Monday, February 16, 2015

Responding to hateful actions with grace

This weekend I had a tiny enlightening experience. Sitting in my room over a busy intersection I heard unintelligible yelling that went on for so long I looked out the window. There was regular car traffic and a young woman walking on the sidewalk across the street. Three teen boys were waiting for a ride or something under my window and one of them was yelling, presumably harassing the woman. She was not responding. Without hesitation I leaned out (wearing a white ribbed men's tank top) and asked loudly if they (boys) were okay. They looked up, alarmed, and replied in the affirmative. Inside I told a housemate about it and she cried, "Not on my street!" and went to watch them from the porch. There were no more incidents.

I think in this case I incorporated the all-smiles-and-curiosity tone I use at work and my adult male privilege to recall the innate moral compass of youth entangled in social posturing. My body just did it with very little cerebral guidance. My habit was to shrink back and be horrified in silence. 

My housemate hit it on the head. I am now an acting member of a community that maintains a new norm where hateful actions are never acceptable and individuals are reminded kindly but firmly of their own capacity to choose right actions. We stand together. I feel such gratitude for the communities that have empowered me to use my power and privilege to fight oppression and break down unearned privilege.
As if that alone weren't enough to demonstrate the power of a few committed individuals, I experienced a walking meditation with about 30 men of color through the heart of downtown Oakland. We walked, two by two, concentrating on our feet, gazing gently forward, focused internally. We crossed streets and passed parents with strollers, loitering youth, and much traffic. I felt so protected and powerful in that group. We radiated pure heart. 

Our navigators afterward reported many looks of astonishment and even inquiries about what we were doing and how much it cost! Kudos to the Men of Color Deep Refuge group that organized this support group style daylong.

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