Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Racism: Why are we so afraid to talk about it?

Racism has been a common topic of conversation on Facebook and the media in recent months.  I have seen it most recently in the case of Ahmed Mohamed: the boy who brought a clock he had made to school and was arrested.  Many notables spoke up in support of this student and to share their stories of being victims to racism.  Anyone who followed my Facebook posts will know that I believe that racism was involved because of the actions taken by the teachers, administrators, and police.  Their responses were not consistent with what is standard procedure for bomb threats.  Yes, we have to protect all of our children in the school; so I wonder why they didn't evacuate the building.  Since they didn't do that, I have to question why this student was treated in such an egregious manner.  In questioning, I have to look at many different reasons this could happen, and racism is one of those reasons.

In our time of instant, digital media, we are constantly receiving information about events in our world.  Many are quick to label actions by stating that someone's civil rights were violated due to their sex, sexual preference/orientation, faith, age, or race.  What I'm discovering is that we are more open to discussing the first items on that list, but we are often afraid to discuss race.  Disturbingly, I have found that the ones who are so afraid to have these discussions are white people.

Let me begin by saying that I am a white woman who has grown up with white privilege.  I am well aware of it, because I have had glimpses of the lives of those who are not so privileged.  While I am not an expert, my experiences as a teacher and my connection with my students have served to educate and inform me about life in poverty, having a different faith or skin color, or having a sexual orientation different than mine.  I am a product of a lifetime of experiences, and I view the world around me through the lens of those experiences.

My friends of all races may not agree with what I'm writing in this blog, but I feel compelled to write about my observations and beliefs in the hope that I can inspire others to let go of their fears.  I will not pretend to have all of the answers, but I do see a pattern.  Friends of color are talking about racism and do not shy away from the conversation.  However, many white people discount racism, sometimes to the point of denying its existence, and do not want to talk about it.  I'm convinced that it is fear: fear that they will say the wrong thing, fear that their world will change, perhaps even fear that they may be labeled racist.  These fears should not stop us from examining events for racism or having conversations to test these ideas.

It may be a surprise to some of you, but racism is not exclusive to the white demographic.  It can occur in all cultures throughout the world, but I think that whites in the United States have the mistaken idea that racism only refers to them.  It doesn't!  You will be able to find racism in all cultures if you look for it, but I think this is a major reason why whites are so afraid to talk about it.  That is tragic, in my opinion.

Whenever situations occur like the one in which Ahmed Mohamed was involved, we have to look at the facts and ask ourselves: did this happen because of his sex, sexual preference/orientation, age, faith, or race?  We have to set aside our fears and examine the potential causes.  If this was my child, I would want that for him.  I would want the same for your children.

I grew up during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.  So much was accomplished during those difficult times by very brave people who weren't afraid to shine a light on prejudice and racism.  We became a better country and better people as a result.  Unfortunately, racism did not go away.  Instead, it became hidden away.

Recent events are beginning to again shine the light on prejudice and racism.  I believe that is a very good thing.  It is how we will grow and change and evolve as caring people who support everyone's rights, and white people have to be part of that change.  We have to set aside our guilt and fears.  We have to join the conversation even when we don't agree.  When we hear people saying that something happened as a result of racism, we have to take a breath, admit that it is possible, examine the facts, join in the conversation, and express our opinion.  We won't all agree, but we will be better for having had the conversation. We might learn something we didn't know, begin to think in new ways, and will definitely be better prepared for the next time. So, let's start having these conversations with respect for one another in the hope that we can build a better world for our children and their children...for our future as a humane, caring, accepting world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


I am amazed at how many people comment that they are thinking of leaving Facebook because of the negativity there.  Now, I am not surprised that there are negative comments.  What surprises me is that someone would let this interfere with their enjoyment of Facebook!  It makes me wonder both what purpose Facebook serves for them and how they handle negativity in their lives.

Let me start by saying that I really enjoy Facebook for many reasons.  First, I find it a very easy way to stay connected with people.  I can share in their experiences, commiserate and support them when life is difficult, and celebrate when something exciting happens to them.  Second, I am a very visual person and enjoy seeing the pictures that others post.  I also like to take pictures and find Facebook a way to share them with others.  Third, I think that Facebook forces me to look at new and different viewpoints.  Obviously, everyone doesn't believe the same things that I do.  This is a very good thing.  It adds richness and texture to the world we live in.  Facebook is a great way to learn about these opposing views.  

These opposing views give me an opportunity to examine other beliefs and keeps me open to a diversity of ideas.  It helps me grow as a compassionate human being.  While I may not change my beliefs, I usually have a better understanding of an issue or point of view.  If I leave emotion out of it and refuse to become entrenched in defending my own perspective, I often find that I have an appreciation for a differing viewpoint even though that hasn't been my personal experience.  These interchanges expand my thinking, open up my world, teach me to have empathy for people irregardless of circumstance, and help me respect the rights of others to have their own points of view. 

I have also learned that it is best to limit my interactions in a heated conversation where there are opposing views.  If I choose to comment, I make the decision to do so knowing that I may get some nasty responses-always from people I don't know.  I strongly believe that everyone has a right to express an opinion.  I've learned to do so only if I feel strongly that I need to share mine AND I'm prepared to deal with the negativity.  Otherwise, I read the dissenting comments so that I know what others believe, and then I move on!

We don't all agree on everything.  My friends display a diversity of beliefs regarding politics and religion-both topics that can become very emotional.  However, I read what they post so that I have opposing views which makes me reexamine my own beliefs.  I think this is a good thing.  I don't ever want to become so entrenched in an idea that I can't take it out of its box to see if it still fits.  As I have changed over the years, so have my ideas!

I am fortunate that my Facebook friends are people who tend to be very positive in their outlook.  There are times when someone might post something negative about their day, but this signals that they need someone to empathize in the moment.  I have also made a practice of only "friending" people I know or those who have been recommended by someone.  This has probably made my Facebook experience very positive.  I am also retired now so I don't have to protect my professional persona.  

I make a point of surrounding myself with positive people in my life.  It's a conscious choice!  I do the same with Facebook.  For anyone who is thinking of leaving Facebook due to negativity, look at the people who are your "friends".  Are these negative posts from people who just have opposing views that make you uncomfortable or are they truly bringing you down with their negativity?  If it's the latter, remove them as a "friend".  I can think of only twice when I have removed someone from my Facebook Friend list because they were too negative, but this action helped me maintain a positive experience.  I recommend using this option to make Facebook enjoyable for you.  
You can control the negativity by choosing your Facebook friends wisely.  So don't let the negativity win!  Stay on Facebook.  Keep posting and sharing: I'll be happy to share in your life.  Even more importantly, stay on Facebook so that you can keep learning about the wonderful lives around you with all of their differences and commonalities.  Look around for the positive voices, the posts that make you smile, and the videos that make you laugh.  They are there!

Have you found your joy today?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hello! I'm back...

Hello!  It's hard to believe, but it has been almost 2 years since I last wrote a post for this blog.  I'm not sure why it's taken so long for me to get back to writing.  It's certainly not that my life has been boring so I had nothing to write about!  It's probably just the opposite: my life has been so full that I haven't had time or the right frame of mind or the right environment.  If you are a writer, you will probably know that you need quiet and calm to create.  Despite the fact that I'm retired, I have had only rare moments of quiet that are conducive to writing.

I tend to write at night.  It seems to be the time when I am most creative.  However, night time is usually the time when I socialize.  I often spend time with my adult son talking and/or watching TV.  My husband and I also have a pretty active social life: going out with friends, attending live performances, experiencing new restaurants, taking short road trips to explore and geocache.

Whatever the reasons, I have missed writing.  I miss crafting the words to express ideas.  I miss finding visuals to go along with my writing.  I miss the rare interaction with readers.  I've had a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head for awhile but never got to the point of writing them down.

This past weekend we had dinner with a friend who writes for a living.  I had so much fun talking with her about a wide variety of topics, and it made me realize that it's time to start writing again.  So, I'm back...  

Have you found your joy today?