Archives for July 2016

Unite and Conquer

I’ve been thinking a lot about the attack in Bangladesh lately. What really bothers me is how the terrorists separated the Muslims from the non-Muslims and then proceeded to torture and kill the non-Muslims. This is a common strategy of any extremist; divide the world. Whether it’s white or non-white, Christian or non-Christian, gay or straight or Muslim non-Muslim, it works to the extremists agenda to divide people. “Exposure to terrorist violence affect(s)…attitudes by inducing intolerance, eroding support of civil liberties, and promoting exclusionist attitudes towards minorities.” (

We are seeing this in the politics in Great Britain and the US right now. Both countries have a loud, boisterous party that is calling to exclude minorities and seems to be trending towards more intolerance for those who are different from the majority. In that sense ISIS is getting what they want. They are changing world politics. They are stimulating a large part of our populations to focus their anger, fear and frustration on the “other”.

The answer to this is not separation, but inclusion. We are all in this together. It won’t help us to start fighting amongst ourselves, and by ourselves I mean all other humans that simply want to live peaceful, safe lives. I wonder if the Muslims in the café in Bangladesh had refused to recite the Koran or identify as Muslims if it would have helped? If the threat to the extremists would have been, you may be killing Muslims. Although religious extremists kill more Muslims than non-Muslims routinely, they want to be seen as “Muslim” extremists. They want to encourage the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims. Perhaps that might have stopped or at least cut down on the killings.

But I don’t blame Muslims for not wanting to take that risk. Their lives are stake as well. I’m guessing the first Muslim to say to everyone, we won’t identify who is Muslim and who isn’t, probably would have been killed as an example. The other strategy would be for all of us that aren’t Muslim, to learn what it takes to trick extremists into believing we are. I’m sure our fellow humans that are Muslim would be happy to teach us about Islam. I’m not saying you need to convert, but enough that if you were asked to recite the Koran to prove you are a Muslim, you could. This would have the added benefit of uniting all of us. It would be a good thing to understand more of what Islam means to some people.

I understand for some people the authenticity of their faith would make it difficult to tell a terrorist you are Muslim when you aren’t. But think of this as a strategy to stop terrorism. If they can’t divide us, they can’t have power over us. If they can’t divide us, we can decrease the fear we feel. And by coming to know our fellow humans more, we will want to contribute to them in a way that prevents terrorism.


“Now, with regard to the people who have done things we call “terrorism,” I’m confident they have been expressing their pain in many different ways for thirty years or more. Instead of our empathically receiving it when they expressed it in much gentler ways — they were trying to tell us how hurt they felt that some of their most sacred needs were not being respected by the way we were trying to meet our economic and military needs — they got progressively more agitated. Finally, they got so agitated that it took horrible form.” Marshall Rosenberg

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Racism: How White People Can Help

I found Jesse William’s acceptance speech at the 2016 BET Awards moving, authentic and inspirational and I appreciate that it is bringing a race discussion to the forefront in our country yet again. And I’m white. I wrote about my personal experience with racism just about one year ago and a comment Mr. Williams made in his speech has clarified a strategy we as white people need to hear. I wrote about how racism has affected me since childhood. Certainly not in the way it has black Americans, but racism and white privilege costs all of us something. Now saying that I don’t mean that in any way could I, as a white American, begin to identify with the experiences of a black American, but I have a longing to dismantle white privilege in relation to what it is costing me.

And I think we as white Americans have a responsibility to educate ourselves and become aware of the costs of racism and white privilege to us as well. I don’t think we are going to be as invested in helping dismantle this until we can see the benefit this will have for us. Many white Americans are hearing blame when they hear this discussion, and they aren’t going to be open to hearing another perspective as long as they are hearing blame. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, founder of nonviolent communication, told a story showing how he needed to given empathy to a man angrily disparaging Jewish people in order for the man to hear his perspective. He was able to give that empathy because he so strongly wanted the man to understand what those kinds of thoughts and words felt like to a Jewish person hearing them.

Mr. Williams mentioned in his speech that, “the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander”. Dr. Rosenberg wasn’t providing comfort, but was helping the cab driver come to a place where he could hear past his anger. We as white Americans can help black Americans by hearing the white racism and anger from whites in a way that can open them to hearing the bigger picture. We can hear their anger, their fear, their frustration and we can educate ourselves about racism and white privilege and then educate them. Restorative justice requires that we in white America understand what has been happening for black Americans, to be able to hear that, we have to get past defensiveness. It is not the job of black Americans to help us get past the defensiveness; we have to help each other with that. This article describes 10 simple ways white people can help fight racism, and I would add help each other get past hearing blame. Help each other get to an openness where we can hear the black American experience, and any other experience that isn’t white privilege in a way that allows us to change.

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