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It all starts with listening

Posted on June 30, 2020 by 40 Mile Commentator

A lot of society s ills are because of passing judgment on others using poorly-based, preconceived or just flat out bereft of actual facts to make bad decisions.
One has to look at the quickly erupting racism protests down in the United States and the well deserved finger pointing at ourselves in Canada or how ugly this can get if we don t try to fully understand, respect and communicate with one another.
First and foremost, that means listening and truly hearing what the concerns are of those who have to wake up knowing they will feel oppressed, in danger or being judged by the colour of their skin. We who live with white privilege have no idea.
Law enforcement, media, a variety of protesters are all making news as the violence is escalating following the brutal caught-on-cellphone video death of Minnesota s George Floyd who was being detained for investigation of passing a bad cheque.
The red herring has been thrown out about Floyd’s past history. It doesn’t take away the fact he was murdered live on cellphone camera by law enforcement. And there it is: if government won t make laws to protect everyone and law enforcement not only show contempt at best for people of colour but now are brutalizing them in various levels of violence and the images are streaming for millions to see, this is wrong.
The senseless and cruel death of Floyd, coupled with some other similar recent deaths at the hands of law enforcement has incited protests: some at least attempting to be peaceful and some downright brutally violent.
Police brutality and society s racism upon black citizens in the U.S. is posted on social media with some downright ugly instances. Crowds of people including innocent citizens getting physically hit by police, shot at with rubber bullets, tear gassed — in one instance, a black girl, 14, gets repeatedly punched and beaten up by police. Another horrifying photo had a toddler sitting on the shoulders of an adult with a gun pointed right at him by a police officer.
Worldwide reaction has been swift and angry. Some are saying there is a race war about to erupt in the United States. President Donald Trump is being highly criticized for, if not inciting violence, as journalists found out at the White House June 1, at least not doing anything concrete to calm it down. Racism has been around for a long time. It is a learned behaviour which adults sometimes teach their children or is learned from media.
When one sees the brutality, the cruelty and the madness of the images, why is it we cannot overcome it? For some reason, being a different ethnicity and colour, incites hatred.
Psychologically, racism is based on having control of another s freedom either due to politics, sometimes it is ethnic religious differences or perhaps for some members of society it just is about having a group to persecute.
That is due to perceived notions based on nothing or incorrect information. Do you personally know and despise everyone whose colour isn’t the same as yours? Skin colour differences are just that — a difference in skin colour.
Racism started somewhere. Debate all you want on its origins, the point is there are evil, sadistic, conniving, rude, bigoted, small-minded people everywhere. Every colour, every ethnicity, every religion, ever socio-economic group.
Racism is currently tearing apart American society. Social media will continue to fan the flames of anger on both sides of the fence. That is the big difference now as opposed to years ago. People would get enraged by a scene of brutality, incensed for a while as calls for changes come up and then it goes away. Now, as soon as there is another instance of racism, it sparks that anger again.
Sadly, racism will be difficult to overcome because amongst those who have difficulty with others not the same as themselves, there is no understanding, respect or empathy. Have you ever been in a position where you can look at someone else and sympathize knowing full well what it is like because you have been there?
You drive past the food bank which you have used in the past and now that you are financially stable you don t need to go anymore. However one day, you see a family walking towards the food bank and you feel empathy for their economic plight. Why? You truly know how they feel; you have been there. Maybe you have lost a lot of weight, but then see an obese person being mercilessly mocked. You feel empathy. Why? You have been there.
Whether it be in Canada or the U.S., a caucasian person can’t possibly understand or truly feel what an indigenous or a black person feels during the course of a day. Many things like obvious avoidance by some or just personal treatment in general are all experienced by people of colour.
You can transform your socio-economic status; your weight; your clothing; your appearance with cosmetic surgery. You cannot easily change your skin colour. Unless you have truly lived in someone else s shoes, you cannot possibly imagine their thoughts, their pain, their lives.
The white privilege has been going on so long, for those who are caucasian, the status quo is just what is expected. This elimination of the racial war needs understanding, patience and clear, concise and honest communication.
Those who have lived the Black Lives Matter movement have heard all the cries for change before: especially: maybe it will be different this time.
No one wins with all this violence. The images and video coming from south of the border is something so horrific that one would guess it is from a bad movie. Despite the brutality, strength, weapons and toughness shown in these battles, racism is really based on weakness of the mind.
Until such time as we as individuals can try to understand and overcome this oppressive behaviour, it will only get worse. Forget government intervention, it starts with the individual. If everyone wants change, government will, too. If we want this racism madness to end: everyone matters; but we need to listen to the victims stories, which is incredibly long overdue.
If after that, we can t empathize or know there is a need for change, we are indeed in trouble. But for now, it all starts with listening.
This editorial originated in The Taber Times.

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