Usually we try to play around and goof off here and point out the absurdity with humor and sarcasm, so forgive me for breaking into personal narrative form for this. Obviously there are some live wire issues surrounding what happened in the Democratic primary for the D3 County Council seat, and we had really hoped this would calm down with time and that we could avoid touching the third rail. It doesn’t seem like that is happening, so I would like to ask if we can have people take some deep breaths. I don’t believe it is our responsibility to police the reactions of the immigrant community here, but I do believe it is my responsibility to point out where my own community goes wrong. My own community would specifically include both white liberals and all Democrats. Of course all Democrats are a diverse group, but I can only speak to what I think is best as a Democrat, and not to the feelings I would have if I felt marginalized. I hope that is clear and inclusive, and if it isn’t I am sincerely sorry about that. Please know it is a serious concern in the back of my mind as I write this.
If I could change the world I would have everyone understand that all people have implicit biases. All. People. This is the way our brains work; it is a shortcut system so we do not have to thoughtfully analyze everything we encounter, large and small, with a long form debate. People are biased against people because of the cars they drive, the churches they attend or don’t attend, the clubs they join, the way people dress or how loudly they speak. Understanding that we are prone to biases is important, so that we can also recognize when unhelpful biases are hurting others. When these biases are about the language someone speaks, the country they are from, or the color of their skin we need the awareness of these tendencies to override harmful bias. People who are fully aware of the biases they possess and then act on them as a personal governing philosophy are racists. That is disgusting behavior.
I believe that using language like “those people” when you are speaking about a member of a minority group does indicate to others that you are carrying an implicit bias that is harmful. When you have done so a meaningful recognition of this and apology is critical. I also believe that a person is capable of being sincere and growing from the recognition of their mistakes, if they possess a willingness to do so.
The beautiful thing about failure is that it can lead us to becoming better people, friends, members of our community, and elected representatives. This is only possible if we use these moments to teach and learn rather than malign and destroy. I do not believe that screaming at someone “THAT’S RACIST!!!!!!” is helpful in opening them up to the kind of humility and commitment that is needed in order to move forward out of this awful situation (and I should say that I would also draw an important distinction between holding harmful implicit biases and racist behavior that involves cognizance and ideology). Diplomacy and sensitivity is important. We need to expand a coalition, not contract it.
It requires vulnerability and sincerity for people to change. I hope that we will see vulnerability and sincerity and willingness to change–all of us. We need to make it safe for people to find that in themselves by having dialogues, not rants. We are failing to create that environment in our community right now. We can only control ourselves; we cannot control other people’s behavior. I do not know if any of the people I feel are failing the community right now will find it in themselves to respond to hurtful circumstances gracefully. Who would have thought the Yokels would be the ones to say that we need to elevate our discourse, but we certainly do. It is incumbent upon each of us to be the best possible versions of ourselves under difficult circumstances. Right now a sizable number of people are failing at this.
I will appreciate you tolerating my resting this serious thought with a silly cliché: Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.