I don't pretend to know or understand what it is like to be a person who has been subjected to prejudice. I am a white female who was brought up in Canada, where I have foolishly believed that prejudice or racism was an antiquated thing. In recent weeks and months it has become evident this isn't the truth.
I consider however, things like the Black Lives Matter movement. I don't want to appear critical or insensitive so I tread lightly; the Black Lives Matter movement seems to be painting our entire culture with the same racist paintbrush and that simply isn't the truth. Is there racism in our culture? Obviously there is. When we put a spotlight on the hate then we give the hate a voice and make it bigger than it really is. Mainstream and social media have contributed to giving the hatred a voice. Reports of innocent lives being taken by police officers fill our newsfeed and we instantly have a polarized vantage point; either police are racist pigs or black people are over reacting. Neither statement is true. But when hate begets hate, violence begets violence then of course we are left with a cycle of tragedy that is difficult to stop.
The thing that got me thinking about this in the first place was a video that was posted online by a woman in Seattle. She is a social activist advocating for people of colour who was attending a meeting at City Hall protesting the building of a new police station within her city. The video begins with her filming a white man being interviewed by local reporters, and when she begins to interact with the man, he makes a sarcastic joke that she immediately interprets as "sexual assault". I didn't initially take the video at face-value, so I went looking for both vantage points and my conclusion was that this woman had gone looking for a fight and she found one. Coles notes of the situation: this woman had been asking for everyone's name at City Hall in relation to her protest, the man she video-taped offered her his name, but instead of giving her his real name, he was a smart-ass and gave her an obviously fake name. He chose to give her the name "Hugh Mongous", and she interpreted that as a sexual reference (whether it was or wasn't isn't obvious). She then creates a massive scene and begins yelling and following the man and continues to demand his name. The bottom line: she already was there looking for a fight, he was of the opposing mind-set and so she found a fight.
If I want to find a fight, I can easily find one. All I have to do is go online, find a people group with strong opinions and offer an opposing one. Instant fight! So what is my point? There are always going to be people who have a different opinion than I do. There are always going to be people who believe that black people are beneath white people. There are always going to be people who think that gay people are an abomination and should burn in hell. There are always going to be people who believe that all muslims are terrorists. There are always going to be people who believe that women are inferior people and always going to be feminists who believe that men are controlling, abusive neanderthals. That does not mean that these opinions are right. That does not mean that these opinions are what everyone believes.
The Black Lives Movement and the Blue Lives Movement to me seems like a completely tragic and polarized social war that won't end well. The walls of prejudice are only ever brought down with understanding, patience and a willingness to listen to one another. Violence and disruptive protests only put the spotlight on hate, of which hate is not the norm. Our culture is only going to begin to heal when we stop putting our fingers in our ears and pretending the other side isn't speaking. When we assume the worst in people, that's all we will ever see.
It can be so easy in this day-in-age of instant-news, knee-jerk reactions, 2 second soundbites, and inflammatory propaganda to become offended. The internet age has brought us a lot of useful things and harmful habits and it has caused our culture to become dependant on half-truths and things taken out of context. In my opinion, this has contributed to the overwhelming influx of "movements" designed to put a spotlight on anti-social behaviours. Where perhaps the intent was initially to bring awareness, it has instead divided our free culture. We forget that the freedom of speech that our forefathers fought to protect also allows for people to speak with hatred. When we respond to the hatred with hatred we perpetuate their dangerous beliefs. When we share in outrage someone else's wildly abusive opinions or even share it with the intent to mock or ridicule, we are actually providing a voice to their beliefs. Their beliefs are not the majority and the more we believe to the contrary the more it becomes our truth. It doesn't make it TRUE though, and the distinction is that what we believe to be truth isn't necessarily factual.
Reconstructing our mindsets can be difficult once they have been firmly rooted and established. It begins by acknowledging that we might be wrong. If we can become humble enough to admit that we might be wrong, then we are closer to bridging the gap between ignorance and understanding. That is the foundation of prejudice after all, ignorance and lack of understanding. I had a discussion with one of my friends only a few weeks ago. She and I disagreed on a lot of differing things from politics to food. It didn't diminish our respect for one another. It didn't create conflict or hatred between us, but it allowed us to get to know one another better. When all was said and done, we were able to laugh and joke about our differing viewpoints and we are closer as friends because of it.
The only way to foster understanding and awareness is through open-dialogue, patience, listening, respect and a willingness to agree-to-disagree. I would hope that as our culture carries forward that we would become further enlightened and stop focusing so much on the people who truly do hate, and focus instead on the things that contribute to civilization for its growth and education.