Image above from The Colour Purple movie
Wow, it's been a very turbulent couple of weeks. Very uncomfortable on many levels and it would seem like there is a seismic shift coming.
It took me a while to respond in words and text to #blacklivesmatter because frankly I came to realise how little I knew, and I felt for a while that I had nothing to say or offer in response. But actually that is the point. Staying silent implies I don't have an opinion and I don't care.
And that is simply not true.
Often I have noticed that arguments become more about how to compose witty and clever replies than talking about the actual subject.
My understanding and knowledge comes from various sources; from watching films in the 80's, 'Mississippi Burning' and the adaptation of Alice Walker's 'The Colour Purple', which both left long lasting impressions on me - to reading about people's experience now in the 21st Century as a black person. They have filled me with rage and sadness in equal measure. On a short stint working at what was known as Colston's Primary School, now Cotham Gardens, I taught a unit of history on the slave trade in Bristol, where I learnt and discovered more too. That isn't the sum total by any means but it does make me realise how little I know.
So how can you register your disapproval and anger and help to effect change if you're not into marching or tearing down statues and don't necessarily want to be posting on social media and you don't possess the gift of great speech or writing?
Listen and educate yourself.
Listening is one of the most powerful things you can offer someone. Allowing them to express their thoughts and feelings often leads to revelations and solutions of their own making. And, if you don't think it's that big or important consider how you feel after a bad day being able to vent or 'decompress' or just dump your thoughts. And think about what happens when you don't do that.... In the listening keep your internal thoughts quiet. You are not waiting to speak or add your juicy piece of information.
If the person is angry or upset or frustrated, keep listening.
Educate yourself take some time to learn something you didn't know. There is so much out there. Videos, films, webinars, books, audio books, stories.... the list is endless. You don't need to read great tomes or be able to recall dates and figures and numbers to be tested on. Just find out something that you didn't know. (I've added a link to a few ideas below.)
Just this week I also had the chance to call someone out on something they said. Normally I wouldn't bother, I'm not looking for confrontation but really that's not acceptable on my part. I don't need a full on stand up argument. It was a small thing yes, a snippet of a conversation, but many small actions lead to something bigger. It is wise to have something up your sleeve, a thought, an idea that might challenge someone's thinking.
Often I have noticed that arguments become more about how to compose witty and clever replies than talking about the actual subject. You have to get beyond that. It is better to register your disapproval and be shot down by some sharp comment, even if it means saying: " I don't agree. I don't have the history or a fact at my fingertips, to counter argue, but I still disagree.
I'm still learning and I'm listening.
A website with links to many charities, petition, articles and books. I understand Why I’m No longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge has sold out in paper copy but is still available as an audio book.