It doesn't matter what labels we put with prejudice, be it racism, homophobia, xenophobia or hatred of the newest wave of immigrants.
We are not the colour of our skin. We are not our religion. We are not whom we sleep with. We are not our country of origin. We are not our culture.
These things shape us as our experiences shape us. But one aspect of our lives does not define us.
Today in Jena, Louisiana, civil rights protesters are marching in response to the biased way that the law is carried out in many places in the United States. They have found an egregious case-in-point in Jena where white kids are simply "pranking" and the black kids are obviously attempting murder.
Many factors both biological and experiential shape the people we become. That shaping goes on constantly and we are constantly in a state of flux and change. It is up to each of us to challenge ourselves to look beyond the obvious and investigate not only our own motives and behaviours, but others' motives and behaviours as well. Not to condone bad behaviour, but to understand the place from which it comes and to look at why. After all, theft is wrong ... but theft to feed yourself when you have no other options? It's an old chestnut of an example, but one that still gives many of us pause.
When what you know is one set of rules for the blue-eyed kids ... and another set of rules for the brown-eyed kids ... when experience has taught you that you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't ...
Take a look at this again. (It'll open in a new window/tab depending on your settings.)
Look at these people gathered around and smiling.
Is that any better than treating some people to one set of standards ... and "those people" to another set of standards? Aren't we learning that zero tolerance policies are NOT fair because there are usually extenuating circumstances which mitigate or worsen a situation?
I'll repeat the end of my last post, because I think it bears repeating. If you're not familiar with the Jena situation, please read Eating Crow.
I'm not saying that the boys don't deserve some repercussions. But when I say that, I mean every single one of them. I mean the boys who put up the nooses. I mean the kids who started fights in the halls. I mean the children who called each other names. I mean the school board who eased the punishment of the noose-boys. I mean the people who burned down the school.
I mean the people who look at each other warily from across the street. Is that white dude going to start something? Is that black girl going to start screaming at me?
I mean the white dude who decided to teach them uppity black boys a lesson at the party. I mean the boy who had to brandish his shotgun.
I mean all of us. These are the repercussions for our attitudes, for our distrust in those who seem different from us, for our certainty that "we" are good and "they" are wrong, whatever our definitions of we, they, good and wrong.
And there's a march scheduled now for the unfair way the justice system is choosing to pursue the problems in Jena.
It's a start. Trying to keep these issues at the forefront of people's minds. It reminds us not to be complacent. It reminds us to question our motives, not endlessly navel-gazing, but honestly attempting to look at what we do ... and what results those actions have.
Stealth racism. Jim Crow laws. Lynchings. Colored water fountains. Separate but equal.
Racial profiling. Fear of the different.
I am chilled.
Hey, Robin -
glad you told me to read your Jena 6 blogs - great stuff. Haven't seen a lot of news lately, but seems to me this hasn't been coveredy nearly enough.