Cruelty and arrogance
can be born from the best intentions.
Moving back to America at this time in our country’s history is interesting. Recently I was chatting with my parents who had a falling out with some of their friends over political tensions. My father made the comment that it would be very difficult for him to befriend someone who is racist.
Living abroad and having had the fortune of collecting many friends from all over the world I grew to know and love an eclectic mix of people, some of who also happen to have racist tendencies- a few of those tendencies were even directed at me. As a guest in these foreign counties I felt it wasn’t my place to be righteous. So, instead of shutting down after hearing a racist comment, I would listen. Once trust was established I would ask sincere questions.
Most of the time the racism wasn’t meant to be hateful. Racism was a way to predict or justify other people’s behavior. It also could be used as a tool to feel superior. Everywhere human beings want to understand what is going on in this world. We also have a tendency to want to get ahead. Racism is a way some folks choose to categorize things and shape their worldview.
Super simplified example: I was expected to be loud because I am American- true story. I was also expected to be hard working because I was American- true story. I was not expected to be a good yoga teacher. I was a joke because not only was I white but also a blonde, boobsy girl. I had to put up with a lot of bullshit and work very hard to prove myself. Personally, I’m grateful for it.
What I dealt with sucked but it’s obviously NOTHING compared to the hardships others face. For some, racism cuts too deep to practice any tolerance and I respect that. But personally, I don’t think I am going to help shift anyone’s perspective by overtly shaming racists or shutting them out. To me violence begets violence and although hateful acts like shaming may work for a short while they tend to plant seeds of resentment and eventually that resentment surfaces with a vengeance.
Life is easier when we surround ourselves by like-minded people. But from time to time it’s useful to get to know your enemy. For me the best way to open people’s minds is by engaging in respectful, honest conversations and forging friendships when possible.