"But that doesn't mean other lives don't matter."
I overheard this comment while on my walk through Central Park on Saturday.
I saw a white woman through my periphery reach down to grab the hand of a child when I heard the comment. The comment was directed towards the child, an explanation.
It actually made me pause for a moment, struck not just by its simplicity, but the absolute necessity of that comment in understanding the point behind all of these protests. The reason behind all this anger.
It has been said many times already, but it needs to continue to be repeated:
Yes, all human life is precious. But our system has created a situation where some human life has been deemed less precious than others. Such as that of a black man.
This is what I want to believe was the point she was trying to convey with her child before stating what I overheard.
New York City, for the most part, epitomizes the good that can exist in people. And as witnessed on Saturday, this good can be taught at a young age. And should be.
If everyone did their part to teach their kids these lessons, then no parent would have to feel what my friend Keisha felt when her heart broke hearing her beautiful 8 year old son ask her if he can change the color of his skin to white.
Because he is now afraid.
Racism and bigotry are LEARNED behaviors. Children are NOT born to be racists OR bigots.
Evidence shows this learned behavior starts at a young age, and in these studies, as young as 6 - but it likely begins even younger. And as children grow older, these thoughts become even more deeply seated:
Many years ago, I asked my friend Jaffer, who has been in a wheelchair since he was 18 years old due to a car accident, if his very young nephew treated him any differently due to his wheelchair.
He said and I paraphrase, "He doesn't treat me any differently. This is the me he has known his entire life. He just accepts Uncle Jaffer is different and that's that."
It is possible to acknowledge differences without treating others differently as a result of those differences.
Who children interact with and parental views of those interactions have been show to influence formation of biases in those children. This intuitively makes sense:
So maybe I am more empathic towards others because I have always had a very diverse circle of friends from even a young age, and my parents never dissuaded me from interacting with anyone.
And maybe I love New York City because the diversity of the population here mirrors how I grew up. What makes me most comfortable. The type of environment in which I would want my own children to grow up.
So anyone who disagrees with the protests needs to look within yourselves and honestly evaluate the diversity of your friend and family circle. Who makes you the most comfortable.
No, a token ethnic person does not count as "diversity". Nor does employing those of color either. Do not give me any of that weak shit.
I am talking about a group of people who you are close with, who you trust, who you love, who come from different ethnic, socioeconomic, and/or sexual orientation or gender identity backgrounds than you do.
People whose lives you KNOW have been very different than your own. Yet you still treat the same as any other.
If you do not have those type of people in your life, then your opposition to the protests do not matter. They just don't.
Your life experiences have created biases, aware or unaware, that will never allow you to empathize with the protesters UNLESS you are able to acknowledge those biases and need to unlearn them.
And do not bring up the riots and looters when the majority of protesters are actively discouraging them. It is a means by those few to sabotage and distract from the purpose of the many. Be better than that.
But if you truly DO have a diverse group of people in your life who you actually love, then you should want to understand as desperately as possible. then do not be afraid
to speak to them
to admit your own biases
to ask questions
to learn from them.
Learn to be anti-racist. Learn to be anti-bigot.
Because honestly, this should be child's play for you.