I recently read a book that I am still processing. It is important to listen to, or read about the experiences of others without feeling the need to insert our own voices, opinions and thoughts. It is important for us to validate the struggles of others, the ones to which we can solidly relate, but also to the ones that stretch beyond the shores of our own comfort and experiences.
It is important for us to listen, even when what is being spoken is hard to hear.
I want to learn and grow and be a part of the needed changes, the kind of changes that will help us dignify each other and celebrate differences. However, what I found the most upsetting about the book mentioned above was the assumptions the author regularly made about the actions and thoughts of the individuals around her, more specifically, the white people.
I do not want to discount the pain she has suffered, and I absolutely understand that our culture is full of racial prejudices and profiling that need to be addressed and corrected immediately.
But, perhaps the assumptions we make about each other are some of the greatest barriers to creating the change we so desperately want and need. When we add extra, (words, hurts, intentions), to a situation, or clump people together we create a wider gap that becomes almost impossible to overcome.
I know about privilege and power. I know that my skin tone and small stature afford me a kind of exemption that prevents me from being profiled at places like the airport and coffee shops. I fly under the radar of suspicion when shopping, and the only fear I have in regards to police officers is that I might get caught exceeding the speed limit.
I hold my own prejudices about people that I am acknowledging and working to reconcile. There are places I avoid in fear of my safety–some for good reason, but some simply due to the racial makeup.
I make my own assumptions that prevent me from getting to know certain people.
I think we all do, to some extent or another.
I want us to get to a place where we can really hear the grievances of each other, acknowledging the hurts and calling out the things that are not right and need to be changed. People are hurt and angry and begging for change.
We should all be listening.
Anger is a valid emotion that often stirs us to action. But, while our anger against things like injustices and inequalities burns red hot, may it never be an anger that consumes everything, or worse, everyone around us to ashes.
It’s going to take a lot of work, but we cannot afford to muddy the waters by adding assumptions that add distance to an already expansive divide. We are in desperate need for honest words to fall upon receptive hearts.
You know what they say about assuming?
You shouldn’t do it.