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I would like to note that because this article covers the topic of racism and because I am not black, this article is mostly directed towards non-black people. As a white/Hispanic woman, it is really not my place to give advice to black people on much of this topic.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now, but there are two main things that we (white and non-black people) need right now to understand and combat racism and police brutality:
- Education (willingness and ability to learn/unlearn)
These are things that I and many others have noticed a major lack of. The lack of these two things are significant reasons that contribute to why we have issues with racism and police brutality. With more empathy and education, we can create positive change.
These two things may seem simple, but I would like to dig deeper and address certain points relating to these two things more in depth.
First, let’s start with the first and most important step when it comes to anything in life.
Everything always begins with awareness. Everything. Every time. This is the first step to change. It’s not because certain things start happening or are already happening. It’s our awareness, consciousness and attention to them.
It wasn’t black people being killed by police that started the protests. It was the cameras and the sharing of footage and stories that brought attention to the masses which started the protests. It was the collective realization that change with these issues needs to happen.
Awareness is being in tune to reality and having respect for facts. The opposite of awareness is blindness and ignorance. Awareness is something that sounds nice and makes sense, but it’s uncomfortable, scary and ugly. Change is also these things. That’s why change is hard and we resist it.
A main reason people do not want change or do not think there is need for it is because it involves seeing and confronting the ugly, not just in the world but in themselves. Those people want to be blind to it, especially if it does not personally affect them. So they either resist it with whatever illogic and excuses they can find or they just plain ignore it.
We must be willing to see the ugliness in the world and ourselves. We need to confront it and address it. We need to question and challenge the ugliness in ourselves especially. Change in the world happens when people themselves change. And it starts with each of us individually.
When we are given the opportunity to learn about the truth and reality of the world and ourselves and we choose not to, we are choosing to take the blue pill instead of the red pill.
We all want to be good and believe that we are good, however this can be harmful if we become afraid of being wrong or “bad”. We don’t want to be seen as dumb or ignorant either. We are all ignorant in different ways about different things. We must acknowledge that.
Humans are incredibly flawed, illogical and biased. Being wrong and realizing our mistakes is how we grow. Science does not advance by proving things right, it advances by proving “facts” and widely held beliefs wrong.
As Layla F. Saad puts it, “Your desire to be seen as good can prevent you from doing good, because if you do not see yourself as part of the problem, you cannot be part of the solution.”
This statement is backed by psychology and therapy.
It is also harmful to be in the fixed mindset that you are bad and evil and it is just your human nature. Or that humans will always be bad and evil. I’ll touch on this belief later.
The next topic I’d like to address is the information we are believing, sharing and spreading.
The Media and News
Before we get into education and learning, it’s important that we consider the information we are receiving.
My job is to provide a useful experience to google users. It is a major part of my job to fact check and research the reputation of all the media that can be found on google. This includes everything and anything associated with using google. News, articles, videos, images, websites, google assistant, you name it. I do extensive research for my blog as well when the content calls for it.
That being said, I highly encourage you to check your sources and fact check. News outlets can be biased (most are) and not have factual reporting. Just because something is popular does not mean it has expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Research the reputation of individuals you are getting your news and information from as well. Even opinions, ideas and theories can be dangerous especially if they are based in pseudoscience and conspiracies.
Fox News is a major news outlet whose bias borders on most extreme conservative and has mixed factual reporting containing a lot of inaccurate/fabricated information. I am required to fact check information from a Fox News article or video and not just mark it as having high quality or having high expertise, authority and trustworthiness just because it is well-known and popular.
Here is a helpful chart to check the bias and factual reporting of many major news and publications. For checking the bias and factual reporting of media and news publications, I recommend Media Bias/Fact Check.
I also recommend the article How to Effectively Seek Useful Advice, Knowledge, and Information when doing research.
I don’t recommend watching the news for many different reasons. There are better ways to stay informed so if you really must be informed, I recommend you get your news from highly curated reputable sources such as newsletters. NextDraft is a great newsletter for daily accurate news.
I would also recommend seeking science-based and solution-based news over fear-based news. I personally enjoy news about technology, psychology, new ideas, and marketing trends.
Unless it’s a personal experience, social media posts giving information and news as facts are not trustworthy sources either without fact checking and researching the reputation of the creator.
The believing, sharing and spreading of harmful misinformation, myths, pseudoscience and conspiracy theories happened a lot during the first wave of coronavirus as well. Even if the information is seen as positive and inspirational, it’s still important to fact-check. Not fact-checking can discredit the actual factual information making the same valid point. An example of “inspiring” fake news was a widely spread myth on social media during the first wave about animals returning to canals due to quarantine.
Not only is it important to fact-check and research the reputation, but to pay attention to the narrative that is being told. Pay attention to what the focus is being brought to. What the attention is being taken away from. Narrative is everything. How a story is being told completely changes the story.
This is what Malcolm X warns us about the narrative being told.
“This is the media, an irresponsible media. It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
Also watch what Kevin Hart says about the media and his message to journalists.
Having Hope For Change
With all this in mind, it’s important to have hope amidst all the ugliness that is being brought to light. We must have hope for positive change. Having hope encourages and inspires us to take action.
Many people believe that humans are inherently bad, evil, and violent. It’s hard not to believe it when that’s what our brain focuses on and it’s the media often exaggerates and lies about.
The reality is that most people are good-natured, especially in bad times.
In his blog post, 3 Things The Most Resilient People Do Every Day, Eric Barker discusses the news coverage and the reality of what happened during Hurricane Katrina from the book, A Paradise Built in Hell.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the US in 2005, the news was filled with stories of murder, rape and gangs causing mayhem.
After further investigation, it was found that most of the stories were untrue and just rumors and sensationalism.
Instead, the gangs were there, but they were actually helping everyone out – protecting the women, getting juice for the babies, getting dry clothes for people and fanning the elderly.
Studies show that this type of behavior is not the exception, but the rule during crises. Selfishness is the exception.
Kindness and cooperation are the norm, even in the worst of times.
Charles Fritz writes, “Movement toward the disaster area usually is both quantitatively and qualitatively more significant than flight or evacuation from the scene of destruction…”
In A Paradise Built From Hell, Rebecca Solnit writes, “Many fear that in disaster we become something other than we normally are—helpless or bestial and savage in the most common myths—or that is who we really are when the superstructure of society crumbles. We remain ourselves for the most part, but freed to act on, most often, not the worst but the best within. The ruts and routines of ordinary life hide more beauty than brutality.”
Studies also show that we are becoming significantly less violent over time. Violence is on the decline and has been for a long time.
However, just because things are getting better and are not as bad as they seem, doesn’t mean we should just ignore it and only focus on what’s “positive.” This is can become toxic positivity which I’ll touch on later.
It’s important to have hope for change, but to not have blind optimism and wishful thinking. Knowing that things are gradually and slowly getting better and hoping for the best is not in our best interest for humanity. We need what Eric Barker calls active hope. We still have plenty of work to do.
Learning and Education
Now that we’ve covered why it’s important to have active hope, I’d like to go back to information seeking and focus on the importance of learning and education.
Education and learning is a major part of taking action towards positive change. We don’t want to be taking blind or ignorant action, whether that be in how we treat each other, have conversations with each other or pursuing policy and societal change.
Personal development should encompass all kinds of learning and education, not just the general topic of personal development. It should not just be focused on the self.
It is not enough to just read personal development, spirituality and business books. It is not enough to just be concerned with your own goals and problems.
Personal development and growth only starts with you. It does not end or stop with just you.
When it comes to reading books, it is important to read all kinds of books, nonfiction and fiction.
Read nonfiction. Nonfiction gives us the facts. It gives us truth.
There are many different types of nonfiction that we should read and learn about.
Learn psychology to better understand people and why they do what they do.
Learn history to better understand humanity and the complexity and background of society’s problems. We must realize that are connected to the past. We are connected to our ancestors. Things that happen centuries ago affect how things are today. There is research that shows that trauma can be passed through generations as trauma is carried through sperm and egg.
Learn culture, economics and science to get the facts and understand the impact and influence of many different factors of life as well as true cause and effect.
Read biographies and memoirs to get a personal look into people’s struggles and achievements – people that are like you and different from you. Autobiographies and memoirs allows us to realize the similar and dissimilar experiences of completely different people.
Learn about relationships, social skills and how to be a better human being to better help, love, support and communicate with others.
Learn sociology and humanities to understand human nature.
Learn about politics to make the right, informed decisions and take action towards creating change.
Learn about thinkers and theories and ideas to consider solutions and create change.
Read fiction as well. Fictions tells us stories that reflect on reality. As a big non-fiction reader, I’d argue that fiction is just as important if not more important than nonfiction. Fiction shares life lessons that are more likely to stick with you when there’s a story behind the lesson.
Fiction gives us deeper meaning and allows us to question and challenge many different things. It introduces new ideas and theories that can be easier to understand and digest in story format. Fiction is the closest thing to putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, skin and mind and learning about the experiences of different types of people.
As I stated earlier, one of the things we need to create positive change right now is empathy. Empathy, fortunately, can be learned.
When reading fiction, while we may usually seek out stories with characters that we are like or could look like us, it’s important to seek out books and stories written by and about people that are not like us and do not look like us.
There are many different types of fiction book that we should read.
Read classics. They are classics for a reason.
Read science fiction. Science fiction allows us to imagine the possibilities of the future – the good and the bad, as well as solutions to critical problems.
Read horror. Horror allows us to see the ugly and tells us lessons and stories about human nature given fear, trauma and anxiety.
Read fantasy. Fantasy shows us the power of resilience from the hero’s journey.
Read romance. Romance shows us to appreciate the concept of love and learn about the difficulties and complexities of relationships.
When it comes to learning in general, it’s important to have an open mind. But how can we do that?
Learn to practice curiosity over judgement. Judgement is lazy, simplistic and even selfish thinking. Curiosity is having an open mind to learning and understanding. Curiosity is thinking like a scientist.
It’s important to be aware of our ignorance. To know that we do not know what we do not know.
As Socrates famously said, “I know that I know nothing.”
Because we are human, we have many cognitive biases that keep us from thinking critically, rationally and logically. They also keep us from learning and being open to new confounding knowledge. Learning about cognitive biases can help us become more aware of our biases and help us recognize when we are being biased.
“We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.” – Eric Hoffer
Make sure to also question rules and widely held beliefs. Just because something is a rule does not mean it should be a rule. Just because something is widely believed or you’ve always believed it doesn’t mean it’s true or should be believed.
Educating Others as White People
Many of us who want to help and support have felt outraged and upset about the ignorant, hateful or dismissive reactions of others, especially those we personally know.
When it comes to having conversations with white and non-black people, it’s important that we practice healthy communication as much as we can. It’s also important that with this as well as sharing on social media, we don’t use shame as a tactic to get others to speak out and take action.
This is something that I’ve been struggling with because I’ve felt so frustrated and infuriated, it’s a bit difficult to not want to be passive aggressive and shame others for their beliefs, words, actions or inaction.
The problem with shame, as tempting as it may be for some of us, is that it’s completely ineffective. For everything.
We should instead aim to inspire and educate others in speaking out and taking action. While shaming others can cause them to take action, it’s not likely to create real change like inspiring and educating can.
As far as healthy communication, it’s important that we don’t resort to attacking, name-calling and being hostile and aggressive. And more importantly, that we don’t engage in conversation with those that do.
There are some people who are just not worth the time and energy in trying to have a reasonable debate or informed discussion with. Some people already have their mind made up and are not open to learning and listening.
Move on from trying to share information, experiences, feelings, etc. with these people. Direct your attention, time and energy to those who are willing, able and open to listening and learning. You can’t force or convince someone to do this and, for your health, you shouldn’t try to either.
There are also some people that just lack empathy. It is often a choice to not have empathy. Just because empathy can be learned does not mean that we can or should force someone to have more empathy. This is a waste of time and energy. I’ll touch on lack of empathy at a later point.
When it comes to giving advice to black people as a non-black person, I wouldn’t recommend it for many different reasons (unless they specifically ask you for it). It’s ineffective, comes from your limited point of view, can be a form of seeking control and assumes the person or people you are giving advice to do not have the knowledge or ability themselves.
You can read more in-depth with the extensive research as for why it’s not a good idea in the article Why You Should Stop Giving Advice and What to Do Instead.
Fear & Moral Courage
In To Kill a Mockingbird, a lawyer, Attics agrees to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. He knows that he will likely lose the case and that he and his children will face ridicule and criticism in their town and at his children’s school. Yet he does not let this stop him. The negative consequence he and his family face do not outweigh his value of and devotion to justice.
He does what he believes is the right thing to do and acts with responsibility, integrity and courage in spite of the majority.
This is moral courage.
Having moral courage means having an ability and willingness to overcome barriers such as fear and defying the majority. When we have moral courage, we act in ways that protect our moral values and standards.
We must not let fear of the negative reactions of others keep us from acting with moral courage.
Meghan Markle shares an important quote in a video she shared, “Always remember to put others’ needs above your own fears.”
Many of us are not afraid of speaking out against injustice, but are afraid of making mistakes or saying the wrong thing. Some are at a loss for words and are not sure exactly what to say.
Here’s the thing. You probably will make mistakes. It’s okay. It’s not a bad thing. You are only human. It doesn’t make you bad to make mistakes. What’s important is to learn from the mistakes made and not let the fear of making mistakes stop you from speaking out and taking action. If you do make a mistake, apologize and remedy the situation if necessary.
What matters is that you’re trying, listening and learning.
We cannot be afraid to show empathy, care and support.
It is our duty as human beings to have empathy and courage, first and foremost, to show up for our fellow human beings. Especially those who can do nothing for us, those who are not like us and those who are facing suffering and injustices.
If you have a strong moral and ethic code, fear should not stop you.
The least we can do is listen, practice healthy communication and be open to learning and unlearning.
As long as we are being thoughtful, intentional, sensitive and empathetic, we have nothing to lose.
No one has ever changed the world by being neutral.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu
Relationships & Values
Many of us have had friendships and relationships end. Myself included. I chose to end five friendships this year. Four of them were related to the issues of racism and police brutality.
I formally ended one friendship a few days before the death of George Floyd due to her toxic behavior. I remember afterwards thinking about how I am happy with all the friends that I have now. I have no toxic friends. Only healthy and fun friendships.
I’ve been completely shaken to my core and had to reevaluate how I’m choosing the people in my life. This has been the most transformative and one of the hardest times of my life. I’ve realized that I needed to change the characteristics that I value in the people I associate with.
I noticed that previously I had mostly sought out friends who were fun and good to be around and who were nice to me and seemingly nice to other people as well.
Now, I’ve learned that I need to strongly value the characteristics of integrity, ethics, character, empathy, believing in science and research, having independent thought with an open mind, healthy communication and having the courage to speak out and take action on issues and injustices. I have chosen to no longer be friends with, date people or even be associated with people who don’t share these same values as me.
Of course, I am not opposed to differing opinions and I accept friends of all ages and backgrounds with all different kinds of jobs, cultures and lifestyles, but when it comes to these strong values, not sharing them would be a betrayal to myself, specifically my integrity. It’s not something I want to tolerate or subject myself to.
So, if you’ve experienced something similar, know that it’s okay to complete friendships and relationships. It doesn’t mean that you think that you’re better or superior to them. It is your choice who you spend time with, who you talk to and who you engage with regularly.
Consider reevaluating your values and standards with the characteristics of the people you associate with. The people you choose to associate with should reflect your values. Realize that it is not at all selfish or shallow to let go of people in your life for these reasons. Be kind and friendly to everyone, but be selective of who you give your time and energy to.
Narcissism, Toxic Positivity & Spiritual Gaslighting
I have noticed many reacting on social media with the need to label the reality of many and the discussing of racism and police brutality as “negative”, complaining about it and advising that we should “just be positive.”
This is toxic positivity and blissful ignorance. What it’s saying is, “stop talking about the reality you and many others face. It’s making me uncomfortable.” It’s an attempt to silence voices.
Toxic positivity is denying, minimizing and invaliding the authentic human experience. When positivity covers up, silences, represses or disallows feelings and the sharing of them, it becomes toxic.
Instead of blindly trying to “just be positive” and avoid the negativity, we need to just listen. Let people be heard. We need to open up our eyes, ears, and mind and practice awareness. We need to keep our eyes, ears, and mind open and continue practicing awareness. This should never stop or be a sometimes thing.
We need to practice validation and active hope instead of toxic positivity.
People use toxic positivity to avoid and distance themselves from realizing and experiencing others’ painful reality. It’s selfish and narcissistic. Many do not have the privilege to just ignore the things going on that they are facing and write it all off as being “negative.”
This is not a healthy thing to do psychologically. A quality therapist would never encourage or give the advice to just be positive when a patient is discussing their feelings and experiences. Ever.
This can also be considered deflection if someone is telling us about their feelings because of our behavior. For example, if someone says to another, “I don’t like what you said to me or the way you treat me.” and the person responds, “you’re just being negative. Stop being so negative.”
What this does is it misdirects the attention away from the primary aggressor’s actions and focuses on the legitimacy of the actions, feelings and beliefs of others. It’s incredibly toxic and manipulative. There is no responsibility being taken either.
When someone denies the reality of many people, it’s gaslighting. Gaslighting can also be in the form of spirituality as well which is called spiritual gaslighting. This is when the blame is placed on the victim for their circumstances and the actions of others, specifically the pain and emotions. This is also characterized by the refusal to accept or even hear another’s truth, choices or experiences. They are simply written off as spiritually inadequate.
It’s also a cognitive bias and a logical fallacy (anecdotal evidence) when the reality of racism and police brutality is denied.
Now, when we are faced with someone who is gaslighting, refusing to listen or learn, or communicating in an aggressive way, the best thing to do is to just move on. As I mentioned previously, it’s a waste of time and energy. There is no changing or convincing these people. Engaging with these people is not healthy either.
While some people may have innocent and good intentions (with toxic positivity primarily), it’s likely that when people react in these ways, we are dealing with someone narcissistic.
Narcissism is characterized by a lack of empathy, entitlement, selfishness, and behaviors such as gaslighting and playing the victim (“I don’t have privilege because my life is hard or I experience racism too”). Narcissism is also very resistant to change.
Highly regarded psychologist specializing in narcissism, Dr. Ramani discusses the major roles of gaslighting and narcissism in racism in the following video. It’s a major issue in our society and the difficult conversations we’re having are bringing this to light. We are facing systemic and institutional gaslighting when it comes to these issues of racism and police violence.
Narcissists are the big bad wolf in sheep’s clothing and we often never see the big bad wolf unless we become very close to them. This is what’s scary. Narcissists are often incredibly charming, popular, successful, attractive and in positions of power such as law enforcement and politics.
This needs more attention, awareness and education. Narcissism and racism have a lot in common. There is an important link and pattern going on. I had been noticing this myself personally before Dr. Ramani’s video. Pay attention to how others around you are reacting to these issues going on the world.
Considering New Ideas for Change
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage
We must remember that being afraid of change is a human thing, but we can’t let this fear stop us from considering new ideas for change.
We cannot fear new ideas, easily dismiss them and write them off as radical.
Many ideas and theories that benefit us today were written off as radical in the past. This has occurred throughout history. Humans are afraid of change and don’t like being wrong about something.
Continuing to do the same thing is not going to make things better. New ideas will create positive change. We can’t expect that things will automatically get better.
As Einstein famously said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Einstein never said that insanity is radical new ideas. In fact, he also said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
Considering an idea doesn’t necessarily mean blindly accepting it and implementing it. It means thinking about it, looking into it, and researching it with an open mind.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
We must take initiative and take massive action for progress and massive change. This will advance society faster to create a better world sooner for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to experience. We can’t just wait and hope for things to get better.
We should also keep in mind that just because something is a rule and has been a rule for a very long time doesn’t mean it should be a rule or that it should stay a rule forever.
Especially when there is resistance to a new idea, that’s where we need to pay attention.
Ideas that are met with resistance and even violence are a sign that we might be onto something big.
To quote Albert Einstein one last time, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
Let’s have courage, hope, empathy and an ability and willingness to learn and make change happen.
This article is getting long and it’s not formatted perfectly, but I wanted to get it out there as soon as I could. Despite having a lot to say and address, I, like many, am struggling with the right words and structure for writing about things like this. I will likely go back to this and update it with more information and resources or I will write a second article.