The Different SimilaritiesBy Nannette S. Funderburk, PhD, LPCS / June 12, 2020
We were finally becoming comfortable in our discomfort. The torrent of COVID-19 was not, and is not, over however we were learning how to live with the changes the virus caused. It was not strange to see a person donning a mask and gloves for a simple trip to the grocery store. We knew our favorite restaurant may have a limited menu, and we knew to distance ourselves at least six feet when in social situations. We didn’t like it but it became a norm that many, if not most, of us accepted. Then suddenly, like a knee was placed on our collective necks, we couldn’t breathe. The air became thick with anger, shock, sadness, and outrage as we learned of the death of an unarmed Black man that most of us did not know, yet many of us identified with, named George Floyd. What complicates this matter all the more is that he died with the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on his neck while pleading, “I can’t breathe.” Three other officers watched as it happened.
George Floyd’s homicide was videoed and watched millions of times. Protest marches continue to be held in all 50 states and worldwide with calls to address the systemic racism and implicit bias that seem to be commonplace. This rally cry has not been met without criticism. For every “Black Lives Matter” chant there is an “All Lives Matter” response. The only thing that seems to be clear is that a man is dead.
In a therapy session, such as a couple’s or group session, this is the point where a therapist might call for silence. Silence to highlight what each person is saying. The people at odds would go to their theoretical neutral corners and the therapist would interject what underlying issues were appearing. There is anger on both sides but it’s rarely the root emotion. When the anger layer is peeled back it reveals a secondary emotion. What seems present here, is fear. Fear that this will never change and maybe my loved one, or me, will be next, and fear that this will all change and everything known since childhood may be untrue. Then who am I or who will I be? Similar to the therapy session, the two sides have similar thoughts and feelings but the catalyst for the reasons are vastly different. The similarities here; anger, fear, and change. The differences present; privilege, power, respect, desperation, and exhaustion.
How can we be so similar yet so different? How can the same emotions and concepts be present, yet we are so polarized? Science tells us that there is no biological difference between the races, and our socialization has separated us in ways that are only behavioral. When will our likenesses angle themselves to match? We are so much more alike than we see. Perspective is the difference. What is your perspective? Is it right? Why is it right? Why is another’s perspective wrong? What is the secondary layer to your perspective?
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