Listen…

I feel weird that I’m writing so much lately on current topics. That’s not usually what I do. Random stuff running through my head, stuff about Henry & the family, fandom, etc. But SO MUCH is going on & it’s been sitting in my gut. I’m no eloquent speaker, that’s for sure. I have no incredible, educated insight about any of this. But maybe by just typing it down here for people to read, it will help me work through what I’m thinking & feeling. I know I’m opening myself up a lot lately, but please stick with me.

Nine victims of the Charleston church shooting.   Top row: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton middle row: Daniel Simmons,  Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Bottom row: Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson

Nine victims of the Charleston church shooting.
Top row: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
middle row: Daniel Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders
Bottom row: Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson

Look at these faces. Read these names. Ignore that person who made us NEED to look at these faces & read these names. These are beautiful faces, filled with kindness, warmth, openness, welcoming spirits, and love. They look like they gave great hugs, great advice, wise counsel, and even a swift kick in the pants when necessary. Beautiful people.

I’ve spent a lot of today reading. Reading articles, reading blog posts, reading opinion pieces – trying to get more of a handle on this Charleston terrorist attack. (Which is what I think it is.) I feel stymied. I feel confused and angry and frustrated and completely impotent. And I know that everything I feel is only the tiniest percentage of what people of color are feeling today – and feel every damn time something like this happens.

I read an article talking about the responsibility of white people in the midst of racism – that we have to take responsibility for it within our lives because, as white people, we have been ingrained with the privilege of being white in America. That even though we feel like “Hey, I’m not a bad guy – I don’t hate anybody & I’m not one of these REALLY BAD people…” that we still have unconscious racism that we refuse to address because we are fragile. I’m not sure how deeply I agree with this, but I have to say that it got me thinking.

How DO we respond if someone dares accuse us of racist attitudes, beliefs, actions, etc.? Do we immediately get defensive and deny, deny, deny – citing chapter & verse about how we can’t possibly be racist? Are we dismissive and unlistening? Or do we put our egos aside for a minute and really listen to what the other person is saying? Do we listen with an open heart, examining our minds & hearts for the grain of truth that might be there?

The author talked about the “rules” for bringing up race issues with white people and how you have to be calm & quiet in the attempt, you have to do it privately, you have to be indirect, among other rules. We as whites are so terrified of being called racist that we don’t even open the table to any discussion about OUR reaction to it. We’ll jump to “well, *I* have my own oppression issues, so you can’t call me racist,” or “I don’t feel safe talking about this – you’re attacking me.” Which makes it nearly impossible for anyone of color to actually have a discussion with us about it. Even a neutral conversation can be pointless (or even hostile) because we refuse to hear that we might be implicit in this issue simply because we were born white and were given the associated privileges thereof. (And before you can attack that, if you don’t think there’s such a thing as “white privilege”, tell me when the last time you were pulled over simply for the color of your skin or talked to your children about how to respond if approached by the cops so you DON’T GET KILLED.)

Here’s the thing – I feel weird even talking about racism because I know there’s no way I truly understand. I don’t understand what it’s like for people of color on a daily basis. I cannot even begin to understand the frustration, anger, fear, rage, exhaustion – EVERYTHING – that’s felt by the communities of people around the country. I don’t get it and I admit I don’t get it. But here’s what I do get: by sitting silent, by being afraid to speak on this subject, I am part of the problem. I know I can’t affect any real change from where I am, but what I can do is not be silent.

So that’s what I’m promising today. I will no longer be quiet when brothers and sisters of mine within the human race are terrified for their lives. I will not sit quietly when someone suggests that the confederate flag is about “heritage, not hate.” I will stand up and shout when someone wants to talk about “well, that young man must have done SOMETHING to make the police shoot him.” Because…NO. It’s becoming disgustingly, terrifyingly obvious that there is way more going on here than that.

To people out there who are people of ANY color – I will listen. I will make it a point to hear you when you talk about racism. If I’ve done/do something that needs to be addressed, I will promise to listen. I won’t get defensive. I won’t make excuses. I will LISTEN. And then I will do everything I can to fix it. Because I know my privilege is there – invisible & silent – and I know that it affects how I see everything. So I will have the decency & humility to SHUT UP and hear what someone is saying to me. I won’t claim that because I have a child with a disability I totally understand discrimination & oppression, because that’s ridiculous. I will accept criticism, realize that sometimes other people are BLOODY ANGRY ABOUT IT and might not talk to me the way I’d like and that’s OKAY.

I think there needs to be a lot more of that across the board. We are all so freaking defensive that if anyone dares call us out about anything, our first response is not to pause & hear them – it’s to make sure they understand WHY and that you’re not LIKE THAT and yadda yadda yadda. If someone is upset enough to bring it to your attention, risking your ire and possible retributive attack, it’s probable that they have a point. That maybe it’s offending them and not because they’re too sensitive. LISTEN. We need to do a hell of a lot more listening & so. much. less. talking.

I will listen. I will stand up. I will speak out. I will improve. As I’ve said before, we are all on this planet together, just trying to get through, love and be loved, and make connections with others. We MUST act like it. We MUST.

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