"Sure thing, Dharma. What's going on? How can I help?" "Son, many years ago Lily Pad was the home to only little green frogs. But, because it's a beautiful swamp and we have such a high standard of living, frogs from other cultures and other places began moving in and much to the horror of many residents, these frogs weren't green. They were brown, spotted, red, yellow...some were large, some were small. Some even lived in the trees! Eventually, the population became divided, not just by color and culture, but by something far more dangerous. As you may well have noticed, Son, there's a great deal of dissent going on; frogs on both sides of the issue are speaking out. Both groups believe their way is the right way. There are a few who want us to once again become a swamp of only green frogs. There's even those openly oppose and hate these new frogs, they resent them, feeling like they're trying to take over. They want to kick out all the frogs and toads that look different or sing different songs. They hate the very idea that these different frogs are moving in, working here, and sending their froglets to school here." I have noticed this, of course, it'd be hard not to. It's in all the newspapers and on the news nearly every day. " I know. I see it too. But how can I help, Dharma?" I asked scratching my head. "Irwin, my boy, you're a writer and you post a blog every day. I need you to be sure and get my message out to as many of your readers as you can. And the message is this. Frogs must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. Racism, Son, is a disease of the heart. But it can be cured. It's only fatal if it's left untreated." I wanted to know how this terrible, and potentially deadly disease, could be cured. Here's what my esteemed teacher said.
It begins with owning up to your own beliefs. If you can, talk about it openly and honestly...perhaps even with those you think you oppose; those that are different. This is a giant step of faith, of trust and understanding. And it has to come from both sides. Attend workshops in your area. The first big hurdle is to overcome is talking to those you would typically ignore (or worse). Learn a little about what it's like to walk a mile in their shoes. Learn where they came from and ask why they came. Understanding the problems they encountered in getting here and the reasons they often risked so much to come can bring us a little closer to having empathy and compassion for them. Suppose it was you. Wouldn't you do the very same thing?
Next, work to stop bullying. Whether it's at your kid's school, in your neighborhood, or maybe your workplace. Bullying is a form of racism. It stems from misunderstanding and ignorance of those who may be different.
The third step toward curing this dis-ease, is to stop stereotyping. Quite putting others into neat little boxes. Every frog and every human is different. There may be one bad worm, but that doesn't mean the who bucket needs emptying. Learn to look at others as individuals; judge them on their own merits.
Not all food looks the same. yet we like food with different colors and different flavors. Why can't this be true of our neighbors, too? Learning to be open to meeting new people, to judge them on who they are, not by their size or shape or color, is the basis for curing racism. It's about not being afraid to try new things. You'd prompt your child to try out the new insect (or vegetable or fruit) even when it might look a little different, even unappetizing. The same should be true of meeting new frogs or new humans. How do you know who you'll like them until you meet them and spend time with them? Understand that under the skin, every frog and every human wants the same things; the opportunity to live and work in peace; to provide shelter, food, and education for ourselves and for our children. Only our appearance is different. Next on Dharma's cure list are bandages.
We've all heard that "sticks and stones may break our bones, but names or words can't hurt us." This simply sin't true. Broken bones heal. Cuts and scrapes heal. But often time our words wound in such a way that they leave deep and painful scars. Watch your language. Don't say cruel things. The biggest bandage in the world won't heal a wounded soul. And lastly,
The bitter and the sweet. When we were little our parents probably gave us bitter-tasting medicine to help cure our cold or flu. It tasted bad, but only for a moment. In time, however, we began to feel better...more like ourselves. Healing racism is a lot like taking that awful medicine. We know it's going to taste bad but if we want to cure what ails us, we know we need to take.
Once we admit we have a problem, that racism is wrong, it can make taking that bitter pill a little easier. The first one is always the worse. But it does get easier over time and eventually, we feel like ourselves. maybe even better! Hate is a terrible and heavy load for our hearts to carry. Alleviating hate makes our hearts function better. We feel more love and life is easier and sweeter when we love instead of hate. Hate is poison. Love is the cure.
I know how lucky we are to live in Land of Lily Pad. We have a great way of life. Is it so hard to believe that others might want to share it with us? Most of these new frogs will do their part in keeping our swamp great. They'll add their own unique flavor, making it a melting pot that's better for everyone. We may love salt, but pepper, garlic, onion and other flavors season our food and make it taste even better. Our life can be just like that if we learn to appreciate diversity. Thanks, Dharma, for this insightful and important lesson. I hope it helps. Until tomorrow, I wish you