Experience is the one and only true teacher of our belief system. We may have an idea about certain things – but until we experience these things first hand, our idea of what we believe is true remains our belief.
Any attempt to change another person’s beliefs will be met with resistance, reason being, most people identify with their beliefs; their beliefs are who they are at their core. And right vs. wrong sparks a competitive tug of war. To be proven wrong is devastating to some. They will fight tooth and nail just to be right. And they will justify anything to help their cause. They know what they know and no one can change their mind.
If a man, any man, claims to have been chased by police, the first thought most white people have is, “Well, he must have done something wrong if the police were chasing him.” This belief is based on a presumed thought, not a personal experience.
Let’s ‘cut to the chase,’ if core beliefs were to motivate our actions, we all could be unknowingly re-playing on-going dramas. For example; An innocent black man standing outside a store may turn and see the police heading his way. His experience alerts his fight or flight instinct. Not wanting to be questioned and degraded for doing absolutely nothing, he undoubtedly will turn and walk away to avoid a situation. Simultaneously, police instincts are also triggered when the man began walking away. The police see the behaviour as suspicious and take chase.
News stories of a police chase, immediately and unconsciously re-confirms a core belief [logic, not experience] ‘He must have done something wrong if the police were chasing him.’
Philosophy is needed in our school system. Both rational thought and experience are based in knowledge. But they come from two different perspectives. An idea can bring the comfort of knowing something after you have kicked it around and rationalized it to suit your needs. But experience just is – experience is the wisdom behind the knowing.
Enter the Caught On Tape era. A shock wave has rippled across the hemispheres. It has stunned our minds and punctured a hole in our core beliefs. Seeing is believing! Millions of people around the world have vicariously experienced something only a few could ever imagine and are now marching in protest in full support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Seeing is believing. [Don’t forget to wear your masks]
So where do we go from here? First, let’s take a look at the natural course of society. The gap between generations has always been an awkward balancing act for everybody. With each new generation comes new beliefs! Contention at the dinner table has always put the Generation Gap on full display. Just consider a few examples; the introduction to rock and roll music in the 50’s; the civil rights movement in the 60’s; the free-loving hippies of the 70’s; punk rock, spiked hair and rap music in the 80’s; These are the generational rebels of yester-years who can be guided by today’s generation who seek equality and justice for all.
Knowing right from wrong is necessary in a civilized society. Control by authorities and conformity by society seemed to be the accepted rule until the 60’s. The nightly news showed the unnecessary brutality protesters experienced from police batons, attack dogs and fire hoses. It was sickening. As scary as it was, control quickly regained it’s footing. ‘Be quiet, everything is back to normal. Don’t rock the boat.’ Young children of the 60’s were conflicted. It’s like having a dirty little secret. You know what you saw. You know what you felt. You know it was wrong but you’re not allowed to speak of it. You have to follow the rules, listen to authority and shut up. Shame creeps in. You’re damned if you speak, and damned if you don’t.
Shame is a dirty little secret. For centuries it has held the key to the hidden diaries of our hearts. We think the content on those pages are too unbearable to admit. We believe the exposure would be devastating. ‘You knew and you did nothing!’ Our subconscious mind and our conditioning urges us to draw our shields and remain silent. It leaves us standing alone and guarded.
Alone and guarded in our thoughts is the invisible wall that separates us all.
We all know inequality exists. But participating in a conversation from a guarded position leads to confrontations that quickly turn into power struggles. Yet freedom from secrets is what most people desire. The suppression is self-inflicted. We allowed ourselves to believe it is better to remain silent.
We have been holding our breath and walking on eggshells for centuries. We have pretended to make ourselves feel comfortable by ignoring or denying what we clearly see as being wrong. We all know wrong needs to be made right. But shame seems to over-ride wrong. Shame’s instinct is to hide and the older we get the deeper it resides. Shame makes us turn a blind eye; swept it under a rug; brush it aside, and; pass it to on like a hot potato. Wrong is easy to see. But shame is more difficult to uncover when it’s been buried for so long.
The veil of secrecy has been lifted. George Floyd’s death has removed the blinders. Many white people are attempting to cleanse themselves from the shame by approaching black people and asking, ‘what can I do?’ Good for you – now follow through with the advice you have been given. But please, white people, don’t play dumb “I didn’t know…” and look for sympathy or forgiveness for your lack of concern. If you feel ‘bad’ then let that reside in you for a while. Hold that awful feeling and experience it. And while you experience it – believe it exits. Wear it for a while so you can fully understand what the majority of people of colour experience every day.
The desire to release the shame is the key to opening the door to a conversation that has been centuries in the making. The call to conversation involves exploring theses same pages of our diaries we worked so hard to keep hidden. Today’s generation is applying pressure by demanding change. Everyone’s freedom is on the line. Freedom for those who have been suppressing their shame, but more importantly, freedom for those who have been oppressed for far too long.
Suppressing shame shows there is some level of consciousness – that’s a good thing. It’s the shameless people we should all fear. Shamelessness was exposed on May 27th, 2020, when we all witnessed George Floyd take his last breath.
And shamelessness was exposed again on June 1st, 2020, when Trump ordered the streets in Washington to be cleared of peaceful protesters so he could cross through Lafayette Square to stand in front of St. John’s Church with a forced scowl and hold up a bible for a photo opportunity. A gimmick. Every time you see that image remember the countless innocent people who were ploughed over, pepper-sprayed and fired upon with rubber bullets just so he could have an image taken to portray himself as … God only knows.
We gotta get this right. No quick fix will do. The restructure needs room for growth and future amendments. Don’t confine it, define it and later refine it. The new world wasn’t built in a day and it was never designed for people to have power over others – that idea was only in the mind of the greedy. The new world was conceived to empower people and she has never lost sight of her dream. The constitution was not meant to be mere words printed on parchment – but for every citizen to believe the words and hold them in their heart and when necessary, to take action – to reach for and maintain the civil liberties for All People.
We are all running from ghosts and we are all chasing a dream; the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is being content with where we are in this very moment. Not in the past, that’s a memory, not in the future, that’s a hope – happiness is felt in the present. It’s being satisfied with what we’ve accomplished. And it’s feeling secure and comfortable allowing those who reach it to bask in its glory. Happiness is a journey that can take a life time to achieve. We have to believe it is obtainable, we should spend our days purposely pursuing the opportunity to experience Joy, Hope, Peace, Love, Unity, Compassion, and Understanding. But first, we need to explore Humility. We need to admit to ourselves that we are not as great as we thought. We are not as whole as we thought. And we are not as united as we thought. With this new BELIEF we can turn the page and start a new chapter where we all have an opportunity to experience a whole new world.