There’s something to be said for Kitchen Table Wisdom – you know, like in the old days when people sat around the kitchen table after a meal and talked about life, the universe and the meaning of it all – as well as the gossip doing the rounds in town.
Well, that’s what this place is – a place to share common wisdom, thoughts and feelings about things important and unimportant, that bring us joy, laughter and happiness and that trouble, sadden, confuse and anger us .
It won’t always be PC or ‘nice’. We’re missing out on true connection and chances to grow and change because there’s too little authenticity, too little honesty, too much holding back what we really feel and mean.
Nothing in this was thought to be disrespectful; in fact, it wasn’t thought of at all – there was no concept of political correctness. and as young children, absorbing this through osmosis, without the capacity or experience to think critically about it, without a frame of reference/context to hang any of this on, how could we possibly know that there was anything wrong in this?
Of course, later when I got a chance to look at the world with mature eyes, to learn history, to travel and to think things through, I saw how caricaturish, stereotypical and inappropriate all of this was.
I don’t know if anyone MEANT all of this to be actively racist. not in New Zealand anyway. I get the feeling that someone in education for example, working out a reading curriculum, saw the readers on the market, thought “how cute, kids will love these” and plowed on without thinking it through. while New Zealanders then were inventive and creative and bright and savvy in many respects, they were, after all, isolated down at the bottom of the world, away – in experience, distance and time – from much of what was fomenting in the US.
My point is that as a young child, I was exposed to, and took in, various disrespectful, RACIST images and messages about people of colour, mostly African and, by extension, African Americans. And this stuff gets hardwired into the brain. it just pops up when a cue is triggered.
In 1990, I went back to school, to get a diploma in broadcast journalism. As part of our coursework, we were required to undertake compulsory cultural sensitivity training. I wrote about that here: White Privilege Colour Blindness
To this day, despite that “sensitivity training” and my willing acceptance of the truth with which I was confronted in that class, certain images, sounds or real time 3D interactions will cause a racist thought to come to mind, a thought that was seeded in those early childhood exposures. I don’t know how to stop those thoughts arising in a nano-second. I notice them, am ashamed and I send them packing.
In truth, while I’ve had a lot of interaction with people of all skin colours, from many countries, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications, I still feel confused and foolish when I am around people “other” than me. I feel ignorant and diffident around them. I am ALWAYS afraid that my ignorance will cause offence in some way. that I will do or say something that is unintentionally hurtful, demeaning, perceived as arrogant, patronising, RACIST.
And then I get pissy. I know I’m a good, kind, loving person who honours all beings, who is sincerely interested in deep, meaningful, respectful connection with others, who is not intentionally racist. Why should I be on the back foot all the time, feel defensive in even the most superficial encounters with others who are not like me?
And then, finally, it all comes full circle, when on a Twitter thread yesterday some person I don’t know comments in a discussion on poverty and education (with a sub text that poor black children have it harder than poor white children), that all white people are a plague on the earth.
I guess that might be poetic justice, that a person of colour makes global statements about the white race, just as whites have made global statements about blacks. But is that an improvement, an evolution?
There was a complete unwillingness to acknowledge that oppression happens to all of us, to varying degrees. That I might have more privilege than a black woman, but that payday loans Oregon I have less than a white man. and that black woman has more privilege than a Native American woman. That we humans have ALWAYS found ways to marginalise each other, to get power over each other, since the dawn of time, within our own families, clans, tribes and in relation to the “other”, the “outsider”. We are in many respects, no different to wild pack animals, who have complicated rules around dominance. We pretend we have risen above all that, but we haven’t. we’re just a lot more subtle – though no less brutal – about how we enforce it.
Nothing can/will change until we human beings deal with each other as unique individuals, without all of the baggage history has left us with. we can’t turn the clock back. we can’t undo what was done. in many cases, we can’t fix it, though some countries, like New Zealand, are attempting to right some wrongs and heal some wounds.