Stand by Democracy (1 of 3)

by Dr. David Sanders

Have you ever driven by a billboard and taken notice of its message only to be told that the advertisement has been there for six months? Why do we take note of certain things and other things, in plain sight, escape our attention?

The documentary Social Dilemma provides one answer to the more recent phenomenon of how social media and internet browsers narrow our perception by feeding us the images, messages, and links it determines will keep us most engaged. All that amazing technological wizardry is refined daily in order to maximize you, the consumer, purchasing the goods it is advertising. You already knew much of what the documentary informs, what it surprises with is the degree to which the manipulation is carried out.

It is also common knowledge that humans stick with what they are accustomed to and comfortable with—whether that be products, people, or ideas. It is not just billboards we see or don’t see, our selective attention pervades our waking (and sleeping life).

A friend once shared this quote: “ Slip into something uncomfortable, it’s the only way to grow.” I tried to source the quote but google offered links to “slip into something comfortable” (or I should say “my google” offered me links).

There are times, and this is one of them, where you would have to deliberately turn away from the billboards in order to not see the message. But seeing the message and feeling the message are two distinct levels of awareness.

I have watched and shown the short film, by Geeta Gandbhir and Blair Foster, “A Conversation with My Black Son” dozens of times. It is part of our Human Narrative curriculum and I included it in this fall’s curriculum on racism. At first, I hesitated to show a film, that for some students, would be a second time seeing it. I was pleasantly surprised when a number of students similarly observed that on this second viewing they felt the pain of the parents in contrast to their first viewing in which they understood the challenges facing these parents.

Sensitivity training is not about words or slogans alone. It is not about how many times we may see something or (finally) see it for the first time. It is about getting to the feeling level. To feel the emotions of what it like to be in another person’s shoes, or in this case, to be in another person’s skin.

I recommend you take 10 minutes and 10 seconds to watch A Conversation with My Black Son, a film on the New York Times OPDOC Series. That is how long it will take you to watch it twice.

From the directors:  For generations, parents of black boys across the United States have rehearsed, dreaded, and postponed “The Conversation.” But when their boys become teenagers, parents must choose whether or not to expose their sons to what it means to be a black man here. To keep him safe, they may have to tell the child they love, that he risks being targeted by the police, simply because of the color of his skin. How should parents impart this information, while maintaining their child’s pride and sense of self? How does one teach a child to face dangerous racism and ask him to emerge unscathed?


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Sunlight Sea

All Endings are Also Beginnings

by Melanie Gruenwald A Primer on Holding Opposites   Today we concluded our Kabbalah of Mitch Albom class with a teaching he shares in both The Five People You’ll Meet in Heaven and The Next

Photo of man standing by broken glass and yahrzeit candles Kristallnacht (Created by starrai)

Clear as Kristallnacht

by Dr. David Sanders The world I knew, the one I counted on, turned upside down in the aftermath of the genocidal attack on Jews who were residents or just visiting near the Israel-Gaza border

sunset with adam and eve in israel order of the world

This is the Order of the World

The Sages taught: On the day that Adam the first man was created, when the sun set upon him he said: Woe is me, as because I sinned, the world is becoming dark around me,

Israeli soldier on a kibbutz, created by

October Lamentation

by Dr. David Sanders For these things do I weep, My eyes, my eyes, flow with tears Far from me is any comforter Who might revive my spirit My children are forlorn, For the foe

are you paying attn

Pay Attention!

by Melanie Gruenwald This semester, I am teaching the Base Awareness and Kabbalah of Mitch Albom classes for Kabbalah Experience. I always love to see how classes overlap. (Paying attention to what’s showing up definitely