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Good Morning Families, today is Friday June 5, 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.
Bullying hurts. There’s no other way around it. But one of the worst things about bullying is how long it can last. We talked about the unwanted attention, we talked about power imbalance, but the last piece, which may seem the easiest to understand, may be the worst. That is that bullying is ongoing. It lasts, and lasts, for some time.
That means, for the target of the bully behavior the painful emotion information is created over and over and over again. When things like bullying or stress or illness last a long time, we call those things chronic. And please don’t confuse this use of the word chronic with the classic 1992 Dr. Dre record The Chronic. “One, two, three and to the four, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre is at the door, ready to make an entrance so back on up…” You’re not old enough for that record yet, but man it was a big one!
So, the record, The Chronic produces pleasant emotion information, as only art can, but chronic bullying produces very unpleasant emotion information. Experiencing chronic unpleasant emotion information is not healthy for a person’s mind, body, or spirit. In fact, it can really hurt the mind, the body, and the spirit. For the mind it can leave people with depression and anxiety. For the body it can leave people with hypertension, fatigue, or any other illnesses that stress has a role in. And for the spirit it can lead to helplessness and hopeless or it can lash out at others in ways that spreads that same hurt; kind of like a virus.
This can happen for students and adults. Imagine going to a school every day where you know you’re going to experience unwanted attention that is not connected to the development of a personal or social skill or an academic goal. Imagine having your body threatened each day at the same time by the same person or people. Imagine being scared that at any moment someone could either twist something you said or just make something up, in a way to damage your relationships. Ask yourself, if you were in that situation what lengths would you go to in order to protect yourself? You might fight, you might confront, or you might withdraw, you might avoid, you might try to find another person or thing to take your place.
Bullies have power. They abuse their power by hurting the less powerful. Over time, the targets of the bullying often search for people with even less power they have in order to shift the target of bullying from them, to someone else. That is a defense mechanism. That is also how often those with the least power are encouraged to fight with other people with little power, so that they never turn their attention to those with the true power.
That’s one of the ways bullies are able to bully for long periods of time. However, sometimes in moments of clarity, the targets of bullying do pause and reflect. They do look up at where the bullying is coming from. When this happens, and often in fear they will no longer be able to bully, the bullies will look for someone else to blame so they do not lose their power. That’s where you can also see a clear act of bully behavior that we call socially, scapegoating. Side bar – this is one of very many terms and ideas that his roots in spiritual texts and stories. A “scapegoat” comes from Judaism. In case you’re interested you can find that in the Torah in the book called, in English, Leviticus. In very basic terms it goes like this. In the story, Moses, a main character, is told by the Lord, another really major character, to teach his brother Aaron, each year during the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur, among other things to at lay all of his wrongdoings on a goat and release it into the wild, thus cleansing himself of wrongdoings before he enters the High Holy Place. If he doesn’t put his wrongdoings on the goat, he’ll be the one carrying them with him. Then he’ll be the one to suffer.
And also, for your knowledge, the book of Leviticus appears in Christianity in what Christians call, the Old Testament. The old testament is the first half of a book called the Bible. Much like the Torah, and the Quran, and many other spiritual texts or teachings that exist in every culture everywhere, including secular humanism, the bible contains social management stories and devices for treating others with love and kindness. Last side bar, the Christian bible is the book President Trump is holding up in the recent photo-op. In order to get that picture President Trump used the men and women serving in our nations police forces to forcibly remove citizens who were exercising their constitutional right to assemble as well as the SEL skill of social engagement.
So basically, these days, when someone says scapegoating in a social context, they mean blaming a person or a group for the mistakes or wrongdoings of themselves or others. Here’s an example, suppose you were a leader of a group of people. Imagine that something happened and you were unprepared, unwilling, or incapable of helping the people you were in charge of. The people might turn on you. However, if you were to be able to find a scapegoat for your inadequacies you could put the blame of all your shortcomings on someone else. Over time, or doing this chronically, it may become very easy to have the people who really like you to see you as the victim, even if you are in fact in the highest position of power in the world. What happens next? Well, the people who love you, and who have less power may turn on the people who you tell them are hurting you, who also have less power. Then you all fight amongst yourselves. That’s how bullying culture can go on and on over time, systematically, systemically chronically.
As you can see, when you scapegoat others you use a form of social bullying by trying to get people who like you, to dislike others, instead of focusing on your shortcomings. Sadly, this type of bully behavior is often chronic for those who use it, and therefore ongoing for the target of the scapegoating. Remember, you’re the leader. So, getting people who like you to also blame the people you blame is easy. You have the power to do it and if you do it over time, the people will just blame the other people for you. Now you can avoid all the responsibility of leadership.
This is how for years now bullies have worked to sow division between people with little power. By scapegoating the opposite. And that has been a disaster for us in working together to create healthy social management plans that do not hurt people based on the color of their skin or the presentation of their gender or their culture. And this brings us to the terrible behavior choices of Derrick Chauvin.
For years in our country blame for social troubles has been passed around and around; ongoing, overtime, years and years. Many, many groups that do not have a lot of power in our society have been scapegoated. Now in real spaces of power, that is congress, police have very little power. Police, fire fighters, teachers, nurses, doctors, soldiers, these positions carry power within the point of contact with the public, when there is need, but sadly, for many, many years, the positions of power in our nation, do not spend much time interacting with the women and men who work these positions. What happens is social management plans are often created by people who have limited to no first-hand knowledge of what teaching, or nursing, or policing look like. So even though police have tremendous power when on the streets, they have less power when it comes to actually shaping what policing looks like.
Going back to understanding how bullying is ongoing we need to look at behavior over time. If each day someone treats you bad, you start to expect bad treatment from them. In fact, you’d be a little off if you didn’t expect that. Since the creation of our country people who would be identified by others as Black or African American or Native American have been given the least power. People in enslavement have no power. People under the rule of a foreign army only have the power the army allows. However, over the many years, the descendants of these people, along with the descendants of those who have known this is not right, have struggled to be seen and to gain power.
But things are still hard. The social management plan that governs police ask them to view the world as they are fighting an ongoing war against crime. The social management plans of our nation were written to ensure that some communities would prosper, and some would not. The way money was invested in people and business was not even across all social groups. Opportunities were given to some and held back from others. Neighborhoods were drawn to allow some folks in and keep some folks out. When walls couldn’t be built people would make highways, to try to divide those that were favored from those who were not.
It is because of this, and not by accident that many neighborhoods that are lived in predominantly by citizens with darker skin suffer from higher rates of crime and a strange mix of both over policing and under policing.
For many people growing up in these neighborhoods, interactions with the police may have produced much more painful emotion information than people growing up in neighborhoods with lower rates of crime. Seeing an officer who enforces these plans may not bring comfort for many people. In the same way that a student who faces bullying each day at school may feel when they see their bully, that is, it is possible to become flooded with painful emotion information.
And that is where Derrick Chauvin met George Floyd. Derrick Chauvin is a police officer in Minneapolis. George Floyd was a citizen of Minneapolis. George Floyd was also an African American man in America. This was not George Floyd’s first time interacting with a police officer and this was not Derrick Chauvin’s first time interacting with a citizen we would identify as Black or African American. When they met they brought to this encounter all of their years of experience. All of the times they’ve interacted across their different groups.
We don’t know what words they used, and we don’t know what emotion information was flooding them, but because of cellphone footage we know that George Floyd wound up handcuffed on the ground with Derrick Chauvin’s knee pressed into his neck. On the street, police have more power by their titles. Derrick Chauvin also had three other police officers watching and then assisting him. That is also more power. George Floyd was handcuffed, that is an additional restraint against his physical power. Derrick Chauvin did not let George Floyd up. He did not listen to George Floyd’s words about not being able to breath. For almost nine minutes he held his knee on George Floyd’s neck until George Floyd died.
That is one of the reasons people are protesting right now. But people are also protesting because this relationship between the police whose job is to enforce social management plans and the African American community who has historically been on the bad end of social management plans, has been going on, chronically, for 400 years. People are tired of it.
And people have power in numbers. After all it is “We the People” that starts our constitution. That means it is we the people who can change things. You the person can work hard in school. You can learn about this stuff. You can gain social emotional learning skills. You the person can join others to use the power of we the people to make changes. To support communities that have been and currently are targets of unwanted attention, that do not have as much power in our society, and that face these things ongoing, chronically, day in and day out. We the people are powerful. What you are seeing in the streets is we the people working for change. It can be full of emotion information. You may be full of emotion information. That would be normal and natural.
This weekend check-in with yourself and with those you love. Ask yourself, what you are thinking. Ask yourself how you are feeling in your body. Ask yourself how you want to express yourself. Ask yourself how you can express yourself. Recognize your power as a person and then consider lending your power toward kindness, toward personal growth, toward others.
We look forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can on Monday. Until Monday, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.