I revised this post based on some clarification I had to my early morning thoughts.
Orlando, Baghdad, Turkey, Paris, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas, they all hurt. What currently haunts my thoughts and hurts my mind is how the events of the past two days have turned from news stories and outrage over violence to a fight over hashtags. fighting over hashtags will not end hate (if anything it simply fuels it.) Hashtags don’t reflect our actions. Our actions reflect our actions. Social media is a double edged sword. While we think it is connecting us it is slowly driving us apart. Fighting over how you’ve posted or what way you’ve expressed that you are outraged by violence is like monday morning armchair quarterbacking. Get off the web and go talk to people. Go make eye contact with someone. Show people their lives matter by doing something that actually effects another human being directly. Join the fight directly. Do something real.
Over the past 14 years I’ve had an opportunity to listen to a lot of people. One of the things I love most about my job is listening to people’s stories. I’ve listened to stories of people from all races, religions, socio-economic classes, political parties; straight, gay, transgender; physically and mentally ill, perpetrators and victims of violence. I’ve heard stories that make my head spin and my heart hurt. I’ve helped people find strength to face challenges that I can never imagine having to face. I’ve listened and I’ve learned. I’ve learned that people are people. I realize that I may sound somewhat naïve coming from a suburban straight white female, but I don’t think it is. each of us is an individual. We are all different and we all see the world from our own lens. Its the human condition. There is only one way to bridge the gaps between us (the ones that seem to be getting wider with each tweet). We need to share our stories. Violence is reactionary. That’s not to say that there isn’t straight-up evil out there, but much of what we currently live with is reactionary. As humans we struggle to avoid what we perceive as negative or weak (hurt, shame, embarrassment, fear) and we cover these emotions with anger and aggression. We stop thinking and react. People get hurt physically and emotionally and the cycle continues and grows.
How do we stop the cycle? How do we stop reacting to images, stereotypes, assumptions and judgments? How do we give a voice to those who feel mute? We have to share our stories. We have to ask others to share their stories with us. We have to listen with our whole being and learn from each other. I can’t see the world through your lens unless you share it with me. But once you share it with me, it can change my lens. It can alter my perception of you, of the judgments I’ve already made or didn’t even realize I’d made until I learned more. It can open my lens to other possibilities, to see injustice in the world and to take each person, each event in my life as individual. It can cause me to ask questions rather than fire judgment. I’ve learned not to make assumptions. When I see you as a person, I might see some aspect of myself. When we connect we find common ground. When we find common ground we want to build each other up, not tear each other apart. When I see you as a person, it breaks a piece off the wall of whatever ism you may be fighting. When I listen to your story it gives you a voice. When we share our hurt it softens our anger and takes power away from fear.
We all want a voice, to be heard and acknowledged. That is the heart of the black lives matter movement: “It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” (blacklivesmatter.com) When we are heard and acknowledged it levels the isms and connects us on a deeper level. This is what we all need as humans. We need to have our stories heard, our hurt acknowledged, our strengths and contributions recognized. We can’t go back or change what has happened but we can chose how to move forward.
Share your stories face to face. Love each other for being different. Listen. Be human.