A few
months ago I was sitting on the subway, and a homeless man sat down and
started talking about how Muslims are ruining the country. He kept
asking people to agree with him, just a little bit. No one would. No
one. I felt something I haven’t felt before when confronted by racism. I
felt sad for him. He wasn’t ideological. He was lonely, rejected and he
was looking to belong. He wanted for once to feel like he was accepted
among decent people, that for once there was someone else who was the
trash, not him.

That’s is what racism often is. A way to belong, a cry for help. Its a cry we aren’t very good at answering as a society.

You
don’t have to be homeless to feel like you have have been given a rough
deal. Sometimes it feels like every group is under assault from
someone. Some groups are recognized as having a rough deal, some not so
much. Many feel like there is someone fighting for everyone, except for
them.

The
hypocrisy of women claiming to be for equality then going on to only
bash men used to bother me. It doesn’t any more. Its not a literal
expression of an ideology, its an expression of frustration. Its a way
to find belonging. As a white man, I’m entirely OK, with women sometimes
saying they hate men or black people saying all white people are
racists, because I understand the frustration, and the need to vent. I
understand that its a most human expression of how it sometimes feels,
even if it isn’t entirely factually accurate.

In
a time where the rich and famous have moved in to our social circles
its easy to feel like you are not living up to impossible standards, of
beauty, political correctness and influence, and when it is easier to
find your own group of like minded, we finds comfort in our own tribes.
The truth is that everybody hurts, that we are all vulnerable and
insecure in different ways, and we are all looking to fit in somehow.

When
we are defending our group, it is easy to slip in to a mind set where
the only way we can win, is by having someone else loose. We feed the
ones who hate us by hating them back. Our main motivation in politics is
no longer about to enacting change, or to win over others, but to
belong.

I
wish we would talk more about principles and less about who they should
apply to, but our society isn’t made up of philosophy majors, its made
up of people who express how they feel. Feelings aren’t always logical
or follow ideological rules. I’m a pacifist, but I can still feel like
punching someone on a rare occation. It doesn’t make me a hypocrite to
feel that way, it makes me a human.

If
we really want to heal, we must try to acknowledge peoples feelings and
that they are real and worth caring about, even if they manifest
themselves in opinions that we may find unacceptable.

The
stonewall riots was a momentous moment for the LGTB movement. It was an
expression of rage that had build up over a long time, and for the
people involved it was a tipping point that meant so much. What it
wasn’t, was a good way to put forward their cause to the average New
Yorker who looked out their window to see people throwing bottles
beating police officers and breaking windows.

No,
much of the great progress made by the LGTB movement has been made
slowly on a very personal level. By showing that the nephew still is the
same guy who likes to throw ball and go fishing and hiking, after he
comes out as gay, we make progress. By engaging and being a good friend,
neighbour and family member, by not being combative, that little girl
who happens to like other girls, does more to change society then any
gay pride parade ever could. Its painfully slow but it is working. When
somebody says they “hate fags, but that that guy is ok”, that means that
they are on a journey to something. They haven’t yet arrived, but there
is an opening. Its easy to focus on the “hate” and the “fag” bit, but
maybe we should focus more on seeing if we can find a second gay guy
that could also become “OK”?

I think there is a lot we can learn from this. You don’t change the mind of a racist by calling them a racist.

I
think it would be very good idea for Black lives matter, to give every
police officer in the country a standing invitation to share a one on
one breakfast on any day. Not to argue, not to tell them what they are
doing wrong, but to start building a connection, to listen as much one
shares ones own experiences. That is a very hard ask for people who feel
betrayed by a system. Everybody wants to be accepted, but none of us
are very good at accepting and listening to the people who’s opinions we
don’t share. As a society we all need to work on that.

To
me, making a human connection is more important then changing your
mind. To be honest, I don’t care if we disagree, I’m not here to judge
you, call you names no matter how different our opinions are. I want you
to know that no matter how much we disagree, I will be here for you, I
will listen to you and I will take how you feel seriously. If you need
help in some way I will do my best to help you. I want you to belong, if
with nobody else, then at least with me. And maybe, just maybe some day
you will accept that all people of my kind aren’t as terrible as you
once used to think.