Letters from America
Shaka Hislop, SRtRC Honorary President, sent us his monthly blog.
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With everything happening politically on both sides of the pond there’s a lot I could speak about in writing this piece. Recently I’ve been making a greater effort in trying to follow news from both left and right leaning media outlets in an effort to get a fuller picture of people’s concerns in what is fast becoming a more polarized, 140-character-defined landscape. Still, I’ll resist the temptation this time around as I’m almost certain that there’ll be no immediate end to the storylines, so I’ll write about something that hit home with me for a couple reasons.
Just over a week ago NFL running back Mark Ingram tweeted that he and a few of his teammates were denied entry into a London nightclub for being “too urban”. I remember my days as a professional footballer in England, and recall the differences in treatment I got when I went out in the West End of London with my teammates or when I went with my childhood friends. It wasn’t long before I stopped going to the West End altogether.
But it’s easy to cope with that type of treatment when it’s you. It’s easy to put that kind of treatment or attitude down to “their ignorance”, with a shrug of the shoulders and an admonition that “I don’t need to beg you to spend my money”. It’s different when it’s your child who calls you with that complaint some twenty years later.
It was about a year ago that my eldest daughter called complaining that she and some of her friends, a mixed group, were turned away at a London nightclub. When one of the group, caucasian, who was a regular there asked one of the bouncers she knew why they were denied entry she was told it was “because of the black girl”. They, and she, put on a brave face and left defiantly. My daughter was in tears recounting the story to me. I felt angry and helpless.
This was 2016 after all.
At a time of sharpened political rhetoric and heightened awareness empathy has become more than just a catch word, it must be our guiding light. I’ve said this time and time again, and feel I have called on it more frequently of late. Empathy can be divine. It cannot be uni-directional though. Which is the challenge is connecting each side of the widening political spectrum. The other calling for us is in not seeing the challenges through our own eyes, but through those of a helpless parent. It strips you of learned hardness, replacing it with a love and caring that matches the divinity of the much-mentioned empathy.