Learning isn’t something that necesarily happens magically as an adult. You have to work at it.
Approaching a potentially uncomfortable, or emotive topic from a place of learning is your best chance of both finding common ground, having constructive conversations and evoling and learning something new.
As I see my friends and people I admire and respect shout loudly that black lives matter (because they do) I similtaniously see others retreat. Speaking with them, their reasons are varied. Concerned about saying the wrong thing. Concerned about entering into a conversation that they don’t feel equipped to undertake. Afraid of conflict, afraid of being labelled, afraid of accidently offending.
If this sounds like you, I challenge you take some time to learn more about others’ perspectives that challenge your view of the world. Come at it from a place of learning, and try to understand where others are coming from. Not to argue, not to ‘win’ a debate or force someone to hear your opinion. Just to learn.
The goal isn’t to change someone else’s mind. The goal is to grow your own.
Places you can start:
- Have you ever tested yourself for your unconsious biases? You can do that online in a tool developed by Harvard University.
- Understand that different country’s histories mean that the context for #blacklivesmatter may be different where you live. I grew up in New Zealand, live in Australia and many of my friends and family live in the United States. These countries are not the same, nor are their histories of colonisation. Learn your history. Not the highlights, not the easy-to-digest stuff. The stuff that makes you uncomfortable. The fact that genocide occured in Australia up until the 1950s/60s. That while Maori in New Zealand make up 14% of the population, they make up 53% of the prison population.
- The conversation about racism is not inherently political – it’s not about who you vote for. Yes – some politicians are more/less racist/antiracist than others. That doesn’t mean that your politics define your attitude on human rights.
- Read read read! Here are some starting points:
Finally – and this is probably the most important: remember that not everyone has the bandwidth to help you learn.
It’s not fair to assume that anyone wants to discuss this with you, or has the emotional reserves to do so. Think of it like asking a random woman invasive questions about rape – chances are she, or someone close to her has been raped. She may not want to discuss rape in depth with you at all. She may just not want to discuss it with you today.
So at the point someone raises this with you? It’s ok to ask questions and learn – as long as its ok with them. Again – like any other situation where you want to learn – ask questions, dont’ disagree or argue – just learn.
This post isn’t meant to lecture – I acknowledge that everyone comes from a different background, has different experiences and I think it’s important not to presume you know why someone has the opinion that they do.
There’s nothing wrong with learning and growing and changing your opinion about big subjects.