As many of you have written over the last few weeks, I am at a loss today as far as what to post. My head is swirling with phrases, statements, admissions, and retorts but none seem to say what I would like. Nor do I relish the swift backlash that social media tends to release on those of us who might fail to say what others want. It is for this reason, saying nothing is often better than saying something. But, in doing so, we who are silent are accused of being part of the problem. Silence sometimes means contemplation and reparations in one’s own way. It does not always mean ignorance or apathy. I do not believe that support for the BLM has to be public to make it count. That is a fallacy. I also believe that life experience is important. I am seeing many young people speak out about things that they might not fully understand due to a lack of life experience. The phrase, “be careful what you wish for” springs to mind loudly.
Being in my mid-50’s, I have life experience that informs my views. I used to be a nurse. In nursing school, during my baccalaureate curriculum, we focused on seeing the person as a whole, undetermined by their skin color or socioeconomic status or cultural practices or ethnicity. As I nurse, I worked almost solely with indigent individuals from oppressed communities. I did so because I found it satisfying. I viewed myself as a helper, which is a role I still identify with today. Many of the people I was in contact with as a nurse were Black or Latino. I worked in “their” neighborhoods and tended to “their” problems. I like to think that I provided care for them the same as if they had been white. At least, I hope I did. We were educated to do so and I know I tried even though I might not have had a comprehensive understanding of their plight and struggles. After all, I did not walk in their shoes; I was and am white. But, it struck me while working in downtown Baltimore that many of my co-workers were not white and still not experiencing the same struggles as the patient population we saw and treated in East Baltimore. They lived outside the city, just as I did. But, I do think they had a better understanding of the struggles their fellow black community members faced.
The system was not perfect then and is still not now. Maybe, it is even worse than it was in 1990 when I worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital and University. I know I had, and still have, biases. I wish I didn’t. However, my biases are formed by my experiences, just as they are for others – black or white. I know I have felt misunderstood, existed on the fringe of groups – even here in the so-called “friendly midwest”, have been judged by other people in our community for medical-legal reasons, and experienced extreme frustration when I was only trying to help a specific segment of our population – the gifted. I know I have found myself in the “wrong” place several times in my life. This happens to all of us, no matter our skin color. I think that is a fact of living.
George Floyd was murdered. It was wrong. Those who committed the crime should be held accountable for it in the most serious sense. But, those were “bad” police officers, just as there are “bad” doctors, “bad” lawyers, and “bad” teachers. We cannot, and must not, lump everyone together. This is part of the very problem that we are trying to address right now.
Reform? Yes. Re-structure? Yes. Re-examination of our belief systems? Yes. Holding ourselves accountable for our actions now? Yes. But, we cannot, and must not, abandon structure. Structures and systems can be re-organized and re-built. However, we cannot go without them. If we do, I believe chaos will result. It will be worse chaos than we have now; I assure you.
Do what you have to do to increase or augment your understanding of social bias. Do the reading, stating, verbalizing, condoning, conversing, or peacefully protesting you need to do. But, do not assume what you feel you need to do is what everyone needs to do. Yes, some of us have been quiet. I have not been entirely so, for I have made some statements of support of the BLM and recent atrocities here on my blog (which I have tried and will return to trying to make non-political, non-preachy, and non-partisan). I am in search of learning from my own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others. I also hope to grow in understanding and shed bias. Time will tell how well we all do on our individual soul searching – whether publically shared or not. I hope it all makes a difference.
While I know for some it is “freeing” to speak out in loud voices, or with marching feet, I also realize that others handle this time of upheaval in different ways – also doing what they need to do (in perhaps a quieter more contemplative way). This is part of living in a free society. Whether you voice your opinion for others to hear or not is really up to you. Your feelings, beliefs, and actions are based on your own experience and driven by your own values. We all need to take that into account and work together to peaceably tolerate our differences going forward, instead of looking back.
Today is Slice of Life: Tuesday. Thanks to TwoWritingTeachers.org for hosting this supportive forum in which we can share our writing and ideas.