I just put a link on this blog to one called Black Male Appreciation. The title of this blog struck me immediately. Here in Minnesota, there was a home invasion and shooting over the New Year’s holiday. The only information on the suspects to date is: “The two suspects are described as ‘black’ and thought to be in their twenties. One is slight of build and the other is heavy.” Now, unless Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy have been reincarnated in African ancestry, this description offers more in the way of misdirection and racial bias than it does in providing specificity and the identity of the assailants.
I’ve worked with black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American boys who were in in-patient facilities. There was very little to distinguish them in terms of intelligence, maliciousness, etc. The biggest difference was in terms of rural vs. urban with very few of the non-white kids coming from a rural background. And although the Native American kids were often from reservations in Minnesota, the kids I ran into had primarily adopted urban attitudes in terms of clothing and music. And, within a month of their arrival, almost all of the rural kids did the same.
The biggest differences, of course, were in the attitudes that staff held toward each group of kids they were dealing with. Often, even when we were dealing with the boys on an individual basis, our attitudes toward their ethnic backgrounds came through. A lot of assumptions were made that aside from no longer committing crimes and having better mental health, the 16-year-old boys who could recite every Tupac Shakur rap would drop this “pretense” and pick up on some other heroes if they were white kids but would stay true to their “culture” and only appreciate rap music if they were African-American.
My dirty little secret is that I wanted all of the kids exposed to classical music, jazz and Elvis Costello and The Jam, no matter what their ethnic background.
In the pursuit of meditation and Buddhist ideals, the thought is that you are really pursuing liberation from the limiting structures of this world and the structures in your own consciousness that limit how you experience the world. I don’t know which is harder, liberating myself from my biases about myself and what I’m capable of, or liberating myself from the biases I have regarding what others are capable of.
I will try to do what I can to equate brown skin with truth and beauty. I know that putting one more link on my blog–as positive as it may be–is just a small part of the changes I need to make in seeing that people who look different than I do have much to offer me if I’m willing to make myself their student.
Have a great and prosperous New Year, everyone!