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It’s time to start talking – and listening

On June 5th, 2020

We’ve been here before – again and again. Possibly the most potent symbol of police racism and brutality in America is Watts, a district in southern Los Angeles. Several decades ago, the street gangs of Watts formed the epicenter of America’s crack cocaine business. Such was the rivalry between the main gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, that the wars between them and their offshoots claimed five times as many lives as did all the years of the troubles in Northern Ireland.

The white establishment’s solution, the creation of the special CRASH division (the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) within the Los Angeles Police Department, resulted in the largest internal affairs investigation of what turned out to be the largest incidence of police misconduct in America’s history — for unprovoked shootings and beatings, framing suspects, planting evidence, and the department’s own share of drug dealing and bank robbery.

In fact, the very name of the district has become synonymous with the most extreme face of racial discrimination in America. During the riots of 1965, set off by the arrest of a black youth and his family on a trumped-up drunk-driving charge, black residents burned and looted nearly 1000 mostly white-owned businesses.

Some 15,000 troops of National Guardsmen and Armored Calvary — more than had ever been deployed on the nation’s own soil — were called in, ostensibly to prevent Watts from burning itself to the ground.

“Monkeys in a zoo,” is how LAPD’s police chief William Parker publicly dealt with the situation, sparking off another round of looting and arson only contained when Guardsmen cordoned off all of Watts from the rest of Los Angeles like an epidemic requiring quarantine.

Thirty years later, Watts rose again as the symbol of the uneven hand of American justice after a tourist’s video captured policemen brutally beating black motorist Rodney King, and the officers involved were acquitted of all charges. This latest incident set off a six-day riot of arson, assault and murder, leaving 53 dead, thousands injured, and more than one billion dollars in damages.

In the ongoing dialogue between the races in America, Watts stands as a symbol of the fact that no one is doing much listening.

Nevertheless, it is in Watts that we can learn something of where to go from here, in terms of overcoming racism in America and elsewhere, from a guy called Orland Bishop, founder and director of ShadeTree Multicultural Foundation, which has pioneered new methods of creating urban truces and youth mentorship. Orland Bishop’s extraordinary work is all about teaching rival black gang members how to relate to each other and to move beyond “I” and “you” – or, more commonly, “us” and “them.”

Shifting past sameness

In his seminal work I and Thou, Martin Buber claims that, in the main, we relate to other people as “I-It” – as objects utterly separate from — and hence subordinate to — ourselves. That is largely because, in any situation and in any relationship, we consider “I” to be separate and primary.

If I were to ask you to describe the first meeting of most of your friends, you would probably recount how you first cast about for points of mutual contact —  evidence that you share the same economic level, spiritual beliefs, hobbies, family structure or personal tastes. Most likely, you have chosen to connect exclusively with people who share something of you in them. We think of this superficial connection as providing us with a sense of shared identity.

We like people who are just like us —who share our own values, our attitudes, our personalities and even our emotional dispositions — and we tend to conflict most with people who are not like us.

All of the leisure groups we join – from the Rotary club to the Parents and Teachers Association – are based on a shared passion, whether a community, game, God or children. Our idea of connection is constantly seeking sameness.

We look always to recreate ourselves in another, which has as its basis a desire to reinforce that our way is the best – in fact, the only way.

In Bishop’s work with his young gang members, he shifts from a search for sameness to a deep dive into the deepest aspects of each other. Bishop invites the young men to engage in deep sharing, moving past superficial differences to the deepest truth of who they are and what they dream for.

During unstructured discussions, he asks groups of young men provocative questions to spur the young men to share their personal histories. Most are shocking, and the young people still very raw from them.

Bishop coaches the young men in the art of speaking and listening deeply and from the heart — without the audience being critical or judgmental. During this type of deep sharing, a person’s honesty and vulnerability aren’t seen as weakness, but has the opposite effect, building trust and loosening everyone else’s attachments to entrenched positions.

In this kind of deep truth telling, individuals agree to be honest and transparent about areas of greatest importance to themselves, no matter how controversial or contentious their positions, and never to use their views to make another person wrong.

All the others agree to be fully present and listen respectfully with both heart and mind, without judging each other.

Where our ideas came from

Bishop focuses on communication that reveals the deeper narrative of each person’s life — how we come to believe what we believe and who we really are — and the connection that always exists at that deeper level of being.

With this kind of communication you begin to commune in ways that enable you to connect directly from your soul to the soul of the other, in order to find the common humanity and connection beneath superficial differences. You discover the common ground that is always there, even when worldviews collide.

A single deep connection like this can be remarkably healing. “Once you have this relationship dedicated to that greater good,” says Bishop, “it can hold the space for it to just keep forming, no matter what the current reality is.”

Within its large network, Bishop’s organization ShadeTree includes a number of young men who were in rival gangs now working together. Similarly, in Guayaguil, Ecuador, peace worker Nelsa Cora has taught young people in street gangs to transform their desire for connection into “the power of service, life and love” to a struggling community.

Gang members have learned to channel their impulses for creativity and need for recognition away from violence and into small businesses: printing businesses, music studios, pizzerias.

The Barrio is now known as Barrio de Paz — Peace Town. This kind of deep sharing is so powerful that even the most ruthless of gang members have laid down their guns.

It's time for all of us – black and white, protesters and police – to make a start by speaking deeply from the heart, while all the rest of us begin to finally listen.

5 responses to “It’s time to start talking – and listening”

  1. Linda Fessenden Butts says:

    yes, mostly listening... and showing compassion and empathy for our fellow human beings ❤️ Thank you Lynne McTaggart for your intention meditations and making a difference!🙏🏼

  2. Janet Holmes says:

    Hi, Lynne! Love your post! I believe people are a LOT more in alignment in the US than the MSM would have us believe. (Someone came up with the term eneMydia so I tend to use just that 😉 I stopped listening to it (they only make me mad) so I now just stick to my "regulars," such as The Epoch Times, Dr Steve Turley, Black Conservative Patriot, The Still Report, and Dave Harris Jr. For a more comprehensive roundup I really like Heydon Music Page first thing in the morning; they cover tweets and a good range of other outlets. I also have Q followers/analyzers for "fringe" insight :D, i.e., Weeping Angel, And We Know and Stroppy Me from OZ.

    Unfortunately the other vampire from Mass is in ICU. He had pneumonia last Nov and in January he got what looks like COVID19. While they treated THAT they discovered he's got AML and he's been in and out of the hospital since then. We've got lots of energy healers (Reiki, Tong Ren, Intention, etc.) working on it but he had such a bad reaction to the chemo they had to intubate him and put him on a ventilator. Oh, yes, and like a good vampire he is getting lots of fresh blood.

    Hugs to you and Brian! Janet

  3. Lynn Howard says:

    Along the same lines, see The Work documentary, about men’s groups at Folsom Prison doing deep healing of emotional wounds.

  4. Ferman Smith says:

    Dear Lynne,
    Hopefully, you will see this comment and able to respond sometime soon. When I first came to this website, I got a message : This is Only a Preview, it will not be posted until ( it is reviewed for appropriateness etc.) Four or five days later, my response was posted. Since that time, most of my posts have now been "automatically" posted without preview. Someone, either you or your moderator, even posted my Facebook page, so that when I log in it appears on my webpage. So you or your moderator apparently, took it upon yourself(ves) to "subscribe" me as it became obvious I am a conscientious and regular contributor.
    I have no issue with this. In fact, I am much appreciative.
    FYI : I even mentioned I wanted to contribute a "passage" or short commentary about a special I saw on ABC 20/20 in 2010 About Miracles and Intercessory Prayer.
    I was afraid however to write it.... was afraid it might be viewed as pessimistic or negative. I even stated : I would write it only if you ( Lynne) or your staff would review it first.
    So you see-- it is NOT my desire to OFFEND. It is my desire to give COMFORT.
    Now -- recently you (Lynne) have laid down the law : I will be banned if there is ONE more incidence of "Rudeness".... "Name Calling"..... "Nastiness"..... Aggressive Verbal Display".....
    As mentioned from my FaceBook Icon above -- In response I said : I do NOT agree with much of what you said. Yet I declined to debate or make an attempt to defend what I said. I DID apologize for any NAME calling... which I had already done in the past. I also explained : I was merely trying to elicit a response from you ( Lynne). I know that you (Lynne) are a VERY busy person. Yet when someone asks you a DIRECT question --how long is a REASONABLE amount of time for a reply? The first time when I got the "Preview Messages " it took 4 to 5 days. Or as some agencies might say: "Four to Five business days.
    Now it seems I am "subscribed" here I for now anyway) by you or your moderator.
    So let me say this (without debate) I understand "Name Calling"
    I APOLOGIZED sincerely for calling you a possible Racist or Bigot …..
    For the sake of CLARIFICATION
    Am not sure if I totally understand what you coniseder as RUDENESS
    or
    NASTINESS
    or
    AGGRESSIVE VERBAL DISPLAY
    It almost sounds as if I make any kind of EXPRESSION it is up to you to unilaterally decide which is which or what is what...
    Perhaps this is so... It is your website.
    So... I asked you a DIRECT QUESTION in my Reply to you from my FACEBOOK Icon : Are you present at each of the Sunday Intentions? And a REQUEST : If so , could you or would you make a comment to let us know you are there?
    I submit this response to you with all DUE RESPECT!

  5. Ferman Smith says:

    The Late Great George Floyd
    I am watching a televised funeral on all three major television stations. It is occurring not far from me. George Floyd finished from my alma mater ( many years after me) Jack Yates Senior High School. I did not personally know him.
    I , like, the rest of the WORLD know of him!
    They will bury George Floyd in a private ceremony in a cemetery in Pearland, Texas, not very far from where I live-- 6 1/2 , maybe seven miles away.
    I really cannot add or detract ( which is not necessary of course) anything that has been or might be said.
    George Floyd's life has already brought about great social change -- in my view.
    I say in my view.
    Senator Kamala Harris has already stated : "It will be hard to get a conviction in this case" ( I have paraphrased her words)-- Her reasoning : " People tend to believe cops..."
    To be honest I was surprised at her statement. Yet she is an experienced lawyer and litigator. She worked in the DA's office. Perhaps she is just being realistic and professional in her judgment.
    I certainly hope she is wrong..... In the Court of Public Opinion-- these four cops are undoubtedly, unequivocably GUILTY.
    If these men are exonerated, I shudder to think might happen.
    So far I have NOT joined the protests. I am trying to "social distance" because of my own underlying health conditions etc.
    However, if somehow these policemen are exonerated -- I will probably myself join the protests.
    I have already contributed to the "Official George Floyd Go Fund Me"....
    Through my correspondence with Lynne and others on this page who might listen ( So far only Elene Gusch and Lynne Mc Taggart have responded) In my own way I have tried to contribute to the FIGHT against INJUSTICE. If I have Offended others unjustly it was NOT my intent. Yet, it is worth the risk in effort to initiate CHANGE.
    I see people around the WORLD willing to accept and facilitate change.
    I saw a heartfelt by Jimmy Fallon recently. He apologized for a sketch on SNL over twenty years ago. Fallon did a sketch in Black Face about fellow comedian Chris Rock. Fallon initially did not respond. Finally he did respond. He responded -- took responsibility for something he did over twenty years ago.
    Lynne Mc Taggart has told me she will NOT tolerate : Name Calling etc.
    This I understand.
    I myself, will NOT tolerate "Bullying", Injustice etc.
    When I was in a movie in 1976, "The Greatest" starring Muhammad Ali-- I took Ali to task when he was behaving VERY BADLY. Ali was "bullying" , intimidating people with his OVERWHELMING physical presence. I stood up to Ali.
    After I stood up to Ali , his whole demeanor change.
    Most people would gave gone along with this NEGATIVE INTENTION-- I did NOT.
    I have NO respect for status or position.
    God bless George Floyd!

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