I found this colourful character I’m trying to love in Austin, Texas.
Some people (or things) are easy to love. You’ll see many being celebrated in this week’s photo challenge: One Love. But to address the prompt directly, do we routinely see ‘universal love and respect expressed by all people for all people, regardless of race, creed or colour’?
We don’t feel prejudice. Others might: we don’t. That’s a comforting thought.
That’s why nothing changes and so many people face discrimination.
It reminds me of the lines from an old song, delivered with a classic, new wave snarl of indignation:
Something better change…
Yeah, change it, you!
The irony always made me smile, even as a youngster. Nothing will change unless we change it.
I can’t be blind to the misery caused by prejudice in all its forms. The Black Lives Matter debate in particular has changed me. I can’t dismiss the concerns. I can’t get any comfort from the phrase ‘it’s not about colour, it’s about culture’.
It’s not only about black/white, though this is the most insidious; it can be rich/poor, northern/southern, male/female, young/old, people who can use apostrophes/people who can’t (not a joke), people who support gun control/people who don’t…
You know I could go on and on – and given enough time, I’d touch on one of yours.
So when I saw the prompt, I knew if I was to respond I would have to say loud and clear:
This is my problem: it’s about my attitudes, instincts and actions. It’s about the attitudes, instincts and actions of those who seek my permission to represent me.
These days, I confront my prejudices. I don’t look to reassure myself, I surf my instincts and see where they take me.
As I hinted, something about this image is unattractive to me: so much so that I hesitated to post it. The artist wanted to challenge me. He or she succeeded.
It’s chastening. Ironic. I have negative feelings about the stranger I later learn is one of America’s much loved comedians; the one telling me not to hate. If I try to analyse what I don’t like, I’m struggling. It may just be instinct to recoil from his recoil. Or prejudice. This tension gives extra strength to the design; helps its message hit a vulnerable spot.
I like Austin. I like creative people and communities. I don’t demand that everyone conforms. How often do I say we should celebrate our differences? I firmly believe it, but don’t always achieve it.
Back to the One Love ideal – I’m clearly not in a position where I can claim to love everyone, though I respect those who do. How should I respond to ideas or individuals at the far end of the scale – those I see as being unambiguously harmful?
The people I most admire would say:
Be gentle. Take time to understand. Feel free to present an alternative view. Try not to generalise about people, no matter how tempting it is. Don’t ever believe you’ve got it all right when others have got it all wrong. And whatever you do, don’t hate.