I had a conversation with a friend yesterday and it truly demonstrated the importance of understanding other's perspectives.
Like many conversations these days, our conversation shifted to the black lives matter (BLM) movement. My friend showed me an article in which a speaker at a BLM rally was defending protesters who were looting. I gave the article a quick skim but I already knew exactly what my response would be.
His interpretation was that looters were greedy because they were stealing things from businesses. Looking at things in the hard black and white perspective that stealing is wrong and everyone should work for what they want, he would be right. However, there is a flaw in this way of thinking in that it is an extremely myopic way of looking at the situation. To challenge his perspective, I tried to show him this flaw by inviting him to look at things from another perspective.
While there are certainly people of every race that want things and don't want to work for them, I challenged him by introducing another perspective. What if people are not greedy but are desperate? How disheartening must it be to believe that the only way you think you can get nice things is if you steal them? How sad is it that people feel so hopeless and ignored that they are willing to take from someone else because they learned to "get theirs" in order to survive because they know no one will help them? Why do people care more about businesses than people who are so impoverished that they need to loot to get money for food or rent?
When I said all this, I could see both the bias falling away as he realized his flaw and the effort he was putting in to humble himself to begin to eradicate his ignorance.
I want to make it clear that my friend and anyone else who thinks like this is not a bad person. Businesses, especially small businesses, hit by looting is not something to celebrate. However, criminalizing people for doing what they can to survive or for grabbing a luxury escape item to assuage their current hardships is not the answer. It is so easy to sit on a high horse of economic privilege and say that stealing is wrong and everyone who steals is selfish and greedy, but I know for a fact that if those same people were poor and tired of struggling to make ends meet every single day, they would very well be singing a different tune as they grabbed whatever they could to survive. As of right now, I and many other privileged people will never know what it's like to be in that position. We live in a world of so much privileged ignorance and are a part of a system that constantly reinforces it. To break out of this cycle, we must humble ourselves and learn to listen to other people's stories and perspectives so that we may understand, dismantle our biases and enact change.