Love is What It's All About

By John T. Farrell

Amalgamated Transit Union, Seattle WA

On Tuesday, June 28 our newly elected officers and our executive board, and a number of ATU Local 587 members attended a prejudice reduction seminar/workshop, given by Jim Cole Ed.D in the IBEW auditorium. The morning seminar was an introductory lecture on “Coping with Prejudices in the Workplace”. We found that just about everyone has prejudices, intentional and unintentional.

Unintentional prejudices are learned passively starting in our childhood. We usually are not aware of them until later in life when they are pointed out by someone, or we confront them ourselves.

Intentional prejudices are learned later in life in an active conscious process, more like a decision. These are less common than unintentional prejudices but tend to be motivationally stronger. There’s usually a connection with personal identity and this tends to cause a response when one feels personally threatened.

Both types of prejudice can be discovered, dealt with, and, eventually, done away with. The way to do this is to become aware of our own “self talk”. Self talk has to do with the way our mind functions when we encounter someone who is not one of “us”; someone who is different - one of “them”. It is the early stereotyped beliefs we learned as children surfacing and controlling our thinking. The afternoon workshop taught us a method of overcoming this condition.

In the afternoon we broke up into groups of four. Two people from the same target group (designated by race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation) teamed up. One as a sharer - a person with a problem - the other the distractor. The third member of the group was a concerned listener - from a different target group and assumed prejudiced. The fourth member was the observer.

This powerful spirit comes to us every time we try to eliminate hate, prejudice and misunderstanding.

The sharing person told about the problem. The listener tried to understand, empathize with, and draw more information out of the sharer. The distractor kept telling the sharer that the listener did not care, understand or even want to be concerned. This caused the listener to listen and think really hard, to dig deeper, to come up with concerned and clarifying questions; to open up his or her heart in order to feel and understand where the sharer was coming from. The distractor’s agitation also caused the sharer to go deeper and come up with different ways of explaining the injury, the hurt, the insult, or whatever the problem might be so that the listener experienced a dropping of defences, an unfolding, an opening up of their hearts toward each other, a reaching out toward one another as human beings in a very trusting and caring way.

After about 13 minutes of this, the listener and the observer could change roles or go off to any other of the team couples and work with them. As a result the the listeners got to work with about four different teams.

This was one of the best seminar workshops I’ve ever experienced. During the workshop there was a buzz in the room. Everyone was talking. We were asking, sharing, laughing, crying. We were all changing and growing. There was a warmth and a spirit of camaraderie that is experienced all too seldom. Thinking back on it now gives me a feeling of peace and warmth that goes right down into the roots of my being.

There was a spirit that came over that gathering. This powerful spirit comes to us every time we try to eliminate hate, prejudice and misunderstanding. The name of this spirit is Love.

I feel most fortunate to have been a part of this wonderful happening.