Coca-Cola Middle East issues a challenge to remove human labels with their latest social experiment disguised as a campaign. Are you ready to take it?

The only thing Coca-Cola could have done differently in this video to make it more effective, would have been allowing the viewer go through the blind experience right alongside the men on the screen—to give us a virtual spot at their table. Six men, in the dark, ringed around a table, present for a purpose, maybe they don’t even understand.

Men, of every walk, all victims of stereotyping in their life. I will not spoil it for you, but to say, a storm of emotions will rush your body as you silently chastise these men, seated mere feet from each other, thinking their own exposure to experiences in their unique lives makes an apt barometer to measure their fellow human. Because you are given the answers as the video plays, you might think, Well I know better. Then…you realize you don’t. We all don’t. It is due to our lifelong conditioning.

If I am being honest, I would say my brain started to assemble the pieces as I sat there in the dark, as I became those men, and until I had built an imagined human, complete with the past, present and future. It’s obviously unfair. We would all do the same thing. We are guilty. Coke’s video proves it. I challenge you to disprove it.

I watched a young white male walk down the street the other day as I drove along in suburbia. His pants sagged, he wore a face suggesting a beaten-down hardship, and I glanced a look at my car door. Locked. It was then I decided, I was prejudiced…against people who look a certain way. Have you been there, ashamed at your own closed open-mindedness? I am a proponent of zero judgment, some might call me preachy, but in that moment I got real and I was disappointed in myself.

Does it matter I grew up in a shady neck of the woods, that I know people of all races and orientations become a different breed, unrecognizable even to themselves, when powered by desperation? Does it matter I used to be the female counterpart to that young male? I am the extreme hypocrite. My past shouldn’t dictate.

Our experiences are not universal truths just as feelings aren’t facts. Our stories, our fear, joy, dread, the warnings blaring in our heads to avoid, to give a person a wider berth on the sidewalk, are facets of our whole reality, but a blip on the human spectrum, untrue.

In the past month, we have seen the Confederate flag taken down, the protest over the action (as if not deeply offending a person’s very existence is minuscule, and should be trampled over the right to watch “Dukes of Hazard.”) We have seen gay marriage legalized, thrust into the spotlight to examine the warts and boils it might bring…which produced…nothing of the sort. It did flood the world with rainbow love. It is the compartmentalizing of religion that resulted, which threatened and forced people to take stances, to assert themselves over a looming change. Fear distorts a person’s reaction. As does desperation.

It is still not okay to justify. Yeah but, in my world this happened, or that thing occurred, which changed me. Our individual stories do matter, but should not be taken as the ruling whole. Because the secret is…we don’t own the rights to govern another’s thoughts, bodies, hearts, minds and decisions. Even attempting to encourage such an agenda is wrong. This doesn’t mean we need to jump on every bandwagon if we don’t jive with those beliefs. It does mean we rule ourselves to the best of our abilities, with a loving heart, that we expand that love to include those we deem different. The men around the table.

We are humans, trained to assess physical differences. People who flock to groups rewarding us with comfort and similarity. The need to bond, to feel understood, it is not to deny this fundamental instinct. A wolf, a sheep, a puma are different, appear unlike. We are not ashamed to recognize those dissimilar traits. We can accept, yet standardize treatment. Is this where shame lies? When we are too afraid to admit we see the differences?

This experiment is timely as we beg the world for peace. As we realize threads and fibers are buried in the state to which we have become accustomed. Part of healing means we stop enforcing our personal way to resolution. Each of us are unique. We move and think at our own speeds, we bring with us motley history and backgrounds, ethnicities, the battling of our own stereotypes. Disabled, black, white, Asian, gay, bi, trans, we are all, if we are truthful, in it together.

Coca-Cola’s campaign and the strategy behind it aims to erase the sight line from our embedded memories, learned responses and prior struggles, wakes you up on the inside and out. First, by identifying the alarming reactions of the men charged with resolving their quandary—who sits in the dark with me? Then by turning our assessment of the social experiment inward. How would I react? I can’t be as guilty as those narrow-minded people. I’m a good person. Can a good person believe in stereotypes, perpetuate them?

We all need a lesson in enhanced empathy toward one another. Our fight for acceptance starts when we plumb our minds, hearts and souls. When we take another person’s anger at our tacit history calmly, allowing each to have their thoughts and emotions. To talk without rancor and insult, to listen and open up to a truth other than one we have manifested. It continues when we can talk as equals, without fanfare, bias, or the need to control the values and beliefs of another. It progresses when we separate our values from our neighbor’s, with the serenity of not giving a whit at how they live their lives ever-present in our own. If you’re looking to blow your mind, read The Good Men Project’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism. Although directed at white people, the unraveling of each strata of silent responsibility, and the overlap of misunderstandings finally explains to the world at large why we can’t gain a meaningful foothold with this issue.

As long as we are good people taking care of each other. Isn’t that the direction?

Thank you, Coca-Cola. You have cracked the door on an often manipulated topic, one entombed in bloody defenses and distortion. Let’s get talking about it and move that mountain, even if we have to start with one pebble. Or an instrument, like your video.

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Original article appeared at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission.

Video: YouTube/Coca-Cola Middle East

Photo: YouTube/Coca-Cola Middle East

 

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