When Jon Stewart refused to tell jokes but instead spoke up on the shooting in South Carolina he used the term “Racial Wallpaper”. He explained that the black people in South Carolina drive on streets named after generals that fought against their freedom, that they walk under the confederate flag as they …. Live… reminded daily that they are not the people of choice.
These constant reminders of the local beliefs that serve as the backdrop for their daily living is what Jon Stewart was referring to as racial wallpaper.
The words hit me like a sledge hammer.
He was right! Hearing the term racial wallpaper helped me comprehend more than the horror of this horrendous incident… it helped me understand what to do. In fact, it got me excited.
Because I knew I had been doing it all wrong, I had been teaching backwards.
You see, I speak out on rape, abuse, racism, xenophobia, disability rights etc. and in most of these issues I use an analogy with which to explain how fooled we are by the evidence we see. I analogize the magician’s trick of waving dramatically his right hand while tricking us with his left. I was meaning to draw attention to the “truth” of what is in the shadows. But instead I drew attention to the trick itself. People imagined the dramatic movement because that is the part they had seen. They did not imagine the trick because the trick had tricked them.
They had no experience with what was behind the trick to imagine it with.
So even though I was trying to draw attention to what was behind the scenes I was in fact drawing attention, perception, and belief building to the distraction. No wonder people were left with the overwhelming feeling that something should be done but that they didn’t know what.
Then Jon Stewart used the term racial wallpaper and it hit me like a ton of bricks. In those two words he said what I have been trying to say, did what I have been trying to do. He took my mind to the behind the scenes and the way in which the behind the scenes is our wallpaper of abuse and assault and rape and murder and warmongering and racial hatred and all the other ugly aspects of American behavior.
Wallpaper is easy to understand.
Ugly wallpaper changes how you live in front of it. Ugly wallpaper changes what you think about. It distracts you without taking your attention because the brain is set up to ignore what it sees all the time, while still being shaped by its influences.
Some form or other of this ugly wallpaper permeates our every environment. It oozes personality and convinces without our conscious attention and it also provides us with the place to start. The wallpaper is the solution.
Take it down and put up something new.
Instead of just pointing a finger at what’s wrong and what not to do… do something simple and sweet. Let’s start with South Carolina. Let’s take down the wallpaper, the street signs, the flags, the frowns and justifications.
This is my request. If you fly a confederate flag take it down and put half way up- an American flag. And if you don’t live in South Carolina begin somewhere else. Look at your wallpaper. Find the direction to hate others or your selves and take it down.
Now put up something that says “people are wonderful and I can’t wait to love them.” If that is too silly to you then start with a blank wall and an intention to love. The rest will become obvious.
Put up some new inclusive paper with attention to intention. Invite human understanding and delight.
And voila! The America I chose to live in can become the America the movies convinced me I was choosing at the time. America Be Beautiful!