As I sit here looking at a blank screen, I find myself struggling for what to write. All I know is that my heart is heavy with sadness at what is happening in our country right now. Within just the past 24 hours, the media have covered stories about two men who lost their lives during interactions with police followed by breaking news of a mass shooting at a protest resulting in the injury and deaths of several police officers. As a result, turn on any news channel and you’ll see plenty of experts arguing about and discussing what our country needs to do to stop this cycle of violence that is only serving to increase the racial divide.
I decided I’m going to take a different approach. I’m not going to get on my soapbox today to talk about what the President needs to do, or what politicians need to do, or what the media need to do, or what police departments need to do, or what the black community needs to do, or what the white community needs to do. Instead, I think we need to focus on ourselves and what I think we, as individuals, need to do to help make this situation better.
First, we need to admit there is a problem. And not just a problem in the black community, or in the white community, or in the law enforcement community. We need to admit we have a societal problem that continues to grow simply because each of those communities refuse to look within to acknowledge the part they are playing in contributing to a system swelling from animosity and fear. It’s time to stop the blame game and to start looking in the mirror.
Second, as we look in that mirror, we need to admit that every single one of us are in some way individually responsible for what is happening in our society today. Just think about it. When was the last time each of us stopped to check our own individual prejudices and how those prejudices affect our daily interactions with others? Let’s be honest here. Everybody has biases. Everybody sees race and notices skin tones and hairstyles and how a person is dressed or speaks. If you are the type of person who says you don’t ever notice these things, well I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe you. It’s human nature to notice someone who is different from ourselves. I believe our societal problems stem from our inability to admit to and deal with our own personal biases.
Third, after we can finally admit to ourselves that we do have our own biases, our own prejudices, and prescribe to certain stereotypes, only then will we be able to work on addressing them. This requires willingness to talk openly about what we think and how we feel about what is happening in our world today. But instead of focusing on other people and talking about what they can do, we should focus on ourselves and admit to ourselves, “this is what I can do.”
We’re not going to be able to solve these problems that are dividing our country over night. But every one of us can individually do something to help the collective steer in a more positive direction. The only way we can do this is to look within. Acknowledge there is a problem. Admit to the part we play in feeding the problem and act on it. Take responsibility for our own beliefs and actions and hold the person right next to us accountable for theirs. If we want change, it’s going to have to start from within.
Jennifer Furlong has 25 years’ experience in the communication field and teaches communication and public speaking courses in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her family of canines, felines, and humans. Let's be social! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Just look for Professor SpeechLady. See you in cyberspace.
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