A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog focused on polyamory [How to Tell if You’re Polyamorous]. I intended to write more, and with everything going on in the socio-political sphere, it would feel like a waste of my platform to not address the political movement that is dominating the news. Of course, I’m talking about Black Lives Matter.
I’ll start with my personal experience. I have never really been very politically involved. I mean, yes I vote. Yes I’ve heard of Black Lives Matter, and yes I agree with their cause. But in terms of my actions, it was an academic pursuit to understand and agree, and then go back to the way my life normally was. In short, it’s my privilege that allows me to engage in it as a conversation rather than a real, present threat to my existence. I have the privilege to ignore it and set it aside so I can move on with my life.
Please understand that Black Lives Matter focuses on the experience of black and brown-skinned people. While I am a Person of Color, I do not experience police brutality, nor am I exposed to a system that is as actively violent against my physical existence. Don’t get me wrong, as an Asian-American, I definitely experience racism and discrimination, but it’s of a very different type. For us it’s subtle, conniving, easily ignorable… until it suddenly shows up again. It definitely impacts our view of ourselves and how other people interact with us.
Two weeks ago I participated in a protest for the very first time. Yes, 42 years old and I’ve finally protested. I had grown tired of the endless debates in facebook comments that seemed to go nowhere. Words were not making any difference any more. It was time for me to make my physical presence felt.
We were protesting the curfew… by breaking the curfew. (To ease everyone’s minds at this point, there was no violence nor arrests that evening). It was a sit-in staged at Oscar Grant Plaza (aka Frank Ogawa Plaza) right in front of Oakland City Hall. We sat at the corner of 14th & Broadway, we saw police helicopters circling overhead, and the silhouettes of human figures on the rooftops around us. The experience was that we were being surveilled and surrounded. We were seen as the enemy. It was scary.
“If they can do it for their entire lives, I can do this for at least 1 night,” I thought to myself, and my heart broke open.
My senses were heightened, I was taking in everything that was happening around me. What if this were my entire life? Not just tonight, but every moment of every day, a system designed to see me as the enemy and take me down?
From this, I really settled on my place in this movement. As an Asian-American, I always felt that I was in a “halfway” position in terms of racism. I’ve definitely experienced racism, I know what that’s like. I haven’t experienced the level of brutality as black and brown-skinned Americans. I’m also not white, I’m still an “other” to them. They see and treat me as such.
I am a Person of Color. I understand the experience of racism in America. I’m also not as heavily affected by having conversations about police brutality. I have the emotional bandwidth to field questions and educate people when black and brown folks may be tired of it.
Second point, and this one has to do with behaviorism and reinforcement. Although, behaviorism is on an individual level, and social change is on a… societal level, so perhaps behaviorism/psychology doesn’t apply as well as something like sociology, but bear with me. If it helps, try to consider it more of an analogy.
Right now we’re seeing a lot of different behavior from the people we want to change, namely police & politicians. We see them kneeling with protesters, passing new legislation, making bold statements on the news. In terms of behaviorism, they’re learning that they’re expected to do something. They’re trying out new things, breaking out of what they normally do. In other words, the protests are working.
And when they’re doing, the new behaviors that are showing up, are not exactly what BLM is looking for. This is when a good trainer will give a signal, a small reinforcer. Something that tells them, “Yes, you’ve got the idea, but keep going, you’re not done yet.”
We got them to understand that there’s something they need to do. They’re trying all kinds of things and they haven’t gotten it yet. Praise them for the attempt, but don’t stop protesting. Keep pushing, let them know they haven’t gotten it yet, and to keep trying. We’re about halfway there, this is exactly the time to NOT give up.
With that, if you’re so inclined, please contribute any way you can.
(For those of you who want to know, I see myself fulfilling the roles of Fighter and Bard.)
What will you do now to get involved? Please tell me, I’d love to know!
You can email me: Steve@CoachSteveYang.com
Or post to my facebook business page: https://business.facebook.com/coach.steve.y
Or if you want to talk to me about it, you can schedule a free 25-minute call here: https://calendly.com/coachsteveyang/25min