Listening

Sometimes when I don’t write anything of substance for a few weeks it’s because I honestly don’t have anything to say. And sometimes it’s because I have so much to say that I can’t figure out a coherent way to get it down in writing and/or I’m afraid of the response. This is one of those times.

I’ve written several times in the past few weeks how BlogHer made a huge impact on me. One of the biggest impacts was how groups of people are treated in our country, whether that be because of their race, sexual orientation, mental health status, or whatever. And to be honest, before I really didn’t think about it much at all. Embarrassing as it is, I’m so privileged that in my small little universe, it really never affected me. In most areas, I’m in the majority and therefore have grown up and live with the comforts that come from being in that majority. I’m white. I’m Christian. I’m straight. I’m college educated. I’m middle class. I’ve never had to consider how my race or status in society affects anything I do.  I do, of course, live in the disability community, but even there, my family has been treated extremely well. Sure, Grayson’s illness and disabilities make life more difficult, but I can’t think of one instance where we have been discriminated against because of it, and I can think of many, many instances where we’ve been blessed in the midst of those difficulties. We’re lucky.

There was a lot of discussion at BlogHer about race and racism in America, and the conversations that surround it. Kristen Howerton, a blogger I respect greatly, said if you aren’t participating in the conversation yet to first just listen. Pay attention. Don’t join in if you are still ignorant.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. This week, with the Ferguson situation unfolding, I’ve been reading a lot. Listening a lot. I’m not ready to publicly jump in this conversation just yet, but I do think I’m a little less ignorant and a lot more open minded than I was a month ago. I don’t really actively participate in Twitter much, but I’ve learned so much by following conversations led by activists there. I’ve read a lot of blog posts on Ferguson, both by blacks, whites, conservatives and liberals. I’m learning a lot, and really trying to understand how it must feel to live in America and not be white.

What’s really interesting to me is if I hadn’t started following these people on Twitter or started really paying attention, I don’t know that I would even realize or more than a minute’s thought to what’s happening in Missouri. I usually have the Today Show on in the mornings, and their reports have been no more than a few minutes. My Facebook newsfeed, except for the posts by bloggers/activists I don’t know in real life, has exactly ZERO posts on Ferguson. Ryan’s is the same way. No one (that I know personally) in my community is talking about this, at least online. I think there’s something really wrong about that. And I would be a total hypocrite if I didn’t include myself as part of the problem. I haven’t posted about it, or been talking about it to my friends and family. It’s part ignorance, and a lot fear of saying the wrong thing and offending someone.

I hope we can start talking about it. I hope we can talk about it online. I hope we can talk about it at church, because another thing I’ve learned in the past few weeks is Christians often don’t confront issues that should be confronted. If we claim we love our neighbors, we need to actually love them, and we can’t love them unless we make an effort to understand them and their struggles. And ignoring what’s happening is not the answer.

All this makes me uncomfortable. It makes me nervous. It makes me really afraid to even post this. But I think it’s important, and I’m glad, despite being made uncomfortable, that I’m now really listening, and learning.

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4 thoughts on “Listening

  1. It blows my mind when people say racism doesn't exist anymore. I see. I hear it. And it hurts me deeply.

    I think something that changed my perspective was watching the movie “The Help.” I know, I know, how trite, but when I put it in the context that it was only a few decades ago, it becomes a game changer. My parents grew up in a generation where that was all okay. Only a few decades.

    I am fortunate at my job that we can discuss this topic in great detail (college classroom). My students share experiences that often bring me to tears. I pray that we can all open our hearts to accept the injustices in our culture and realize that we are all children of God and change needs to be made.

  2. Thanks for your comment on my post and for writing this one. Listening can be hard too. I read some really challenging points of view, and at first it was really hard to read the generalizations about white people and not be like, “I'm white and I don't do that!” But the point is that they're having these experiences. (Going to Blogher sounds awesome. I wish I'd gone when it was in Chicago last year while I still lived there!) What's your twitter name – I don't follow you, do I? (with 700+ it's starting to be hard to keep track, ha.)

  3. I look at my children and I am sometimes gripped with fear about what their experiences as young, black men will be. I try to educate myself and them, but I often feel inadequate. And so damn scared. Thank you for talking about.

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