For many years of my life I will admit that I carried many discriminatory ideas around with me where ever I went. I hide behind many of them as I also struggled with an unhealthy aversion to confrontation. As a result, I also worked hard to "people please" so that I could feel a part of a group. I was messed up when I was a kid.
After my recovery in 2001, I was no longer being a "people pleaser" and worked hard at peaceful confrontation. My bias and discrimination were also healing but still had a long way to go. When I started training in the Martial Art of Tae Kwon Do, I did it in the hopes that the training would help my mental challenges as I felt my depression and suicide attempts were associated with a lack of discipline. I've written a few posts on those topics. But what I did not realize is that the training also submerged me in multiple cultures as I learned a Korean martial art from a Grand Master from Hong Kong who was Chinese. I trained with students who's ancestors came from areas all over the world. With a wide range of students from a wide range of cultures training together, I quickly got to know them, appreciate them and cherish my time with them. The martial arts classes gave us a common interest which transcended all our differences. That provided us with a platform to really start getting to know one another.
The hidden benefit of my training is that I saw all those people for who they are and not based on the stereotypes that we often hear on the news, in movies, etc. My training actually helped me to bust up and destroy the stereotypes and instead I work hard to spend time with each individual so that I can look past my own bias and get to know them for who they are.
Lo's Tae Kwon Do club (Fall 2004)
When I was managing an IT company from about 2001 - 2007, I hired a lady from Colombia. The language was a barrier but I did what I could to help her bridge that gap. One of my most memorable times working with her was when it snowed that fall and she had never seen snow before. Everyone stopped what they were doing and went outside to play in the snow with her, take pictures and shared the novelty that she was experiencing for the first time. It turned out that she was one of the best employees that I hired through those years. I will not forget her or how she taught me some valuable lessons on patience, faith and perseverance.
When some of the nêhiyawin people started approaching me over the last ten years, I knew that the best way to learn would be to welcome them into my life, ask questions, participate and work hard to hear their stories, ceremonies and songs.
I made mistakes along the way, but I'm learning and I've been enriched immeasurable through the experience. I've made friends and I miss them when life gets busy and I don't hear from them from time to time. But I know they are there and they know that I am here. When we reach out to one another it is like time and space disappears as we continue our relationship without skipping a heart beat.
I've also been approached by all sorts of people who believe different than I do. The old me would reject them, but now I welcome the opportunity to submerse myself in new ideas, culture, beliefs, traditions and customs. I've found many common grounds upon which to build a relationship. It seems that most people struggle to look at the differences, but when we work hard to look past the differences and find that which is in common, it becomes much easier to build friendship and respectful relationships.
Discrimination builds blindness as it seems easier to judge others based on the opinions of others. It takes a lot of hard work to set discrimination aside so that we can build bridges instead. It took years for me to get my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. It also took me years to figure out how to extend an olive branch to those who are different to me. My nêhiyawin brother tells other people that I am color blind. I'm not sure I agree with him as I see many colors and in fact color is what prompts me to be extra gentle and patient. Color prompts me to spend time, work harder to open my mind, eyes and ears. Color helps me to remember the violence, discrimination, pain and suffering that everyone has gone through as a result of colonization, wars, etc.
I know that there is a lot of discrimination, violence, abuse, genocide and all kinds of bulling going on out there. Lots of comments floating around about white privilege too. While it is painful to watch all the violence unfold before my eyes, I work hard to not allow it to judge me or others. I know that nearly everyone is hurting and in great pain. Some are aware of it, while others are not.
So I work hard to be peaceful and help others heal so that they can do the same. I will stand up and rebuke violence when I see it. I will stand for those who are being violated, no matter their color, race or creed. I will be very discriminatory against violence, hatred, genocide or other evil actions against others. I will provide resistance based on the actions of others, no matter who they are or what they believe.
I've been enriched by learning about other cultures beyond any words that I could use to express it. I'm learning to create my own and I've been heavily influenced by many cultures around the world in that process. My culture was wiped out many generations ago due to colonization. So I work hard to rebuild my own culture, even if it has to be a culture of one! All my relations have something valuable to contribute. I refuse to base my views on what others say. I would rather go figure it out for myself. If more people did that, then the coercive power of the media and the state would disappear as their propaganda is used to control how people think, behave or even believe.
Critical thinking and common sense is rare these days. Explore life. Get to KNOW people. Rebuke actions rather than color, beliefs or other attributes. It is all these attributes that makes each of us unique and that should be cherished, not discriminated against.
There are lines being drawn in the sand during these changes. It is based on how we act and treat one another. It is based on violence vs peace. That is the only thing that we should be discriminating against. Unfortunately it requires that people be taught the Pacem Arts so that they can make that determination. Few have that level of training but it is improving.
Time to build the team of Pacem Arts blackbelts so that we can start training others on the art of peace!!!