My perspective on Charlottesville and other acts of hate…
I don’t usually speak out about politics, because as a relationship coach, I can usually see some validity in each side of a debate. And I have stories that “I don’t know enough about the issues; maybe I’ll appear ignorant.”
But I feel moved to share my opinion, to add to the conversation. I want to empower everyone to share their opinions even if it’s a difficult conversation. I have to admit that I am privileged; I want to use my privilege to create more love in the world and empower you to do the same.
Racism is wrong. That’s something that I’m happy that many others are rising up and speaking about. It’s up to each one of us to speak out against actions that others take that violate everyone’s human rights. I feel deeply saddened and angry that so many people can gather in 2017 in the name of white supremacy and condone violence.
And I want to make a distinction between what we do and who we are at our core. I believe that each one of us, regardless of our race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or class is a human being with feelings and needs, and when we commit an act of violence, it is because we’re in deep pain ourselves. That doesn’t mean the violence should be condoned!
But when we see violence, we’re tempted to close our hearts to the perpetrator, and label who they are as evil, rather than labeling what they do. I believe that closing our hearts is what allows dynamics like racism, sexism, or other “ism’s” to persist: when we look through a lens of “us versus them.”
In coaching couples, I’ve found that when one partner does something to hurt another, it’s usually because they’re reacting to feeling hurt themselves. When we get curious about the feelings and needs that are underneath, and learn to meet each other’s needs with compassion, empathy, and curiosity, the need to intentionally hurt each other stops.
In an abusive relationship with violence, I empower the victim to walk away; but closing our heart is dangerous, because we can only commit violence when our heart is closed.
I don’t claim to know what causes someone to think their race is better than others, or that races should be separate. I can only guess that they fear their identity being taken away… I’m NOT condoning violence and I believe violence should be stopped, spoken out against, and perpetrators brought to justice. And I believe that it’s only when we get curious about what feelings, needs, and stories are underneath the hatred, that the underlying dynamic can be stopped.
What can each of us do? Do you know anyone whose views you think are wrong? I know it’s counterintuitive, but I’ve discovered in my years of couples work that if you are able to listen with sincere curiosity to their story that’s deeper than their argument, they usually change their own minds without you having to do it, since their simplistic views don’t stand up to deeper conversation. It requires actually having a relationship with family members or coworkers that you don’t like, because you can’t come into someone’s life once in a while and create deep change; its relationships that build trust and create change. I have some growth to do in this area myself. I’m not perfect; it’s about doing the best we can.
I can share stories of inspiration like Darryl Davis, a black man who has converted Klu Klux Klan members to give up their robes just by listening to them and befriending them, and they changed their own minds. He didn’t try to convert them; he just wanted to answer the question: “How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?” Many of them couldn’t answer that question and in trying to, they changed their own minds. It’s a great story about what it takes for people to change. You can see the inspiring film here: http://accidentalcourtesy.com/
I’d love to hear your opinion! What are your thoughts? What are you taking away from this, or what are you doing to create more tolerance in the world? Share it below.