I see the misconceptions between couples, those who supposedly know each other as well or better than anyone else, and have vowed to love and protect, care for and honor until they are parted by death. I see the pain and damage done between two people who don’t understand each other. If we can’t get our own house in order to learn to listen, give empathy, to love and honor differences, how do we reach beyond to be inclusive with people from other cultures we don’t understand and are perhaps afraid of?
I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan during the 1960s. The civil rights movement was alive and well, and my siblings and I participated in marches. It doesn’t seem like much has changed for people of color (or women for that matter) in these intervening decades.
My mom had black boyfriends who lived with us while I was growing up. (Christmas 1972.) For a time we lived in a lower flat of a house where the tenants upstairs were black, Indian, white, and others I don’t remember. Yet I don’t have black or Hispanic friends now. I have white, Asian and Jewish friends. I have to ask myself why that is.
I have clients from many ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, and many are cross-cultural couples themselves. When I don’t know or understand their culture, I ask them to educate me. They are the experts of their culture or ethnicity.
It is truly the responsibility of those who have privilege to work to make this better. It is not going to be solved today; it will take many people, many years, and yet it begins today. It will take action and financial support if you can. We each have to look at our internalized prejudices and fears, and gather accurate information to replace our ideas that have no backing in fact. For example, misconceptions about whom in America uses welfare, Medicaid, etc.
Then we take baby steps to improve ourselves. This is not comfortable. Change and growth isn’t comfortable. It’s not meant to be. Yet it is critical, crucial.
Take a look at this Equality Wheel and the Power and Control Wheel to further understand the patterns that are used by one over another. These were created for domestic violence, but I think they translate to social equality and power and control.
You don’t have to fix everything (or even anything). But you can help. Maybe you will meet someone of color and ask good questions about what help is needed (don’t assume you know) and then implement a change. Figure out how you can help even one person and begin immediately. Maybe you will mentor someone. Maybe you will donate to Second Harvest. Maybe you will get into politics on a local level to work on change here. Maybe you will help someone get an education.
Be creative. This Valley and the Bay Area overall is full of amazing people with incredible minds and ideas. Put yours to use for the betterment of this racial disparity. I have faith in you.
Be kind to yourself, your partner, your family, your community. Things feel more polarized than I have ever noticed, despite the times I’ve lived through of civil rights, the Women’s movement, the environment, and so on.
We are all on this whirling planet together, with so much beauty and pain all around.
How do you want to add your footprints?
Here's where to donate to the ACLU or the NAACP, or Second Harvest.