staying in it

My spirit is hurting.  It aches.  When the grand jury’s verdict came out last week in Ferguson, my heart sank.  I found myself taken back in time to my senior year in high school, when the outcome of the Rodney King decision also resulted in riots and a call to action in our country.

I am trying to have this conversation, and I logically know how to have it.  And I know I need to have this conversation beyond a logical frame- in a heart frame.  As an educator, I am trained to look at ‘facts’ and remove emotion, and yet how can we not consider emotion in this dialogue?  All around me, I see people struggling- good people- struggling, and we are trying to have this powerful conversation in the frame of right and wrong.  We want someone to be at fault and someone to be innocent.  We want to put people in boxes- racist, not racist, good, bad, innocent, guilty.   I completely cherish this.  

But I fear that this conversation is a reductive one.  This conversation in this way does not allow anyone to enter a necessary conversation around race, in a way that makes them whole.  It does not allow for the validity of emotions that come from crying mothers of young men of color who mourn the deaths of their sons.  It does not allow for the validity of emotion of white people who want to do something to be supportive, but are afraid to enter a conversation about race because if they say the wrong thing, then they are racist.  It does not allow for a conversation about the kind of society we want to co-create- because it keeps us in the realm of a reductive binary, where we point fingers at each other.  Either-Or.  Good-Bad.  Right-Wrong.  Racist-Not Racist.  It does not liberate us to imagine a different world for our own future.  

I worked in multicultural affairs for a long time- and I was the educator who pointed out all the ways in which people were {insert …racist, sexist, etc.}, and felt that if people didn’t come to that realization, that they in fact were {racist, sexist, etc..}.  I have also been the person who has resisted honoring people’s truths.  When my friends or colleagues who are gay and lesbian share their lived experiences, I often found myself coming up with ‘logical explanations’ for their experiences, rather than being in it with them, honoring their emotions and lived truths.  

If I was uncomfortable in conversations where someone might call me out on my heterosexism/homophobia, I would sit quietly, or exit the conversation.  When I was angry,  about racism and sexism in my life, I would shut people out, and shut down conversations because nobody seemed to be authentic enough, activist enough, progressive enough.  I said I wanted dialogue in both cases, but what I really wanted was to be RIGHT.  When I  was challenged in my heterosexism, I wanted to prove to people they were wrong.  When I challenged others on racism, I wanted to show them how I was right.  Today I am not sure if being right gets me to my end goal- a better place than yesterday.  Being right, does not guarantee me that I will be  in the relationship(s) that will lead us to reconciliation.

I sit in my emotion- because I want to feel uncomfortable.  I want to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  We have lost that art.  And, if we continue to lose that art, we might lose the most beautiful part of our humanity.  I want to be in the conversation that has us reclaiming our humanity- knowing that this conversation comes with anger, tears, messiness, pain, and rage… before we get to reconciliation and on a road to healing.  

So- I have been thinking about how we talk about race (or any other topic)…

1.  What would it take for us to stay in the conversation, even if someone else expressed an anger that made you uncomfortable?

2.  What would it take for us to honor that anger- and recognize that anger is never a primary emotion, it is a secondary emotion that sits on top of the primary emotion of pain?

3.  What would it take for us to allow people to try to show allyship, even though we are tired of having to explain what allyship should look/feel like?

4.  What would it take for us to sit in a both-and space, rather than an either-or space?

5.  What would it take for us to honor the experiences that people have, without invalidating/questioning the validity of their experiences?

6.  In what ways could we be fully present- but understand that different people are in different places in their understanding of the world- and may not be ready/equipped to be fully present?

I am ready to have many conversations with anyone who wants to join me…  I have so much to learn, and so much to feel.


One thought on “staying in it”

  1. What a beautiful, raw post. I want to make space or move space around to be in this conversation. I don’t want to spend too much time personalizing it because that feels selfish – at least as a starting point. I know I want to listen and do so as loudly as possible. I read a blog recently about Listening. And I continue to reflect upon the lack of listening that is going on around the struggles/tragedies/injustice we (I) are peeking in on today, yesterday, and undoubtedly tomorrow. I, too, want to sit in my own um..stuff – but not wallow in it, not get stuck in it or paralyzed by fear – I want to be present and accountable more so than I am today. I already subscribe to “both/and.” I want to know how to be more and do more, and I am ready to Listen.

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