In order to get something different you have to do something different. In order to create peace we need to act in a peaceful way toward each other.
We teach by what we say and by what we do. If there is not a congruence between these two things then we teach the incongruence.
Acting in a discriminatory fashion toward some groups while saying to not discriminate toward other groups teaches that discrimination is okay under specific circumstances.
From a sociological perspective, it creates a sense of an in-group/out-group in relationships.
This is the basis of discrimination. First, the discriminated group needs to be identified, labeled, and separated out. Next, the in-group leaders need to belittle, and make-fun of the identified out-group. Next, the in-group needs to have some level of power with which other societal members want to connect or identify; and finally, the in-group followers have to identify they are not part of the out-group by either belittling, or negatively labeling the out-group or silently allowing the negative behavior.
All these actions together teach hate. To teach peace we have to catch ourselves when we are participating in this structure and stop.
There is a beautiful song by Rabbi Joe Black about how hate is taught.
If a child acts in a mean or hateful way toward another group it is something that came from his family or environmental system; I am not addressing psychotic or psychopathic behavior here.
The song is encouraging us to be mindful about what we teach our children because they internalize it into a value and belief. These are difficult to change as we age.
Many times individuals act in a discriminatory or biased way without consciously knowing or meaning to do this. This is because the way we embrace these biases is through our personal family environments. It is subtle how it gets embedded in our basic belief system and how we pass it on. It spreads like a virus.
Sometimes it’s a matter of letting our frustration speak for us instead of letting our own compassion organize our speech patterns. In our family we try to not use what we call mean words – stupid, idiot, jerk – instead we try to be descriptive – that person was mean, not thinking, not being fair, cut me off…etc.
I find that being descriptive helps to keep me out of a labeling mode. It’s like using an anti-oxidant to combat a virus.
This increases my opportunity for understanding the other person as well as myself. But I also have to be aware of what biases I swallowed whole from my family system and have to change in myself.
The best way to get there is through responding in the present moment. Try to focus on description rather than labeling. And think about how it would feel if someone treated you that way. In other words, changing your perspective by applying the same label to yourself – if it feels demeaning it probably is a stereotypical label that may even be based in a bias.
Some things are obvious: we know not to use certain words; they are obviously negative to us. But, new words or accepted biases are not readily seen by the individual who uses them.
A friend of mine is 1/4 Cherokee and once she heard another friend say – stop running around like a bunch a wild Indians. She was appalled that our friend was unaware of how she was discriminating and negatively labeling Native Americans. Another time I heard a different friend say to a colleague when they were discussing the cost of something, can’t I jew you down on that? The colleague was Jewish and felt it was a derogatory statement.
Both of these friends, who used these colloquialisms were highly educated individuals. They were focused on social justice and interested in equality for all people – yet both were promoting discrimination through socially condoned colloquialisms – which were in actuality a stereotypical put down.
Recently, I have seen in a number of posts on Facebook, a social networking site, a reference to tea baggers. Again, by highly educated, and by their own account, very enlightened people who are focused on social justice and in some cases, the energetic up-leveling of our society.
This is an example of a way to diminish and put down that group. It is not enlightened or peacemaking.
It’s important to act in a way that is congruent with your speech, and value systems. In order to teach strength, we need to be strong, and stand up for what is right, not with discrimination and power trips, but with authentically peaceful and compassionate action.
This is especially true when you are in a parenting or role-modeling position. Those who are listening and watching you are picking up on these subtle incongruences.
The more we can be mindful, and really interact with each other in a compassionate way the more we can truly Teach peace which will Teach strength.
See you tomorrow.