Addressing racism and praying for racial peace

I started out to write that June is National Safety Month. I clicked onto the National Safety Council website (www.nsc.org) and discovered two very interesting things. One is that the incidences of people having accidents while walking and texting has risen so much, that it was included for the first time in the National Safety Council’s report that tracks data on unintentional accidents. So walk carefully if you’re texting!

The other featured article that caught my eye was on blending safety cultures when businesses merged. The article addressed how difficult it is when two similar, healthy, merging companies with their own safety programs have to merge, because even though national guidelines are given and followed, the guidelines don’t carry out specific details, and each company creates its own, based on its own interpretation of the guidelines.

My mind filled with blending the cultures followed my heart and took me to the sad incident of the massacre of nine African Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, where a young white man wanted to start a race war and shot nine praying African Americans. Young people are talking about this. What do we tell them?

I wonder if people know that those who think that different races are biologically very different from themselves are mistaken. A fact: the DNA of a black man and a white man are more alike than the DNA of a black man and a black woman, or a white man and a white woman. It gets even more interesting when people get blood transfusions, or organ transplants. The first heart transplant by South African Dr. Christiaan Barnard in 1967 was from a white woman into a black man. He also transplanted black peoples’ hearts into white people.

Racism has two definitions. The first is that “All members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” That would really be hard to prove. Look at the Olympics. Look at the wisdom of different cultural world leaders. Look at the spirituality of people of different races! I’ve observed excellence in all races and weakness in all races.

The second definition is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.” This is where it becomes a social-psychological issue. Prejudice is learned. Someone plants a biased seed in a young mind and it grows.

Often the experience of the child directly teaches him that the prejudice is unfounded. They may even fall in love with one from the race that they were taught to have prejudice against. If a child grows up with a healthy sense of self-esteem, he or she will feel comfortable with most everyone, including people of different outer appearances. Conversely, if a child feels inadequate, with low self-esteem, he or she may project personal feelings of inadequacy on people of the race they were seeded prejudice against.

“Being aware of psychological projection in interpersonal relationships can be very important. Before attributing thoughts or ideas to someone else, you may want to reflect on whether those beliefs can also be seen in yourself. If they can, there’s a chance that you might be projecting, and you may want to seek out a more reliable source on what someone else is thinking.”

“Projection can take a range of forms. For instance, if you find that you dislike someone, you may decide that he or she doesn’t like you, responding to social norms which dictate that people should all like each other and get along. By deciding that this person doesn’t like you, you can justify your decision not to like him or her, thereby setting yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy, because most people end up disliking the people who dislike them, even if they didn’t start out that way. Projection may also cause you to assume that other people are as competent as you are at a specific task, or to think that other people share your political and social beliefs.”

— http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-psychological-projection.htm

The loving nature of the praying members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston almost convinced gunman Dylan Roof to stop his assassination mission, but decades of learning and reinforcement by others couldn’t change the hour’s worth of loving kindness offered to him. To those nine, I thank you for your model of loving kindness and integration. You’re lives will not go in vain. To their families who offered forgiveness, I know that it must have been hard, but this too serves as a model, and will be remembered. Forgiveness can and does turn lives around. Thank you.

Now we have to get together to merge the cultures, all cultures of our amazing country.

People may look or dress differently on the outside, but we want the same things for ourselves, our basic human rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All races have defended this country that upholds that. Can we honor them by living it?

“… you don’t change a culture overnight,” said Shawn M. Galloway, president and COO of ProAct Safety Inc. in The Woodlands, Texas. “You start to change beliefs at a time and behaviors at a time and, to a degree, knowledge at a time. On average, it takes about seven to 10 years to completely change a culture.”

“It takes some time. It takes trust. It takes respect. It really takes ongoing, consistent communication. Make sure the message is clear, it’s enforced and it’s ongoing.” (Safety Magazine above) And a person can drop his prejudice quickly as well. A Caucasian woman I know in Virginia had congestive heart failure and almost died. A black doctor saved her life. Gone was all the bias she’d carried for years, instantly!

We can start on our own beautiful Kauai. When I was Googling to find info on the recent anti-tourist harassments, I saw a website from the United Kingdom’s Trip Advisor site asking “An anti-tourist attitude in Hanalei?” It was posted June 19. That’s the other side of the world! I wonder how many local people would truly want the tourist industry to dry up. Thoughts have energy and you can see on the faces of tourists how they love the beauty of this island. It feeds Kauai at an energetic level, just as it feeds families in all areas of our economy.

We need the “ongoing consistent communication” to resolve the issues at Hanalei, and one message that must be clear is that people need to be safe in Hanalei, while this is ongoing.

Kudos to the Kauai Police Department for “stepping up patrols.” And super kudos to the businessman who will also help arrange security if it becomes necessary. Yet I believe the real healing will come from the caring majority of people who will not tolerate violence, and will be able to get respectful conversations going. It is proven that a caring majority sets the tone for and maintains anti-bullying and violence in a culture. Maybe a citizens patrol could be made from local stakeholders of both sides.

But conversations can’t be done when people are drunk or high. Intoxication trumps a person’s true wisdom and ability to make good judgment calls. So friends, don’t let friends do things that they will regret when they become sober. Parents, until a child is 18 you are responsible for your children’s actions. People are saying that some of the kids in the Hanalei incidents looked to be about 16. I know you would be brokenhearted if your child was in a fight and either hurt someone or was hurt.

In New Zealand, there is so much respect for the Maori, the “first people.” My husband and I went to a few different cultural museums and venues to learn about the culture when we visited. Perhaps a North Shore cultural center would help convey Hawaiian cultural information to the tourists, where they could pound poi, and tapa cloth, make lei and learn to surf, fish (tro net), canoe or kayak and hula. We paid to see the Maori Haka dance, their geysers, eat a steamed dinner from a steam vent, and view local homes and shop in their local shops.

Many individuals and organizations I know are praying for racial peace and peace on our island. Blessed are the peacemakers.

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Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org. For more information about Hale Opio, please go to www.haleopio.org

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