Friday, February 11, 2011

MEMORIES

After reading today's post at One Shot Poetry , which celebrates Black History Month, I was reminded of my experience in learning Black History.

During the seventies, I lived in Germany with my husband who was in the Air Force. He once attended a mandatory training on Human/Race Relations, which I then attended also. Due to his interest and enthusiasm, he was transferred to that department and became part of the official training staff for about a year.

My enthusiasm about the training, which focused on the plight and contributions of minorities, especially those of African Americans, became known to the counterpart department in the Army. I was asked to volunteer and was happy to do so. Of course, there's no better way to learn something than to teach it.

I suppose this training was developed in response to the turmoil of the sixties. I was impressed that the military would develop and sponsor the teaching of such a controversial topic. The training attempted to teach details of history but also to raise consciousness regarding the many facets of prejudice and racism and its implications for human relations. It was quite radical. I'm surprised we trainers didn't get in trouble with the establishment - it was the military after all.

My education was significantly expanded. In addition to many other things, I learned that prejudice has no racial boundaries. We are all prejudiced about something - its human. Our brain is wired to judge based on the information or misinformation it gets. I remember one African American young man asking me how often my husband beat me. He had heard that Puerto Rican macho men always hit their wives. A Mexican-American man wondered if Puerto Rican women carry knives too - like the men do.

Any aspect of letting go is difficult. We encountered a lot of resistance acknowledging and letting go of stereotypes. But the majority of participants were eventually receptive. Overall, the program was effective and made a difference. I'm not certain, but I think it has been discontinued.

Those were good times full of hope. Today I still hope, dream, pray that there will someday be no need for race relations programs anywhere because we've realized that diversity is beautiful and we are all little manifestations of the same thing - humanity.

12 comments:

  1. Myrna, I pray for the that kind of peace. I truly believe it is at the heart of world peace. Wonderful post my friend. Kristen

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  2. Racism, intolerance to different religions and cultures and lifestyles all make me tired. I think the time should have come that all of this would be history, but perhaps that is too much to ask!

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  3. What a great story. Change is a slow and stubborn process. Thanks for sharing this.

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  4. Change is always difficult and sometimes to make the steps in that direction creates fear and fear is what creates disharmony.....

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  5. i hear you...i took several classes in college on race/gender issues...actually worked ass a statistician at one point developing surveys to measure attitudes...

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  6. Myrna, I pray the same prayer as you. But howmuchever we celebrate diversity, there will always be a Self and the Other. There will be some in the centre and some in the margins. I hope it all ends but I don't think that it will ever end. Sorry to be so pessimistic about this but then . . .

    Joy always,
    Susan

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  7. Beautiful post and so true. Hate and dislike is fueled and born out of fear of the unknown. The lack of knowledge makes us apprehensive and as you say, it is human to be prejudiced. But at the same time we as human have the capability to overcome all this if are willing to learn and to let go of our fears.;)
    Have a lovely weekend,
    xoxo

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  8. so true myrna - we always tend to think, the way we do things is good and the only way to do it - we should stop to hurt and instead learn from one another..

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  9. thank you for sharing your story. my second husband is chinese - my daughter is half chinese/half irish. her father was the first to marry a "round eye" - they were 100% against our marriage. when my daughter was born and they saw her "double lids" they warmed up a bit, but it wasn't until we divorced and I didn't take the house nor did I ask for alimony that they finally started to like me. I gave a eulogy to my mother in law when she passed. so...we came a long way.

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  10. powerful.

    hope you well.
    Happy V Day.

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  11. Myrna this is such a healing post. A dear friend of mine who is African American (she grew up in the south during the turmoil of the 1950's and 60's) and I talk about our experiences of prejudice from time to time...for me it was growing up Jewish in a small town in Pa with some very misinformed people about my faith...there were only a handful of us in the community at that time...kids could be really mean, but mostly just ignorant. My friend has different stories...but beneath the surface they are the same...because as you stated we are all human...we have experienced the prejudices of others and we all have our own prejudices (whether we are able to see them or not) and we all have the capacity to teach and learn and grow and truly SEE beneath skin and ethnicity and religion and even political views (this is my sticky spot...working on it!)...We are all souls housed in bodies, and we are here to connect not hide from one another or be cruel.

    Thanks for your wonderful post today.

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  12. This is a wonderful, timely message reinforced with one of those pivotal experiences.

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