This is a very personal take on the current state of the world. I do not apologize for its content but respect differences of opinion. However, those different opinions are not excuses for ignorance. Please think on these comments and observations and recognize what you can do to make a difference.
Change is tough for anyone. Changing your behaviours, beliefs or values is really tough. The current state of the world is asking people to take on these really tough changes. We have spent 4 months navigating the Covid-19 physical distancing, mask wearing, isolation and restricted contact in public. This is a huge behavioural shift, and as a someone with an understanding of cultural and behavioural change challenges, I can see why its been so hard for so many people. The world has been undergoing a global change management experiment and I’m not sure what we are truly learning.
Compounding the impact of Covid-19, the last week or two, my emotions have been challenged even more seeing the disintegration of society on the grounds of skin colour and the ideocracy of law enforcement to play power and trust games without care for consequences.
When a significant proportion of a community are seen to be demonstrating a certain behaviour, there comes a point when the whole of that community is seen to be acting that way because the tipping point has been reached. In North America I am seeing that tipping point passed for police forces and the way they interact with people of colour. Too many instances of outright wrongdoing have now made the whole be seen that way. Institutionalized is the common word, because these attitudes and behaviours have embedded themselves within the culture so much so that they are seen as the norms and expectations – in effect giving themselves the confirmation to be right in these beliefs because they have been there for so long.
I want to diverge from the passion of those words to give a little reference piece or two. During my teen years I lived in Zimbabwe and Botswana for 3 years and at the time to go to Highschool I was given the option to go to school in South Africa. A country which was still embedded to apartheid rule where the ideology was that white was superior to all others. This was a belief system I could not condone, support or live with and I refused. I could just not bring myself to live in a space that separated me from people based on how they look – the colour of they skin – their ethnic background – who they are. The outcome was that my parents arranged for me to move to the UK for schooling and stay with family, but my time living in Africa and my strong held beliefs of equity and values of diversity as a strength have stayed with me throughout my life.
Fast forward many years and my reference points to other backgrounds were limited. I remember as a team leader in my early twenties having the conversation with the rest of the team because one member was observing fasting for Ramadan. The comments I won’t repeat here, but sufficient to say it was not the nicest of responses. I dealt with this as best I could, but I was working in a white dominant organization that just didn’t get why I was “making a fuss”.
I moved to Toronto just over 10 years ago. One of the key attractions of moving here was the diversity and acceptance of difference. Yes I am part of another minority as one half of a same sex couple, but I still have privilege, white privilege that on the surface I am seen as being part of the “norm” the “usual” the “typical” the “expected” and I am able to live my life with very little fear of others perceptions of me, unless I choose to let them into that part of my life. My time in the country has also allowed me to recognize that just because its done with an apology or a smile, it doesn’t mean that racism isn’t presence here. It is present in Toronto and Canada. White privilege still prevails and treatment of others is less.
It makes my stomach turn over to see the way that Black people are perceived, treated and thought of by many. A recent example brought it home to me the most. A guy loses his keys and can’t get into his car, so tries to jimmy the window to get into his car, parked outside his own house. The guy is black and is now reported for breaking into a car, warnings sent around the neighbourhood and police alerted. If that guy was white, he’d have probably had 3 neighbours ask if they could help! I watched BlackkKlannsman for the first time last weekend and the saddest part of that movie was that it was set 40+ years ago, yet the content was as relevant today as ever.
Society needs to change its belief systems, behaviours and attitudes and the “law enforcement” culture needs radical overhaul. Its not going to be easy, but I think change practitioners have a responsibility to help move the needle on this stuff and work to help shift this forward. If there is anyone in my community who would like to educate me on their experiences I want to learn and if I can help you learn about making behavioural change happen, get in touch. This is a conversation we need to have in the open and not be a game of ping pong until one side remains.
The points expressed in this post are my personal views and I hold myself personally responsible for this content – Rich.