Why does someone love or hate entire groups of people?
They just do. Or they think they “just do,” but it’s a culmination of positive or negative experiences with a group, or stories you’ve heard about the group.
Would small acts of love help bridge the racial divide?
This is America, the song by Daniel Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino is unsettling. My friend asked me if I’d seen the video and I told her I hadn’t watched fully because I saw an execution style shooting coming and turned the video off.
But a few days later, after internet rumblings of his genius creation and my own curiosity, I decided to try again.
Watching This is America left me with a nauseous, sad feeling. It’s discomfiting because of the dance and pep of the song set against the violence and apathy in most of the plot.
I read some critical analysis on the song and video. Mr. Glover chooses not to explain his work. A tactic that is normal and wise for creatives.
Some of the critics discussed the brown and white chickens in the video facing apart showing a divide in focus of white versus black* and brown communities. One suggested that black people need to consider correcting their desensitization to violence and idolization of people such as shallow rappers bragging about money.
The pulse of our country seems hostile and divided. Morning news abounds with cell phone videos showing police officers using unnecessarily forceful actions with black people.
And still, I hope we can take care to stay vulnerable, open and not go into a racial divide, us-versus-them mindset. It’s a scary world out there for many and uniting, not dividing is what will raise us up.
A woman I follow on instagram posted a MLK Jr quote calling out white people as failing to educate themselves on black issues.
Upon reading it, feelings of defensiveness started to bubble up. Then I realized I should think about why she felt that way and to think about the statement from different angles.
Talking about race is considered “touchy” and we’ve seen public figures make career-ending errors by saying the wrong thing. The goal of political correctness may stop friends of different backgrounds to only talk on a surface level. They may have no idea how interested and educated (or not) the person who looks different from them is.
I’m an extrovert who loves people and is very inquisitive. For me, getting to know and find commonalities with people from different backgrounds is usually not too challenging. I try to be careful to ask things in a thoughtful way. Still, sometimes I’ve screwed up and needed to apologize.
That’s how learning and growth happens sometimes; in fits and starts – imperfect progress forward. Barriers break down when we discuss nuances of our lives instead of making blanket statements and setting hard rules. Learning happens when I put my foot in my mouth with a trusted friend and allow them to correct my vocabulary or educate me on my assumption.
In this essay, I focused mostly on Americans and the black versus white tension here. The story plays itself out in so many ways in so many parts of the world. For some it’s skin color, for some it’s religion, for some it’s wealth… We, as imperfect humans, have this way of trying to feel different, better-than.
I hope we can all get more comfortable with being common, good enough, brothers and sisters, children of the universe, children of God. Curious, imperfect, full of love and room to grow.
*a note on why I choose to write and say “black” instead of “African American” – as a college junior I had the pleasure of interning with three women from Indian, Caribbean and African American backgrounds. The Caribbean and African American heritage women explained that they prefer the term “black” because not everyone is from the continent Africa.