The other day a trusted friend said to me, “I really struggled with your last post. It spoke heavily to white privilege for me.”
I was taken aback. I tend to be hyper aware of how my words and actions impact others. My automatic response was, “Really?! How so?” Her words were this:
It’s easy to tell others not to be dismissive when you haven’t had real and scary shit happen to you. People actually burning crosses in your yard. People actually spewing hate at you in public and school. People actually wishing and carrying out ill will against you and your family just because of your skin color. When that shit happens to you, you dismiss. You dismiss out of anger. You dismiss out of safety. You dismiss to honor and protect your individuality.
As she said these words my stomach hurt. Yes, of course. My white-washed privileged world had dominated the message I’d hoped to send. I understood her reasoning only as much someone who has not lived through those experiences can, and I felt such immense pain for it. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend her pain.
So, I want to that this time to clarify a couple points.
One, I am in no way supporting the work of Trump or DeVos, and even hesitated in using them as examples. But the point I wanted to make through their examples was that they are, in fact, leaders for our country and will be making decisions for us now and in the future. We cannot dismiss them. They have been given power, and if we are going to be in tune with our country and community we must be informed on how they plan to exact that power.
The second, we must listen to one another for two reasons at the very least-healing and being informed. In reflection I can certainly see how my post was perceived as this: If we just listen to Trump and DeVos we’ll be enlightened and refreshed by what they have to say. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. I don’t know. Regardless, that was not what I wanted to convey.
This is the message I’d hoped for:
If we ever hope to get back to honoring humanity we have to listen to one another. Slow down and really listen, face-to-face. Maybe we’ll be refreshed by what we hear and happy for giving the moment to listen to another. Maybe we’ll be pissed. And if we’re pissed, we resist. But we don’t dismiss without ever trying to understand. We don’t become single-minded individuals that can only see others and ideas a certain way. This is what minimizes people to a single story, or no story at all. And it’s happening all around us.
I have been writing this blog in my head for several days, hoping to be more articulate this time to get my message right. Then this appeared in my inbox saying all the things I needed it to.
I recognize, too, that I am not an expert, nor will I ever be. No matter how much reading, and listening, and learning I do, I know I will simply never understand what it is like to be marginalized in the way that so many groups in our country feel every day. I recognize my limited scope, and I work diligently to educate myself on what it’s like to be cast as an “other” so my scope can be enlarged. More importantly, an enlarged scope allows me to advocate intentionally for the “others.” Not in a let-me-be-your-hero kind of way, but rather a let’s-build-a-community-and-do-this-right kind of way. This will always be an ever-evolving process.
And so I want to close reflecting on the beauty of this moment. Often times a blog is one-way dialogue. You read it, agree or disagree, and move on. But this wasn’t. My friend felt angst against it and shared her resistance to it with me. She did not dismiss me. She took that moment to educate me, to help me see another side. I saw a new layer to her story and she added to mine.
Yes. That was my message. And it came back to me in the most perfect of ways. Thank you, Ashley.