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Good Morning Families, today is Tuesday June 9, 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.
Social engagement is all about community. So, for today, take a minute to reflect on communities you share a sense of belonging with. It can be easy to look at things like shared identity; skin color, gender presentation, interests, spiritual practices, politics, these can be the ones that we focus on first. Try to also consider geography in your reflection. For example, the people who live in your building, on your block, on your street, these people are part of your physical community. People who go to the same places as you, schools, parks, clubs, grocery stores, doctor’s offices, there is shared community there.
Think bigger too, your town, your city, your county, your state, your region, your country, your land mass, your planet. When you focus on what we share and not on how we differ you can see that your community can be as big or as small as you want to make it. Those people who share your space, they may not share your ideas or your thoughts, but they may share your hopes, and if nothing else, they share the experience of living where you live. However, they may not share the quality of experience of where you live. And that is what is bringing about the need for social engagement. For 400 years in our nation people with dark skin have not been provided the same basic rights that politicians often speak so highly of when they talk about the United States Constitution.
Social Engagement means the ability to consider others and a desire to contribute to the well-being of a social group, or community. You can start by making a list of the social groups, you belong to. These groups would include the social categories you share a sense of belonging with. Again, that would include things like where you are a student, skin color, gender presentation, things you like such as video games and Youtubers, to things you do like sports, music, dance. What can you do for the groups you share a sense of belonging with?
There is tremendous weight that comes with the legacy of racism that exists in our nation. That weight is far to great for just one community to bear. That is weight that we all must share in. And you might not want to share in it. No one would blame you for not wanting to carry that weight. Who would? It’s heavy, it hurts, it’s full of difficult emotion information.
Here’s one thing to know, if you do you live in a space where you can choose to involve yourself in this issue or not, then that is another way to recognize how privilege works. Not needing to give energy toward equity is a privilege of the skin you were born into. As in you might have the complexion to receive the protection. But consider social engagement. It is a skill that can help you help others. And when it comes to working for racial equity, it might be hurtful. But the more shoulders that lean in to lifting it, the lighter it gets for everyone.
At the core of social engagement is empathy. Empathy is the ability to share in the feelings of others from different backgrounds, cultures, or situations. That is the foundation of the work. The shared experience of the emotion information. It’s the part hearing with your heart to what people are saying. The words and situation may not be your experience or expression but the underlying emotion information maybe very familiar. The image of Derrick Chauvin ending George Floyd’s life strikes deep in to our American conscious. There is a man with dark skin pleading for his life, while under the knee of a man with light skin. Now we don’t truly know what emotion information Derrick Chauvin was experiencing but his face and body appear both calm and confident. That image activates so many levels of community trauma that it is possible to be overwhelmed and unsure of how to act. Consider, if you share in the social category of George Floyd, then once again you are witnessing a body just like yours having its life ended, restrained and powerless. That can and does reactivate trauma experience. It confirms that the worst parts of our society are true. Imagine all the possible, painful emotion information this could create. Fear, anguish, sorrow, helplessness, hopelessness, rage, fury, grief, despair, humiliation and so much more.
But, consider you share in the social category of Derrick Chauvin. Then once again you are witnessing a body just like yours ending the life of another person with a projection of entitlement, even duty. That confirms the worst parts of our society are true. Imagine all the possible, painful emotion information this could create. Fear, guilt, sorrow, helplessness, hopelessness, rage, shame, remorse, grief, despair and humiliation.
Here is where social engagement can be a powerful outlet for emotion information. In particular, helplessness and hopelessness. There can be tremendous energy produced when that amount of emotion information is present. You can use that energy, along with your skills of social engagement and, being protected by the first amendment to the constitution, you can work for change.
Things are very hard. They are scary. You are right and it is natural for any and all of those things to exist, except two. We are not helpless, and it is not hopeless. We can make it better. That doesn’t make it easy. And that doesn’t mean things won’t be painful. They will be both difficult physically, and their will be unpleasant emotion information. However, it is not hopeless, and we are not helpless.
Let’s hear some voices from the streets…
((You can hear audio clips from recent protests by clicking the link above.))
There are many forms of social engagement. You can listen to others when they are expressing their emotion information about their needs. That’s one way. You can share with others when you are experiencing difficult emotion information about your needs. You can think about how others are feeling. You can also, where and when possible, lend your voice to a movement for change. Maybe that means joining folks in the street. Maybe it means calling or writing to elected officials. Maybe it means becoming an elected official yourself. Who knows? You do.
We look forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can tomorrow. Until tomorrow, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.