I had the opportunity to meet so many people over the past week in Alabama. And trust me when I say, that I came back a different person than when I left.
I wanted to write a post about Keshia Thomas. What an amazing woman! I was humbled by her presence. By having her work beside us, share our meals with us, and just generally share her stories with us. So, I'm sure some people don't know who she is, but she's got a very inspiring story and it's definitely worth a read. But I don't want to write her story here. What I really wanted to write about was how she impacted me.
I think we've all experienced racism in some form. Whether it's just witnessing it, taking part in it, or being a victim of it. Even on our trip back, in the L.A airport, I was exposed to racism on a bus.
On Saturday, our last day together, we all traveled to Selma, Alabama. We walked over the Edmund Pettus bridge together that crosses from Selma to Montgomery. Keshia was talking with a group of people before we crossed the bridge, asking questions about what everyone knew about it's significance. Someone asked her the question, "I'm white, what can I do to help fight racism?". Her response really inspired thought in me.
She said, "Let's not talk about black and white. Racism is not a black peoples' problem, it's everybody's problem".
It got me thinking about a lot of different conflicts. Wars, terrorism, murder, rape. I started thinking about rape culture, and how so much of it is directed towards women. Women's self defense, women's support groups. Where are the men involved? Where's the education? This is a societal issue, not a women's issue, and we don't talk about it enough. I've been thinking about wars that are fought between religions. They are just perpetuating the ideas that we are somehow different from each other. That our belief in a god, or our disbelief, or our culture or colour somehow makes segregation and violence acceptable. All over the world societies draw lines. We draw lines between race, between religion, between age, between gender. We even draw lines that separate us from our environment. These things we take advantage of every day.
These are the ideas that we use to justify wars, and violence. I'm no more different from someone that is Buddhist, than I am from someone that is African. I'm am not entitled to more or less because of the colour of my skin, or my religion. Everything and everyone deserves to be treated with the same respect and compassion, and until we learn that, we're not true martial artists. Because what does kung fu teach us? We really need to ask ourselves that question.