By Dr. Denise R. Ames
This is a momentous time that we are experiencing. Who can be trusted for wise council? Where are the elders? Elders have something to add to the conversation about what is going on today. I am one elder who feels I have something to say. The following are 12 Insights that I have learned and want to share with you.
Insight #1. Educate Yourself
Before shouting, ranting, protesting, or calling out others, educate yourself about the issue or issues you are for or against. Internet access is widely available and has a wealth of information that you can access. You don’t have to be an expert but at least know enough to be able to speak coherently, or if you don’t know much about the topic, realize your ignorance and ask lots of questions. The questions don’t even have to be very good, just ask questions, one has to start somewhere.
I have been perplexed about recent events and decided to investigate some of the issues. It appeared the central issue was police brutality in reaction to the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer. The obvious question was, “Why are police brutal?” The one-word answer to that question was on the lips of just about all media, protesters, celebrities, academic, and every day person: racism. Although I acknowledge that racism is surely part of the story, I abhor single cause explanations to complex problems, there has to be more to it than racism alone. My quest for answers has taken me in unexpected directions.
Since I claim to be a centrist in my politics and views, I wanted to look at what left-leaning and right-leaning media were saying about racism. I found that the left-leaning media was pretty monolithic in their view that structural/systemic racism is pervasive. This whole concept is rather vague and doesn’t get to some of the questions I want answers to. Therefore, I decided that I would find sources that are the opposite of me. Since I am a white, female, elder, centrist (somewhat left-leaning), I would find black, male, young, and conservative commentators. Could there even be individuals who fit this criterion?
My search started with reading an article in Quillette, an on-line magazine that challenges orthodoxy.
John McWhorter wrote an article entitled Racist Police Violence Reconsidered. He thought about police brutality from a big picture perspective. He and other black commentators I discovered through my research were not afraid to dive into black on black violence, black poverty, black interaction with police, the legacy of slavery, past discrimination, ramifications from the Great Society programs, cultural aspects, family break-down, white guilt, and riots over the years in black neighborhoods that have left long-term and devastating costs on economic development.
I have been impressed with the black commentators that I have found, they provide thoughtful analysis that draw on different research studies and personal experiences, not empty slogans and unsubstantiated accusations. One YouTube video was particularly enlightening to me, and I highly recommend it: Riots, and the Police. It features four African American commentators who forthrightly talk about hot-button issues rampaging across America today.
One commentator I have found particularly interesting and insightful is a young, black, man, Coleman Hughes. He has a number of podcasts on YouTube that are very thoughtful. Although he states he is a moderate Democrat, he carefully explains his positions and examines evidence and research studies. Yes, he looks at the evidence. He bravely stated on one of his podcasts that black on black violence is the “elephant in the room.” It affects not only the lives of innocent people, but discourages investment in black neighborhoods leaving inner city areas a “desert” of economic activity. Despite its dismissal by BLM activists, Hughes thinks that is the issue we should be addressing since it has such far-reaching ramifications.
I have found that a good practice for me is to look at as many diverse voices as possible. This means voices from diverse groups of African Americans, protesters, police, “woke” whites, and many others. Walking in their shoes or considering their perspective for even a few short minutes, has given me an insightful glimpse into why they are behaving as they are. This practice has given me a more expanded view of events today.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.
Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five programs: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.
Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!
Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.
It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.
Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books