Sunday, October 4, 2015

Perspective : evitcepsreP

You know, a lot of times when I decide to sit down and tap out a blog post, I've thought about some aspect of it for a day or more. I think about the title, or the subject matter; I decide whom I think my audience might be and what they may or may not think about the topic or my approach. Sometimes I don't think of any of that, sometimes I don't give a crap what somebody is going to think because I'm just writing down my thoughts...a stream-of-conscious dump into my laptop. But I've always (99.99% of the time) had an idea in my head that I felt compelled to share with my 12 followers, and whomever else just happened upon my blog, either as a result of seeing it on Facebook, or maybe they misspelled the site they originally intended to visit. I don't know.

Today, tonight, I'm flying by the seat of my pants. The idea/topic came to me as a result of a conversation I had moments ago with my wife. And it spoke to me. That's kind of cheesy and lame, but it's true. My wife and I do not argue. We debate about stuff and we talk to each other when something we see or read or hear bothers us and we like to see how the other one feels. Not unsurprising, but my wife is usually the person to start the conversation. :-) She is very good at expressing out loud her emotions and what she's thinking, where I'm much better at conveying that on paper. I don't know if it's ying/yang, but it works for us.

I posted a video, or actually a piece of a video on Facebook today. It was by a fella named Tim Wise, and it was titled, "Tim Wise Schools Audience on White Privilege." I watched the whole thing and posted this comment as I shared it with my Facebook friends: "It's been a while since I've found myself speechless after a FB video. Tim says so much, and makes you think about so much. I was attracted to his cadence and impressed by the delivery and diversity of his audience, while being touched by his words and emotion. I'm going to have to watch this again, and search YouTube for more." Some of you may have seen that post and read that comment. I didn't get any comments on it so I'm not sure who watched it. Other than my wife.

With the explosion of the myriad ways we can communicate with one another all over and across the world, with the litany of arguments we can inspire, and the innumerable points and counter-points of opinion each person with access to a digital soapbox can conjure up, I was struck tonight by something I don't always consider before I hit that 'Post' or 'Tweet' or 'Share' button. It is with light speed that our ideas shoot out into cyberspace, waiting for a like or funny comment of approval, but we don't always think before we share what we think others should find insightful. And, listen, I'm not talking about cat videos or recipes for those nasty almond bourbon blondies your aunt can't stop raving about. More often than not when we post or tweet or share, we are digitally signing that statement and providing our approval of the concept or topic or argument. But what I wasn't taking into full consideration until my conversation with my wife was around: perspective.

My lovely is blonde and blue-eyed; I'm a black male. And I shared a video about white privilege.

Now, on its face, those three things can probably co-habitate without a problem. I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere. A white girl, a black guy, and a video about white privilege walk into a bar... Okay, maybe not.

Where I thought I was being educational in posting Tim's video, the perspective from my wife's point of view wasn't something I had taken into consideration.

The wonderful thing about our digital age is that we can say anything we want. The bad thing about our digital age is that we can say anything we want. Chris Rock can call white people 'Cr*****s' all day long and it's supposed to be taken in stride as part of his comedy and world view. But if my wife or George Bush or my neighbor objected to the video I posted in a way which was unflattering or even questioned why they were continued to be associated with oppression and racism in 2015, they would be labeled as racist and maybe even insensitive to the plight of blacks in this country. I surmise the reason I don't have any comments about the video is because people don't know what to say. And if they do know what to say, maybe they are more connected to the concept of perspective than I was earlier today - maybe they don't have any intention of walking into a trap which I unintentionally set. Or maybe they bypassed the post and the video altogether.

There's a double-standard in the United States where race is concerned. I know for a fact that my wife didn't own slaves. And neither did her grand-parents or great grand-parents. But there is an automation of association applied to white folks and their alleged general condemnation and mistreatment of blacks for socioeconomic and cultural gain. The same automation of association can be applied through the opposite lens when focused on black folks in this country. But where my posting Tim's video was, in my mind, thought-provoking and historical, the other side of that perspective was one of a blanketed application of a racism that is both untrue and unwarranted. How long will our generations have to apologize for something over which they had no control? How long will these automations of association continue to tint the conversations (both public and private) which damn the real progress we could be making toward healing rifts both real and imaginary, socioeconomic and political, local and nationwide?

Does it start with considering yours and the opposite perspective when posting or tweeting or sharing? Does it start with a conversation between a white wife and a black husband about how a video made her feel, and the ability of that husband to appreciate and learn from her point of view? Is it the responsibility of anyone putting their opinion on Facebook or Twitter or whatever to add a disclaimer? I'm shaking my head on that one because that's unrealistic. That wouldn't happen with someone hell bent on disseminating their opinion and only theirs. You can't expect there to be delivered any semblance of balance when the poster is filled with vitriol and an unwillingness to hear out or learn from the other party (and I'm talking about emotionally opining, not taking facts and evidence into consideration). I posted something earlier this week about Michael Vick and for about an hour (maybe more), I was engaged in a back and forth with those who supported him and those who vehemently opposed his actions and weren't blown away by the person he is today. I think we all had a very good, very honest, very open Facebook conversation, and I think that although everyone left the conversation with their opinions unaltered, at the very least we were all able to appreciate each other's perspective. I might be overstating that, but I'm hoping it's accurate.

Here, I am speaking specifically about racism, but you could easily replace it with any one of too many subjects from sexism to the fight for equal rights to the separation of church and state to the debate over national gun laws to the I believe this to the I believe that. Naturally, were racism an easy topic to bring up in mixed company, with easy resolutions to age-old theories and positions, we would have solved the equation by now. But in times when we still harbor whatever it is that we think makes us different, from wherever or whomever or whatever put it in our heads - and continues to endorse its proliferation, and the veritable kaleidoscope of experts and pundits and media outlets 'helping' us finalize our position, one favor you can do for yourself is to purposefully consider the other perspective. You will not always agree with the debaters or the haters, but the benefit of discourse is that even for only a brief moment you can put yourself in someone else's shoes and argue from their point of view, you'll have done more in that moment than those of us who'd sit on our positions come hell or high water. And it might keep you from finding yourself in a place you'd hadn't intended, right or wrong. Not all black people are slugs and not all white people are racists. And neither group should be so permanently and unapologetically tied to a past they cannot undo.

I learned something today.

I hope you did, too.

And the next time you're poised to post or tweet or share, maybe you'll think about me and my wife and George Bush and my neighbor.

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