I have been wondering for some time now what is the answer?
What can be done to turn any of this around?
School shooting after school shooting and the same responses. Nothing new, nothing’s changed.
I remember in the 80’s and 90’s the devastation Black and Brown children faced as their brothers, cousins and friends were gunned down sometimes right in front of them. Their lives went from endless parties to never-ending funerals and they were hurt, broken and looking to us as adults to help them. Peer mediation and violence prevention programs were put in place and lots of people including me got lots of work and still…
My work was in full swing when Columbine hit the nation and White people who had previously lived secure in their belief that violence in schools only happened in “urban” and “ghetto” schools were jolted into a new reality. The world began to look like it was paying attention. The world began to look like they cared. Even as the hurt, anger, grief and disappointment settled in to the hearts of Black, Brown and poor communities long accused by the outside world of a pathology that no program could address, they secretly prayed that now something would be done.
And here we are today, wondering… What can be done?
In case we forget, the way we interact with our neighbors, strangers, friends and family all play a part in what is happening in the larger world.
I alone am the collective.
You alone are the collective.
In case we forget, when I curse out that slow driver in front of me in the quiet and comfort of my car, I add to the collective violence in the world.
In case we forget, when we choose harsh words and withhold apologies we add to the collective violence.
In case we forget, when we as conflict resolution practitioners are the worst at resolving conflicts amongst each other or with the people who work for us or with us, we add to the collective violence.
In case we forget, when we stopped listening to that Donald Trump supporting family member last Thanksgiving and addressed them harshly for defending how harshly he speaks to and about people, we add to the collective violence.
In case we forget, when we blame our liberal friends and family, then ridicule them and use degrading names, but take offense without self examination when the name calling is directed at us, we add to the collective violence.
In case we forget, when you as a White educator refuse to see yourself beyond the love you have for all of your students including your students of color and deny even the possibility that you need to do your own work on racism and privilege, you add to the collective violence.
In case we forget, when we, members of Black and Brown communities fail to address the hatred of our very image instilled in us systemically since slavery and instead blame, shame and ostracize our youth for killing each other, we add to the collective violence.
In case we forget, when you are a part of the immigrant community and you have harsh judgments of those black and brown communities that are already here and see yourself as different from them and from those trying to come behind you, you add to the collective violence.
In case we forget, when patience and compassion are only reserved for those who think like us, act like us, look like us, vote like us, speak like us, cook like us, smell like us, respond like us, dance like us, react like us, live like us, play like us, cry like us, grieve like us, remain strong like us… We add to the collective violence.
If reading this stings, then look within and look at the way you think about and handle conflict. If reading this makes you think of someone who really needs to read this, thank you and that someone is you.
Every day we can be real with ourselves about the way we do conflict and the places we need to grow in it.
We are not okay no matter how much work we have already done.
In case we forget, the collective violence in the world begins and ends with me and you.