The past week has felt so sad and heavy. The energy feels thick with grief and despair.
People are angry. They are, quite rightly, angry that being black still means you get treated differently to the point that a casual day out could cost you your life.
They are angry at those who follow up #blacklivesmatter with #alllivesmatter. I have to admit, at first I didn’t understand why a hashtag embracing everyone and encouraging unity was pressing so many emotional buttons. So I got my white self informed and then I got it. This may not be the best example, but it’s one that I hope helps any of you who likewise have wondered why #alllivesmatter has caused so much upset.
Imagine a movement that is trying to bring attention to the fact that #abusedkidsmatter. Imagine that people respond with #allkidsmatter. Well, of course all kids matter. But saying it as a direct response to #abusedkidsmatter completely dismisses the specific plight, need and circumstances of those abused kids, and disregards the movement attempting to change and heal decades of systemic and societal abuse and injustice. It is disrespectful, and is a way of continuing to push an important issue under the carpet where it has already been for far too long. So, of course all lives matter. But saying it alongside or as a direct response to the #blacklivesmatter movement that “advocates for dignity, justice and respect” is not appropriate. This isn’t meant as a preachy judgement on anyone who has used #alllivesmatter. I also saw it as a loving and inclusive hashtag but now I see how, in the context of the conversation around race, it is adding to the hurt.
We have to then ask ourselves, what kind of a world do we live in where #alllivesmatter is creating hurt? One in which the alarm clock for profound social and cultural change went off a long time ago.
Rest in Peace Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
Rest in Peace to the five police officers who were shot in Dallas.
Good people are shot and killed every day. Rest in Peace to all of them. We all deserve a better ending than that.
So what can we do about it? About all of it? Racial injustice. Gun fatalities. Domestic violence. Refugees who are treated as less than human. Human trafficking. Sexual abuse. The list goes on.
There is a lot of good happening in the world. In the last week alone, my feed was just as filled by photos of cops being hugged by black people as it was filled with outrage. But this post isn’t about the good. Because sometimes we need to shine our light on the ugly, in order to bring it into the light.
For those not directly working in fields of social justice, human rights and cultural change, in fields directly related to service of the people, the sheer enormity of current events and issues can make you feel hopeless and powerless. Even for those who do work in those fields, things can feel hopeless. But things are not hopeless, and we are not powerless. Not as long as there are humans on the planet with a desire to create change, to make the world a better place.
Every day we come across other people. We pass them on the street. We work with them. We see them at the school gate. We comment on their posts online, or we comment about issues related to them. Every interaction with another person is an opportunity to make someone feel seen, heard, loved, acknowledged, appreciated, valued. Or it is an opportunity to rush to judgement, attack, criticise, mis-understand or unleash fears and beliefs that are based on false ideas. Or if someone isn’t our cup of tea, we can quietly move along to someone who is. This doesn’t mean we can’t have an opinion, or passionately disagree about something, but there is a respectful way to do that. I think especially these days, with so much of our daily interactions occurring online, we have to be particularly mindful that there is a real person reading our comments, or there are real people being affected by the opinions we share in our comments.
It’s also important to ask ourselves where we are acting in similar ways to the kind of behaviour we condone. I noticed something over the weekend that seemed to be happening on a larger scale than I’d ever seen before. I was reading through the comment threads of a few wisdom teachers who had posted about the recent shootings. You would assume that most people on those kinds of threads are relatively conscious, and are coming from a place where they have done a considerable amount of inner work. One teacher had made a post about the police officers who were shot in Dallas. It was a heartfelt, compassionate post. Angry reply followed angry reply, all asking how dare she post about the police officers while ignoring the deaths of Alton and Philando? People were threatening to burn her books, accusing her of obviously having put on a ‘show’ for the last 30 years. Well guess what. She HAD posted about Alton and Philando a couple of days prior, only those commenters clearly hadn’t bothered to scroll down her feed to find the post.
We are outraged when someone is harassed or worse, due to people being too quick to judge and condemn. Yet here was that energy of very quick judgement and condemnation, in a supposedly ‘conscious’ space, being directed no less not toward an unknown scary ‘other’ (not that that is ever an excuse) but toward a known person who has a truckload of words and actions and talks and video broadcasts as pretty good evidence for what she stands for. Yet it took a commenter just a few seconds to decide that the woman she had been following for THIRTY YEARS was ‘obviously’ a phony, even though she admittedly loved and admired her work, just because she didn’t even think to scroll down the teacher’s page feed!!!
Another beautiful teacher made the ‘mistake’ of sending her thoughts out to a bunch of countries going through some major troubles. The response? More outrage. “What about such and such country?” “I am unsubscribing because you didn’t mention that country!”
If we, as conscious people, can’t keep our shadow projections and judgements in check, seriously what hope do we have?
If we tear down good people so quickly and easily, we really will have only ourselves to blame when we are left in a world that is desperately wanted by those who prefer darkness.
There are so many terrible things going on. If we have outrage in us, let’s save it for those who truly deserve it. Where we see someone genuinely offering a bit of light, we can choose to extinguish it if we feel it isn’t good enough, or we can add to it by pressing like, or saying thanks, or if it truly does bother us that a certain country or issue isn’t mentioned then let’s step up to the plate and use the opportunity to add the info ourselves: “By the way, don’t know if you are aware, but xyz is happening right now in country abc, just wanted to share.” More than likely someone will reply saying “Thanks so much for sharing that with everyone, the info is appreciated, let’s add that country to our thoughts.”
Aesop said “United we stand. Divided we fall.”
Never has that been more true.