Where do we go from here? My vote- learn, learn, learn and hopefully grow.
June has been a whopper of a month. The end of May brought us all images of George Floyd being beaten to death by police in Minneapolis. I had tuned out of the news for the most part because I couldn't stand all the news about Covid-19 and divisive politics. When I realized it was a brutal act of violence by a police officer against an African American, my first thought was, "No, no, no, please, no."
I have a slightly different perspective than most in that I was trained as a police officer and federal agent and spent 10 years in law enforcement in San Diego, CA and surrounding states. I met my husband in the police academy. I have many friends in law enforcement who are extremely honest and empathic. I was lucky to have some of the best training in the country. I understand other states have far less.
In addition to feeling the pain and sorry for this loss of life in circumstances that clearly were not within any kind of use of force policy, I feel intense anger that a member of law enforcement (and his fellow officers standing by) could be so ignorant and callous. These actions ruin any kind of positive reactions felt by the public in dealing with fair, law abiding officers. It taints everyone.
I am not going to go into my opinions about how all this should be handled by the organizations and governments that are involved. I do have them, but I don't think that is relevant here.
I feel that my commitment to you as "seekers" is to pass along information and ideas that promote a positive way to seek understanding and healing. That is not all there is to do, but I will take that on as my role here.
Regarding police violence against the African American communities across the U.S. and the world, there is not one single motivation driving people to commit these acts. I went to UCSD and graduated in Psychology. I also have a Masters degree in Social Psychology. I feel my interest and knowledge in these areas informs me about what is going on at the individual and society level. I actually did experiments in graduate school about how race influences people's interpretations of situations. This idea is based on something that is called "implicit bias".
"Implicit bias” exists when we unconsciously hold attitudes towards others or associate stereotypes with them. For example, we often harbor negative stereotypes about others without consciously realizing that we do so.
When you are looking at the larger societal issue, I think it is important to notice the difference between intentional racism and implicit bias. Of course there are people who embrace racist views and are quite conscious of this. However, others who are born into a less racist generation and want to upload anti-racist ideals may still be influenced by implicit bias. The mental process is unavoidable. The good news is that we can learn to limit the effect that implicit bias has on our own actions.
One of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain, just replayed an episode they aired a couple years ago about implicit bias. It is based on scholarly research. I highly encourage you to listen to it. It is extremely well done and informative.
In the Hidden Brain episode, they discuss whether people (and officers) can be trained to bypass implicit bias. I am encouraged to report that there have studies with positive results.
Do not misunderstand me to be saying that this is the key to solving all of society's bais and violence problems. However, it helps to bridge the divide and bring understanding to the issue. There is so much work to be done, and it will take a long time to do. I am hopeful to see the many discussions happening on-line and in the world about what needs to happen. This is all necessary to move our larger culture into a place in which decisions can be made by officers under pressure that are a direct result of a realistic assessment of danger to themselves and others without including skin color as a factor, either consciously OR unconsciously. This also applies to all individuals within a culture.
While protests and intense dialogue continue, Covid-19 still looms large in our everyday lives. Since I have school aged kids, we are reinventing our summer plans. My daughter just turned 14 and I wanted to give her some joy. We had a couple of her friends over and we all enjoyed her favorite Japanese cuisine: sushi, rice balls, mochi, jelly filled drinks, mochi cake, edamame and potstickers.
I will pivot here in the spirit of my daughter. She has given me the permission to share a bit about her journey. As many of us know, June is pride month. San Diego has a lot of openly gay, trans and other queer folk. Last June, I took my kids to the huge pride parade. I have always told my kids (at age appropriate times) that being gay is something some people figure out as they get older and it is completely normal. I tried to be very matter of fact about it and limit the fear based responses they might see in the wild. They were both looking forward to the parade again but of course it has been cancelled.
In the past year, my daughter has expressed that she is "questioning" her sexual orientation. She does not want a label stuck on her because she is not even sure how she feels. She just knows that she is drawn to the queer community and feels a bond with them. I am extremely proud that my daughter has had the courage to question other kids who have made rude remarks about gay people (while in class) and to stand up to insensitive kids who bluntly demand to know if she is a lesbian.
So, in honor of pride month, I have created a pendant that shows my artistic contribution to being a queer ally. Know that each layer of enamel and wire fired is a labor of love. This piece requires about 8-10 firings to complete. In addition to showing support to the queer community, the rainbow represents the highest spiritual ideals such as diversity, equality and hope. Just about every religion in the world has attached a symbolic meaning to a rainbow.
Although I don't identify with a particular religion, I am drawn to Native American spirituality. The following is an excerpt from Navajo teachings called the Hopi Prophecy of the Whirling Rainbow.