With the current political climate as disastrous as it is, it brings a new awareness. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s bad. I’m trying to wade through this new state of awareness so that I will be able to help my son when he discovers the things I have.
So, here it is: I have loved ones who are racist. I love them. But I despise their hate.
It’s not like I never knew they were more conservative in their thinking than I am, but I guess I didn’t realize how strongly they believe what they do and how far off it is from my views. I guess this has taught me how much I despise hate, discrimination, oppression. I can’t handle it and don’t want this to be the world my son grows up in, yet it’s everywhere.
So when yet another one of my family members unfriends me on social media because I’m outspoken against such acts of hate, it sucks. Yeah, it hurts. Social media is, unfortunately, the only way I keep in touch with loved ones. And I don’t understand how they can be so cruel to someone who shares the same bloodline. I already live half the world away from them, and now they want to actually cut me out completely because I stand up for what I believe in? What does that say to our younger generations about tolerance?
I know I’m not the only one. I’ve seen arguments online where old friends now bash one another; family members tell the other “you’re crazy” for having an opposing view. It’s awful to see people get so upset to the point of hate winning.
As I shift through my grief, I realize I have a lot to learn. I recognize that I also have this tendency to think less of people who are bigots— I think it’s ignorant when I hear people spew toxic rhetoric. It’s so far out of my scope to put down others because they have a different religion or skin color that I scoff at those who lack empathy. It makes my blood pressure rise and I succumb to the rage. Now I understand I need to change that way of thinking because that, too contributes to part of the problem.
So how do I maintain admiration for my loved ones even though we have completely opposing views?
Because of my background as an addictions counselor, I started to think about addiction and how it tears families apart and compare it to the divide growing among many of us who maintain different perspectives with our friends and families.
The loved one is so consumed by their affair with their drug of choice, they have blinders on and can’t see and won’t be able to see how it’s hindering their lives. They’re in denial and prefer to remain that way because if anyone tries to take that drug away from them, life will become so much more unmanageable. At least in this bubble of addiction, they feel safe, even if they’re not.
All around them are friends and family who see the problem clearly but aren’t quite sure what to do about it. Some stay silent and sweep it under the rug because it’s easier to deal with the person when they’re not constantly lashing out. Some confront it and tell the addict they have a problem. They offer advice, solutions on how the addict can get help, but of course… the addict won’t hear any of it and instead points a finger at the person trying to help because that’s what the sickness does. So what do you do? You hate the idea of leaving your loved one struggling, but their pain is causing you too much pain that it’s beginning to affect you and your life.
I don’t want to be the addict, living in denial and afraid to get help. And I also know I’m someone who confronts it. I’ve never been a silent person— if I see a problem, I like to address it. If you’ve ever tried confronting an addict about their problem, you’ll understand what I mean about it similar to trying to explain to a racist or misogynist why their views are toxic.
Often I’m met with complacency, “there are two sides to every story” or “we’ll have to agree to disagree” sort of retorts, which I see as living in denial.
And rage fills me again because how can they not see? How can their hearts be full of anger & fear (the root of racism and addiction)? How can that same heart love me, yet hate so much?
I don’t know if I want to be part of a heart that holds that much hate. So how can I still love my friends and family even though they will never change?
I change. Not my beliefs, but the way I deal with it. Much like dealing with a loved one struggling with addiction, I move through the stages of grief. I get really sad, then angry, then sad again, and then I realize I must accept everyone has different levels of awareness. Maybe today they aren’t able to see their toxic thinking but maybe tomorrow they will. All I can do is plant the seeds, offer what insight I can, but the rest is up to them.
And hey, they might be thinking the same thing about me. Because I’m not saying one-way of thinking is superior to the other- don’t get me wrong on that- the same goes for addiction. In our narcissistic society it’s very easy to get caught up in that line of thinking. I fell into that and it’s not helpful. Everyone has different experiences shaping their view. All of us walk the same journey of life but figure things out at different times based on our experiences and handle it in different ways. And keep in mind, when something isn’t familiar (a new experience, awareness) it can cause fear.
So the only way to really ease the fear is through compassion. For self, for surroundings, for others. It doesn’t mean I have to sit and endure a tirade of offensive remarks. Just like I wouldn’t allow a person who has a problem with substance abuse to use in front of me or hold me hostage in a relationship. I make it known I won’t allow that talk in my presence, or my child’s. So I’m not saying ignore the anger; in fact, I think those reactions have to be endured first, wading through the stages of grief, in order to find empathy.
When I find empathy, I find acceptance.
I’m ok with not changing the world.
I’m ok with not changing my loved ones’ hearts.
I’m ok with not being heard.
But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop speaking up. Because I will always speak up.
And I will never cut anyone or ghost anyone out of my life.
I’ll work harder to find empathy for all by learning what is unhealthy in my thinking and change it. No more power struggles, whether online or in person. If I can at least try to understand where the other person is coming from, maybe that’s a step in the right direction. A step toward recovery.
I accept that I have racist people in my life.
I hate racism.
But I love them.
And that’s really all I can teach my son.