This week the school’s newspaper featured an article that both broke our hearts some and brought a lot of food for thought. One of our African American students wrote on what it means to be black in this school. The article is probably the most commented on and shared from the newspaper and it is precisely this that I think is one of the great dangers.
We think that by adding a comment about how sad everything makes us and how revolting we find others’ behaviour towards the writer we actually did something. We get enraged – over the keyboard – at how this could happen “in our school”. We reminisce about when “this happened to me too.” We say, “come on, you’re not the only one, listen to what happened to me”. And … do nothing.
Great leaders in our history have said it loud and clear – we will never be free until we are all free; we will never stop hurting before we all stop hurting. Because “we are inextricably connected to one another by a power greater than us and rooted in love an belonging“. Brene Brown
The plot is simple, yet it takes a lot of courage, in the moment, in an authentic manner, from each and every one of us. Pay attention to what you read, listen, what you allow your children to hear and look at. Oppose any word that can be degrading to any human. Human is the key word here.
“Talk truth to bullshit.”- Brene Brown puts it very simply (apparently) in Braving the Wilderness. She says “first, approach bullshitting with generosity when possible. Don’t assume that people know better and are just being malicious or mean-spirited.” The second practice she talks about is civility: “civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process … it is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions and teacher others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements.”(Cassandra Dahnke; Tomas Spath – Institute for Civility in Government).
Words are powerful tools. Or weapons. And, much like guns in certain parts of the world, are used recklessly and without concern to the fact that we are all human. That is the quality that must prevail. Brene talks about what she believes and I think (as I often do) that she nails it:
“Here’s what I believe:
1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway or Theresa May.
2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters ‘a basket of deplorables’ then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.
3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.
4. When we hear people reffered to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder ‘is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?’
5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photo-shopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photo-shopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed.” There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging fearful people from the right and left are crossing it in unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanisation – the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded through history. When we engage in dehumanising rhetoric or promote dehumanising images, we diminish our humanity in the process.” Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness
“Challenging ourselves to live by higher standards requires constant diligence and awareness.” – Brene concludes. It comes down to this, really, to paying attention to what is being said about our kind. Regardless of whether we agree or not in terms of political, sexual, economic, race views.