We didn’t start the fire, but we sure know how to keep it burning

When are we ever going to understand that we are all in this thing together?

Regardless of skin color, country of origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, country of residence, religion (or lack thereof), language, political party, favorite music, or any other factor we use to individuate, separate, segregate, or identify ourselves differently from others, we are ALL human, we ALL share this planet, we ALL bleed, sweat, cry, dream, hope, and aspire toward something better.

Fighting fire with fire only works in actual firefighting and has to be done in a strategic, planned, controlled and skilled way that requires the ones setting the control fire to be well trained, working as a team, and is still very dangerous.

Combatting racism, real or perceived, can never effectively happen by using racist tactics, rhetoric, propaganda, and fostering racist attitudes.

I have a very dear friend who’s heart is bigger than the state of Texas. She’s experienced poverty, conflicted family relationships, health and disability issues. I honestly don’t believe she would ever consider excluding or judging anyone based on race.

Yet, I just saw that she posted something that had come through in an email that supposedly addresses the issue of reverse racism. I considered posting that content here, then decided that I didn’t want to give any space to propaganda and rhetoric designed to incite emotional reaction, disguised as information utilizing faulty comparison and blanket categorization, leading the reader to jump on another “us vs them” bandwagon.

I understand why she posted it. In the wake of the outcome of the Zimmerman/Martin case, there has been A LOT of racist rhetoric and accusation floating around. There have been many counterproductive and destructive responses in different areas.

I have another friend who has experienced a lot of similar things. She’s younger, has young children, and lives the daily reality of what it means to have dark skin and have that singular physical characteristic inform and impact just about every aspect of her life.

So much so that I don’t think she sees or understands how much of what she says and does now seems to perpetuate the very thing she claims to be fighting, racism.

I don’t think either of these women would consider herself racist. However, based on my observation, at the very least, they propagate it.

I exist in a racially confused limbo land. Often people, regardless of race, relate to me as if I’m white. This, despite the fact someone is continually asking me to tell them if I’m part this race or from that region. PI’m half Mexican and have some of the expected physical characteristics. However, I grew up completely disconnected from the culture and without familial or community ties. I was raised by undereducated, lower-class, blue-collar/service industry workers where literacy and academic performance was emphasized and somewhat prioritized. That means I’m more of what’s perceived and identified as a middle class communicator.

I’ve experienced the effects of racist attitudes and perceptions from all sides: black, white, brown and all shades in between. Yet, the barriers I deal with, ultimately have little to nothing to do with the color of my skin or anyone else’s attitude or perception about my race. It is my own attitudes and perceptions that have held me back and kept me stuck.

We all three live in the same metro area. We all three experience health issues, we all three have young ones in our lives whom we want to offer better and different than what we had. We all three share spiritual beliefs and identify ourselves as Christians. The issues we face are not separated by race. The solutions we need to work toward don’t have anything to do with race. Perhaps, once upon a time, paler skin was an advantage. No longer.

As educational costs have risen, as manual and unskilled labor jobs have been outsourced and automated, as snake oil salesmen disguised as bankers and people with opportunities to get rich have played into and taken advantage of fears and character flaws, poverty has spread. Economic hardship has become the great leveler. Violence against women, many of whom are mothers, continues to run rampant and the extended family supports that used to exist are diminished and non-existent.

These are things being experienced regardless of skin color. Perhaps it’s still affecting more people of color than not, but from where I’m sitting, all the different places I’ve lived and worked, I can say I’ve seen people of all races doing better than me and most people I know, economically speaking. I’ve also seen people of all races more economically disadvantaged than I am.

Until we stop looking to blame others for the societal ills in our world and in our nation and until we start taking whatever action we can as individuals to find solutions and spread hope instead of hate we will just continue burning ourselves, our country, and our world by setting fires that only add to what’s already burning, instead of suppressing the wildfire that’s destroying everyone and everything in its path.

As Billy Joel sang so eloquently, We Didn’t Start the Fire.

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8 comments

  1. Yes, pointing fingers will never change anything. Making the us vs them divide even bigger will never solve anything.

    We ALL need to understand that every human being is our brother and our sister. That skin colour, eye colour and hair colour only add to the beauty that is the human race. ONE race, not many.

    And that any crime against another human being is a crime against all of us. That when one of us bleeds, we all bleed. And that is is in our hands to make a difference!

    But we all need to take a stand and make things change. The apathy is way too big and way too scary.

    Like

  2. Kimberly Carnevale, Motivational SpeakerFormer Olympic hopeful, brain injury survivor, champion over-comer. says:

    I just love the insight of you post, and the lesson that “we’re all in this together.” Beautifully written, thank you!
    ~Kimberly

    Like

  3. I have definitely stayed out of the conversations about the Zimmerman/Martin trial. I don’t believe it is up to me to determine what or who is right or wrong in this situation. It is amazing to me how many people are choosing to take this event so personally and to turn it into something so much bigger than it needs to be, on both sides.

    I completely agree with you that the solution is to stop looking to place blame for all of the societal ills! If we want it, we all have the opportunity to change our situations and to choose not to allow our backgrounds determine who we become. Is it easy to rise above, no it’s not easy for anyone. But it is possible for everyone!

    Thanks for the uplifting post and not adding to the hate!

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    1. Meli,
      Thank you for your balanced comment.

      Rising above and moving beyond circumstances like poverty and health issues can be incredibly difficult and even impossible in some people’s lives in spite of motivation, determination and effort. However, learning to move beyond and rise above ingrained thinking, attitudes, perceptions and habits is where it begins.

      Blessings,
      Kina

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    2. I’m butting in, unfortunately to say I disagree with your statement. Some parts of it, in any case. Yes, I do agree one should not take things personally. However, as Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. In the Zimmerman/Martin trial case, let’s not forget there is a mother and a father and the rest of the family mourning for a son that should have not died. This is about justice -or lack thereof, which no citizen of the free world should stand. This is showing all of us why the laws need to change and only taking a stance and acting upon it will prevent more injustice being done. Sure, it’s not about taking it personal or taking the position “it’s us vs them” as in it is us blacks against them whites (And please note that I am not black). But I am a human being and a mother. And my heart bleeds for that boy’s mother and the rest of his family. Furthermore I will never remain neutral, when another human being is being abused, mistreated or killed. I don’t care it they are black, or white or of aboriginal origins. I don’t care if they are men or women, old or children. And this is the reason why, even though I don’t take it personal, I do think it is my place and my right as a fellow human being to say that someone was very wrong in the Zimmerman/Martin case and it is not difficult to see who it was.

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  4. Agreed! We are the only person we can control, therefore we should stop pointing the finger and change what we can. I like your metaphor of fire. I think it’s important not to add fuel to fire, either. 🙂

    Like

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