Read this: Who is Derek M. Chauvin?
And the beautifully and powerfully written: “Well. My city is burning.”
I can only liken the extreme nature of human interaction to my years of parenting.
There are moments before the meltdowns—moments before the fights. Moments before the remote control is thrown. Oftentimes in parenting, we don’t get involved until the extreme reactions occur. By this time, it is too late.
I’ve learned in my years of “gentle parenting” that the key is catching the moments before the extreme reactions—the stomped foot that happens before the screaming. The sigh or groan before the crying. Asking, “Have you eaten?”, before the hangry hits. It is paying attention to the moments before the panic button is pushed that spares the household. The thing is, you have to actually pay attention. You have to understand your family. You have to know your people.
This, of course, is not to say that altercations never happen, or that they shouldn’t happen. The teachable happens in those caught moments. Those moments before the storm are where you can hear the problem—before it has become too big. You can teach forgiveness in moments before the brain has gone dark. You can teach understanding in the moments before an altercation.
Catching those moments and diving in before it has gone off the deep end also shows your children that you are paying attention—that you are listening. That you are willing to understand who they are and why they are doing what they are doing. Why they are reacting the way they are reacting.
Riots and violence are byproducts of not being heard. And not being understood. They are reactions to extreme feelings, and feelings spread like wildfire. Imagine if we had been paying attention to the moments beforehand instead of waiting for that extreme reaction.
The peaceful protests. The countless stories being shared through social media, highlighting an issue. Did we listen to our friends who were experiencing profiling? Did we open our mouths when we heard racial slurs? Rude behavior? Ignorance? Injustice? Lack of accountability?
Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. These were the terrifyingly extreme final moments before the meltdown.
But there were moments before those extremes. Moments that, if we had paid attention, could have prevented this. Stomped feet. Raised voices. Thrown controllers. Countless moments before the extreme. Teachable moments that people chose not to use. Moments where reform could have happened. Moments when the good of our society could have been louder than the bad.
As the fires burn on the streets and within our hearts, this must become the moment we learn from. If we don’t share our experiences—if we don’t speak up for understanding—how will we ever get through? When people condemn these rebuttals and reactions, it’s because they don’t understand the moments beforehand.
The only way to help with understanding is communication. Even if it is just a story about that one time that “fill in the blank” happened. Understanding and empathy can only come from being closely connected to the issue and people. When things are out of sight and out of mind, they only notice when it’s thrown at their feet.
Pay attention. Listen. Learn. Understand. Teach. Throw the issues at hand at their feet.