What Listening Has Taught Me
Please bear with me during this post. I am simply sharing what I have learned the past few weeks, in a non-biased way, during my attempts at having constructive conversations with people online surrounding Black Lives Matter. For I have listened and learned so much from people who I initially might have judged and seen only racism in their words. This piece is written with an impartial viewpoint.
I am someone who reacts quickly and nine times out of ten I substantially regret my reaction. My initial opinion of some of the responses I have received have been to simply disregard that person as a racist. I have never voiced this, but my thoughts have drifted towards that. After rereading comments from people, I have come to see a pattern. It has required me to set aside my judgments and let go of my anger in order to really hear what individuals are telling me.
During many of the conversations I have had with white people, both in person and online, I have been hit with the rebuttal ‘all lives matter’. Something inherently ignorant, yes, but I have started to understand a bit more about why individuals say this. Perhaps it is a cry for help. It isn’t right, as the conversation has to be about the injustices people of colour are facing right now. But the individuals I have been speaking with are people who have disabilities, illnesses, or have spent their entire lives on minimum wage/the dole, never able to break away from an environment passed down through generations. I don't agree, I feel I must keep stating this, but I am starting to compassionately hear, beyond what I initially deemed as racism, them crying out for help. What they seem to be saying, in their poorly worded statements is, ‘my life has been shit, why has no-one ever fought for me?’. I think whiteness is being confused with anger at austerity and the class individuals have been assigned.
Now that I can understand this, I feel less anger and more empathy towards them. I don't agree with what they are saying but I can begin to see their humanity. Something that is so often lost through the blaring light of a computer screen. Each person is a complex individual, with traumas and pain and loss and fear. We all have our faults and they all manifest in different ways.
The conversation isn’t about that right now, it’s about race, and the injustices people of colour are facing. We can get to class systems later. The fundamental factor individuals are missing entirely is the fact that the lives of people of colour are suffering because of the colour of their skin. Yes, white people are suffering – no-one disputes that – but it is not because of the colour of their skin.
Compassion. I keep banging on about it, but it is integral to any cause, that we act with unbridled compassion and empathy. Humans do not respond to rudeness. Humans do not open their hearts to unkind words. We all begin to listen when people have constructive conversations with us in which we are treated as a human being, with feelings, and children we love, and charities we donate to. This is aimed at people on all sides of the debate. This applies to everyone. Slanging matches are tediously unfruitful. And all they do is hurt everyone involved, as well as damage the cause being fought for.
My initial response to people is anger, but I don’t voice it. I take a moment and simmer down, before responding. I try to listen to what it is they are really trying to say, even though that can be outrageously difficult sometimes. I wonder if social media is the place to be having these conversations, I don’t think it is. There is a human on the other side of the screen. Imagine it is your mother, or girlfriend, or husband, or child.
Love speaks louder than hate.