This isn't a race

Today was my final therapy session. I didn't set a follow-up appointment. As we were getting to the final minutes, he gave me some words of encouragement. "Pessimists and realists often look similar. You're a realist though, you acknowledge the negative, but you are still actively trying to find the positive. You started coming because you were having struggles, but you wanted to get better. You said the last two days were miserable, but you said that they were out of  the norm from the great month you had. You have hope that there is a glimmer of light out there, and that is crucial. When it comes to my integrity and ethics, I can't in good conscious ask you to come back if you aren't benefiting from these conversations. So tell me, Chris, do you feel like you are benefiting from them?"

It made me think for a second. I really enjoy going to therapy, but I had genuinely forgotten that I had an appointment until my phone reminded me a day prior. Was I going because there was progress for my mental health, or because I enjoyed the conversations I was taking part in?

One of the things that I kept bringing up over our past few sessions was the fact that I don't want to become another crotchety Bentley. My grandfather was an angry person for a season in his life, my father was an angry person for a season in his life, and I've been struggling with anger in my own life.

Ultimately, I don't want to be perceived as an asshole and die alone. I think that's a core desire for all of humanity. His response was cleverly simple. "If one person doesn't like you, it's them. If two people don't like you, it's them. If five people don't like you, it's them. Now, if everybody doesn't like you, it's probably you. But you have people who care about you, and you actively care about other people. Changing your actions to try and get people to like you will get you nowhere."

You can't please everyone, and you sure as hell shouldn't try. You should be true to yourself, and the people who like you will stay in your life. Those who don't, weren't meant to be there. 

Which brings me back to the conversation portion. I think one of the reasons I love going to therapy is the opportunity to talk about any and every topic without judgement, and with an engaged dialogue. We can disagree, and that conflict is what allows me to learn new perspectives. By making a choice to keep my opinions to myself, I have failed everyone around me by not providing them with opportunities to learn and engage.

So, this is the context to a topic I have not wanted to talk about. And it's not that I'm unwilling to talk about it, but this is a very touchy subject which makes it very difficult to communicate properly.

Quite literally, I'm the token white guy at school. For those who know me really well, it's easy to tell that I love science and cosmology (as opposed to cosmetology). I read the news daily, and I make sure I keep myself updated in politics and world events. I get super nerdy about comics and video games. I have a collection of toys. The other guys don't. I am the only white guy in a class full of Mexicans.

I'm like the dorky kid sitting at the lunch table alone looking at the cool kids, knowing I can't sit at their table. I was never told I couldn't sit with the cool kids, I just knew I couldn't sit with them. There's an unconscious bias built by society that white people typically hang out with white people, black people with black people, Mexicans with Mexicans,  Christians with Christians, Muslims with Muslims, atheists with atheists, and so on and so on. We have a society that unknowingly creates the segregation that we say has been missing since the Emancipation Proclamation. 

I want you to take a moment and imagine this. When you were born, you had a deficiency in your retina that did not allow you to distinguish color. The world is in greyscale. Someone came up to you and described the colors of  a beautiful orchid. They would struggle, and you would likely dismiss the issue because everything is monochrome. That's just the way things are.

You don't typically hear about hate crimes of white people killing white people because they're white and white people hate all white people. If you only surround yourself in the culture you associate with, how would you be able to recognize racism?

I grew up in Dahlonega, GA. Dahlonega is about 4 hours from Pulaski, TN which is famous for being the home of the KKK. I grew up in a very racist part of the country. But I also had the privilege of growing up as an army brat. You were stationed on base with the neighbors that the army stationed to live next door to you. I grew up in a very integrated environment, and that continued on throughout every location we were stationed at. I had the opportunity to see cultures all over the country, and I quickly realized something. People are people no matter who or what they stand for.

I do not stand for racism, bigotry, or ignorance of any kind based on someone else's heritage or how they identify themselves. One of the hardest things for me in recent history was biting my tongue when one of my grandfathers called the president a nigger. Hailie dug her heel so deep into the top of my foot to stop me from saying what was reactionary.

"Who the hell are you to say that?"

Alan R. Thompson, Ph.D. did research almost two decades ago on the origins of human population. He studied the patterns in human evolution, and while there are plenty of genetic variations, most of the variation is still unique to the individual. Race in itself is a description of the culture, politics, and economics of a specific society. 

Outside of the way you choose to live your life, biologically we are the same. People are people. That is a simple fact that I will hold true to until my final breath.

Let's travel back to Saturday. There was a situation that created a racial divide that will not be repaired without SERIOUS work from both parties. I'm not going to go into specifics for two reasons. 1.) I didn't witness it first hand. I know a number of my classmates read this, and I would never want to say something that would sway their opinion on anyone via me spreading gossip. 2.) I'm less focused on the fact that something happened, and more focused on the fact that neither party took two seconds to act like the adults they are and stop it before it escalated to the point that it did.

With the tragic events that happened in South Carolina over the past week, I've been a bit more vocal about racism, but very specifically the confederate flag. I cannot begin to describe my elation that Walmart and Amazon made the decision to set great examples by removing those products from their inventory. I posted a video on my Instagram with the hashtag #takedowntheflag. I woke up to 2 comments calling me a fucking Yankee who doesn't understand southern heritage. Again, I grew up in north yes, yes I do.

To me, life shouldn't be focused on holding on to where we came from but instead preparing the world for where we are going. This country has been founded on many racist principles. Stealing land from Native Americans and Native Hawaiians, owning slaves, internment camps during WWII. Should we forget that these things happened?? Not at all, because if we forget that it happened we'll be doomed to one day make similar mistakes. We should learn from the mistakes and do what we can to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

This is not just related to race though. I have been fairly open about my support for LBGT rights, and I love that half of the marriage ceremonies I've performed are for LGBT couples (totally true) in a state that has fought hard to alienate their rights.

This blog is losing steam quickly. It's pretty late and I will be waking up in four hours for school so at this point my ranting is showing. What I hope you get out of this though is the following.

People are people, and by separating yourself from other cultures, you only contribute to the segregation we need to turn away from.


Chris BentleyComment