When I first thought about writing this post, I had ideas of how we all need to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic: with respectful and effective dialogue, with allowing scientifically based facts to dictate our discussion and courses of action, with acknowledging that fear and fear masked as anger can cloud our thinking and pressure our decisions, with appreciating the hurt and pain and suffering that others have gone through, and with respect for differences of opinions and health/life risks. This only occurs by creating safe places and spaces for discussion and interaction.
Although this process is still necessary and important, it has taken a backseat to the current national crisis caused by another act of police brutality against a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis. Protests have occurred in many cities across the country, some violent and destructive, but mostly non-violent and passionate. This has raised questions for us as a country.
What do we do? What’s the right way to respond? Does it matter what the color of our skin is in order to have a “right way” to handle this situation? Should I just shut up and listen because I’m not black and can’t relate to the plight of layers and layers of discrimination and prejudice? Or should I speak up as well about this social injustice even if I can’t empathize directly with it? If I’m black, or non-white, what do I need to do to get the attention for way-overdue change? Are we still a country that is United? Or were we never really that country that has been United? How can people have their voice heard and valued? When/how can we feel safe? Where is our individual and collective soul on this issue? Where is God in all of this? And many more questions as well.
By nature, I am a person who can easily see both sides of a situation and try to find common ground for people to walk on to work towards a mutually agreeable solution. I am sensitive and intuitive but also grounded and practical. It generally serves me well in my work because I try to synthesize various perspectives and opinions and help others move toward consensus building/win-win resolutions, healing and reconciliation.
But I know that this doesn’t always work, including in my own life. When I have unresolved conflicts and emotional pain that haven’t been worked through, when I am stubborn, prideful, or defensive by being offensive or “shutting down,” I lose my perspective to see the validity and value of the other’s side. I can’t relate any more. I can’t even begin to empathize with their situation because I am stuck on being right and the other side being wrong.
Whether we are talking about different opinions and attitudes about the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. or police brutality or overall discrimination against people of color (and I am aware there is a distinct connection/overlap with the victims in each situation), the focus needs to be on what I started this post with:
- acknowledging that fear and fear masked as anger can cloud our thinking and pressure our decisions,
- appreciating the hurt and pain and suffering that others have gone through,
- accepting that righteous anger and assertive expression are valid ways to express the passion of this deeply disturbing condition,
- respecting the differences of opinions and health/life risks of others,
- but especially creating safe places and spaces for respectful and effective dialogue and action that responds to questions and concerns that all of us have.