This Is What I Know – On Racism and Me
By Z Zoccolante
I’m a white girl born and raised on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This is what I know. As I’ve traveled around the mainland, and foreign countries, I’ve watched how the color of my skin allows me to move through the world in a way that I can blend into the background, or even be invisible. Even in Europe, if I don’t open my mouth, my Italian features place me in a position that people might nod and pass me by.
In my life, most of the people most of the time, have been kind. Most of my life I’ve felt safe to move about the world and to interact with strangers.
I know that for a lot of people this is not the case. My experience of safety, or of me being a non-issue, is not everyone’s experience.
Recently, I saw a post where someone was insisting in an unkind way that “all lives matter” and it set off anger in me. Of course all lives matter. Duh.
Since I learn in pictures and stories, I mulled over how this might be portrayed. It might be like this:
Let’s say it’s back when I worked at a drug an alcohol rehab. Let’s say I’m teaching a room of people about the effects of meth, and I have the one guy in the back left corner interrupting with frantic hand raised stating, “Yeah, but alcohol matters too. Alcoholism matters too!”
Um, yes, of course it matters but right now we’re in the meth class. We’re not in the alcohol class. The reason that you’re in this class is because you’re also addicted to a substance, but right now we’re talking about meth.
Sure all lives matter, yes, but right now we’re in the RACISM class. We’re not in the white people having feelings class. And you’re in this class because this is earth class to learn how we can do things differently to include everyone. We’re in the RACISM class talking about how black lives matter class.
Yes, all lives matter. Even, on the extreme, the white supremacist, who I do not respect for their thoughts or behavior. His life matters too. The way that I can have this thought is because I know that behavior is learned. Hate is learned. We may protect ourselves in ways that are often unhealthy and dangerous but we don’t see it that way. That is a problem.
Racism is a learned behavior. It would be like Suzy sitting on grandpa’s lap and grandpa pointing out a black or brown person and telling Suzy negative things about that person, filling her mind like a sponge with that poison.
This is the way that the mind works. Think about our mind as an egg. Let’s draw a line near the top of the egg, so the line separates the top third and the bottom. The top part of the egg is 12% and it’s our conscious mind. This means that it represents willpower and logic and all our good intentions.
Then let’s go under that line and visit the bottom of our egg mind. This bottom part is the subconscious and it makes up 88% of our mind.
At the bottom of the egg we have all of our unconscious learnings. What this means is that from the age of 0-8 we begin to have positive or negative associations with things (like + or -) in our mind. Let’s say I got bit by a dog when I was 5, there becomes a negative or minus association with dogs.
That line we created between the top and the bottom is called the critical mind. It comes in around 9 years old. This is why if you tell a 5 year old their art sucks, they may never do art again. If you tell a 12 year old their art sucks they might tell you suck it. The 12 year old has a critical mind, now so it can bounce out negative things in a way that the 5 year old can’t.
This is why Suzy grows up having all these unconscious, and sometimes conscious, negative thoughts or feelings.
The great thing about the mind is that there’s something called neuroplasticity, which means that the brain has a way of creating new networks. Basically the brain can heal and change.
If racism is a learned behavior, and it is, then that means we can unlearn it.
It’s also why it takes work because wether we believe it or not, we ALL have conscious or subconscious racism simply by being a citizen of earth.
Often traveling is a helpful way to break those barriers, when we see that the world’s not just about our reality and there are so many other wonderful people, with different stories, and that don’t look like us.
Since we all have conscious or subconscious racism, it’s important to address it. In the example above with the mind this is why a weight loss client can WANT so badly to loose weight but might binge instead, or why the drug addicted person might WANT to avoid drugs or alcohol but find themselves doing those things. It’s why good intentions just don’t work.
It’s because of the 12% verses the 88%. If we put them on a seesaw the 88% ALWAYS wins. Because for the person who wants to lose weight, food might mean love or security or relief. For the person with the addiction drugs might mean relief from pain.
Those subconscious things will ALWAYS pull stronger.
So this is how we tip the scales. We listen to what’s happening in the world right now, all the hurt and pain, and we act in what ways we can.
For me, I’ve been doing a lot of prayer. And before you criticize that love and light mean nothing without action, yes I have taken action. I have donated to people and to business’ and I’m reading material to take a look at the unconscious bias’ that I have. No, I won’t tell you exactly what because this is my own personal work. Every person has their own work to do and their own ways to give what they can. Social media is filled with resources and sites to donate and there are protest to attend. I am not the voice on this issue but there are so many strong, amazing voices right now for change. Find them. Follow them.
There’s been so much criticism I’ve seen as well on social media and I want to remind everyone that we don’t ever know what someone’s doing behind the scenes of their own life. That is for each person to know. That is each person’s personal work to address racism. And people may continue to criticize, even potentially this article, and that’s ok. I know my intention.
And I know that intention is a powerful thing. Read my friend’s interesting article on The Power Of Intention.
What I know is that I’ve felt safe for most of my life and that’s a privilege I’ve had simply because of genetics.
I know my intention is to have everyone that is black or brown, or any color in-between, feel safe in the world.
This is what I know.
That is why Black Lives Matter.