Something stirred inside me as she began to sing. My eyes welled up with tears and my heart swelled heavy with emotion; a mixture of deep sadness and immense awe. The melodies and energized lyrics captivated me during the show. A few times tears flowed down my face as I listened to their set.
A week ago I sat in a semi-padded folding chair in the Southern Music Hall listening to Madisen Ward & the Mamma Bear. The experience of sitting down for a concert was foreign to me. No jumping around, no phones out videoing or snapping selfies. Just the crowd and the band, intimately engaged in a musical adventure. They truly did weave a story into my mind and heart. I’m immensely thankful for the spontaneous opportunity to have attended this show and for those who helped make it possible. It gave me the chance to practice the Small Acts of mindfulness and presence; the opportunity to truly listen and experience the music and the message it carried.
Both Madisen Ward & his momma bear, Ruth, are black. The full audience for the show was predominantly white. There were no riots, gunshots, or fights.
The night before attending this show I witnessed a cocaine drug bust in my apartment complex parking lot.
As I was on my yoga mat stretching after the first run I’d taken in a good while, I heard a loud bang. I dropped to the floor and crawled over to the front window. I saw smoke. I saw a tank and two vans. I saw a number of armed men swarm my apartment complex. I went into panic mode, my heart rate spiked. We’re at war, I thought. Something is horribly wrong. Terror filled me. The man in the tank shouted for everyone to get back inside. After realizing what was happening across from our building I calmed down a bit, but my anxiety didn’t subside for a while.
None of the people arrested for intent to sell the drugs were older than 22. All six of them are black.
What makes us different?
There is only one major factor that differentiates the six people arrested in this incident from Madisen Ward and his mom. There is only one major factor that differentiates them from me, and probably you. We all need food, water, a place to live. We all breathe oxygen. We all need love and connection with others. The difference is behavior (action).
The circumstances leading up to their choice to sell drugs are not known to me. Drugs are bad, m’kay? But that doesn’t mean those people are bad. Charlottesville, and our country in general, has a dark history of oppressing minority communities, black people specifically. Oppression results in poverty. Poverty limits choice, persuades behavior, and influences motivation. Selling drugs may have been a means of survival, paying the rent, and feeding their family or perhaps it was a choice bred from following the example of their parents.
White people sell and do drugs. White people are also poor. White people get shot for no good reason too. I don’t believe the real issue in our country is necessarily one of race or whether or not black, white, hispanic, asian, or native american lives matter.
All choices matter
The issue is making an assumption that someone is going to behave a certain way because of their race or nationality. What matters about your life, no matter your race, is the way you choose to behave, your actions. There are so many factors that dictate why people behave the way they do it’s difficult to say that the lives of those who are impoverished will improve simply because they make different choices. Those last two statements contradict each other, but that is the reality of the world we live in and the catch-22 we must address.
Our social and justice systems are broken. They feed off the poor and make it difficult for them to get out of an unfair situation that may have been passed on to them by previous generations. However, people break the stereotypes we hold so dear all the time so how can they be true at all? As a society, we make these assumptions because we are afraid; because we don’t understand. We don’t want to be vulnerable or empathetic to groups who are struggling for fear of losing our own success. We don’t want to admit that maybe we were wrong. We eat up the TV reports, tweets, and social shares that tell us to judge others because of where they come from, the way they look, dress, or walk or because of the way they have treated us or acted in the past.
Evil is a part of humanity and Donald Trump is insane
Every single race and country is going to have bad eggs. Some people are hardwired to commit horrendous acts. Some people are motivated by greed, religion, or desperation, but it is insanity to judge an entire group that shares some commonality based on the actions of a handful of evil people.
Going forward, as climate change begins to wreak more havoc on our planet, drought, poverty, famine, and floods will increase. The gap between the haves and have-nots will grow larger if we don’t stop this cycle of judgement and hatred. We need to join with those around us, despite their differences, rather than shun them. We need to build community resilience. Tolerance is not enough. We need to practice compassion, acceptance, and understanding.
Slavery ended 150 years ago
Yesterday, President Obama commemorated the 150th year anniversary of the end of slavery in our country. Why does it still feel like we’re fighting that same fight after this many years? Are we so blind to the larger issues we must face that we can’t see we must all work together in order to adapt to the drastic changes that are coming? He had this to say:
Be kind to your neighbor, no matter what.
As humans we have evolved beyond our fellow mammals because of our ability to make conscious choices. We operate beyond animalistic instinct. I implore you to practice the Small Act of compassion and acceptance. Be kind to others. You do not know what struggles they face in their hearts and minds. Do not judge those you encounter simply by their skin color, nationality, or religion. Open your heart and fear not that which is different. We need each other now and that need will only continue to grow stronger.
*The graphic at the top of the story represents the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line for all "races." Source