This week social media has been rocked by racially charged events in Minnesota. Unfortunately, this is just one in a string of similar events, but this one seems different. I think facts will continue to emerge, but the video is so plain. This was no heat of the moment reaction, and it’s been accessible to the whole world. There are questions, as always, but they’re more about what happened before. What was happening the moment George Floyd died was captured directly, and it’s incredibly sad. I’m not here to write about racism and how to fix that, though. I’m not a person who knows anything about that, but I am a person, first, before I am anything else.
I was bothered by a lot of the posts I saw this week, with people taking sides against each other. Especially those pointing fingers saying things like “if you…then you are the problem.” Calling another person a problem is not productive, basically ever. I think when discussing these issues, or any other issues really, we need to remember that there are people on the other side of our computer screens. We’re all human, and we’re all flawed. Unfortunately, you can’t buy perspective.
This is something I’ve felt for a long time. I wrote this post about how Farmers are People several years ago when I was feeling victimized by posts from vegans. Fast foward to 2017 when my son was diagnosed with dairy and egg allergies and I found myself regularly shopping for vegan foods, not because we’re vegan (obvi.), but because I can rely on them to be free of milk and eggs. It may sound silly, but it was truly humbling to put an alternative in my cart the first time. I even wrote about it for a dairy publication.
So after this week’s events, and all the social media outrage and arguing, I was looking for somebody to say what I was thinking. I started following Regie’s Blog a few months ago because I liked some of his thoughts on the COVID situation, and I thought I might like more of what he had to say. I was right. I’m not sure he exactly echos my thoughts on this issue, but the focus of his post is related to his experiences raising a child with disabilities, and the language the disability community uses when discussing those affected. They make a point of saying “person with disabilities” instead of “disabled person” because each is a person first. I found this brilliantly simple, but so powerful.
Then today I learned there’s a new acronym being used to describe black people: BIPOC. BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. I have to admit, I had never seen or heard this used before. I’m not part of many communities that openly discuss race. Maybe that needs to change, but I’m not here to debate that. I learned of this term from this article a good friend shared. I don’t want to go into too many details because I’m not qualified to even regurgitate this information. Please go read the article if you want to know more of the details behind why this is the preferred term of this community (and I highly recommend that you do). What struck me most about the article, though, was that POC, People of Color, was first used to turn the derogatory term “colored people” into a more positive characterization by putting people first. Again, brilliantly simple, yet so powerful.
I’m no expert on persons of color, or persons with disabilities, or language. I am, however, a person, and I think that if we remember that everyone….yes, EVERYONE…we’re talking to, whether online or otherwise, is also a person first, then maybe we can have these hard conversations about all subjects with more compassion for those on the other side. Maybe then we can make real progress toward solutions instead of just fighting for our side. Is there a reality where we can stop fighting for a side and start working together for people? That’s a reality I want to live in.