of love is hate and I posited that the opposite of love is fear.
If fear is in fact the opposite of love, then what are white people afraid of with the Black Lives Matter Movement? I believe there are several things:
- I cannot accept that I’ve been racist in my actions and beliefs.
- There will be less for me if we actually achieve equality.
- Black people in power will seek revenge against white people.
It is also curious that younger people seem to be joining the ranks of allies and embracing the #BLM movement much more than older generations. I believe white women are becoming allies more than men because they have also known oppression, particularly in the workplace. Nothing like what Black people have experienced, but we can relate to white males having privilege where we do not and are only too aware of white men not being able to understand that.
I also learned that younger generations are not bound by the gender roles of older generations. There are many younger people who are embracing both male and female energy, doing away with the notion that men do this and women do that. There is also a group doing the opposite, becoming stronger in their male and female identities. I believe the former group will be more sensitive to racial issues, as they embrace an undefined version of humanity and turn their backs on the idea of a “default” norm. The latter group of men will be less tolerant, yet the latter group of women will still be more understanding.
Let me be clear, I’m not talking about white supremacists who unequivocally believe white people are superior to other races, often to a point of dehumanizing those who don’t look like them. That’s a different breed of people who are violent, full of hate and anger, create enemies out of what they don’t understand and ignore facts in favor of corroborating their fantasies with others who fantasize about the same things.
I am talking about a specific subgroup of whites who consider themselves as fair to all people but who are actually benefitting from, and apparently unable to recognize, the systemic racism that runs pervasively throughout almost every aspect of the USA. Why can’t they see it? There are several reasons, along with those enumerated above:
- They come from an individualistic culture with independence as one of its core premises; if you want something, you need to work hard and go out and make it happen.
- An individualistic culture looks more to individual responsibility for the conditions of one’s life, while a collectivistic culture looks more at societal factors and the collective group rather than the individual. This allows white people to point to individuals and say, “You just need to take responsibility and work harder.”
- Men in this culture have also been acculturated to the concept of “tough love,” as opposed to nurturing love, and tend to take that stance with Black folks. They believe affirmative action took care of any discrepancies between Blacks and whites and giving anymore will only create a bigger dependence on the system.
Listening to the other side, really listening for understanding, has helped me to better understand their position and perspective. While I still don’t agree with it, I understand where it comes from and how it is the correct perception for them, based on where they come from.
The problem comes from any side of this issue when one individual is attempting to get a person with an opposing view to agree with theirs. That is not likely to happen and only creates frustration for both. The problem isn’t that we are looking for information to change our opinion; in fact, in most cases, people believe they have all the information they need to justify their perspective. When evidence is presented from either side, the other discounts it as lies or “fake news.” This is what confirmation bias is all about. We look for things on the Internet and in other places that support our beliefs. We all do it. Even enlightened people who are looking to expose themselves to alternative information do so, typically, only to be aware of the other side’s arguments so they can more diligently defend their own.
In my conversations with people on the other side, I find they believe Black people and white people are equal. They don’t treat people any differently because of the color of their skin, and when movements like BLM occur, they stir up racism when that isn’t really an issue anymore. They want to hold the individuals responsible for their own behavior. Most believe Derrick Chauvin should be found guilty of murder and serve his time, but they are unable to hear arguments that try to shine the light on systemic racism.
They believe there are more Black people in prison than whites because they commit more crimes. They believe police are trigger-happy around Black people because they are more dangerous than their white counterparts. They believe Black people don’t get ahead because they are used to getting “government handouts” and don’t know how to work hard for what they want. This is their reality based on where they come from.
If we are to solve this problem together, we must first find some agreement on what exactly the problem is. At this point, everyone is pointing fingers at other people to lay the responsibility for the problem at others’ feet. What is the truth? “The truth” will be different depending on who you ask because, in this case, there is no universal truth. There are only perceptions, made up of opinions and beliefs, neither of which can be proven… they just are. A Choice Theory principle is: All we can give or get from other people is information. How we deal with that information is our or their choice.
Determining whose responsibility it is for how we got to this place is counterproductive for its solution. Who is at fault doesn’t change a thing. We need to recognize that we are all response-able (able to respond). If a wrong has occurred, we have the response-ability to ignore it, make it worse, or try to make things better as best we can. We can choose to be response-able for good, bad or ignorance.
I believe the first step is to create safe spaces for people to have real, honest conversations. We must stop finger-pointing and start self-evaluating our own part in this problem. If you have no responsibility for the problem, that’s okay. You aren’t responsible for slavery, anything horrific that has happened to Black people or George Floyd’s murder for that matter. It’s not your fault that you benefit from living in a society built on white supremacy and, for men, the patriarchy. But you are response-able to try to figure out a solution to achieve true equality for all.
There is an entire segment of our population saying they are in pain. Instead of responding with, “You don’t have pain. That doesn’t hurt,” it will be more productive to say, “Help me understand your pain so I will know how I can be response-able to make it better in some small way.”
Writing this blog is one way I am using my response-ability. How will you use yours?