People change people. It’s not our beliefs, opinions, or feelings but rather who we are and how we connect with others that makes all the difference. The ways that we […]
People change people. It’s not our beliefs, opinions, or feelings but rather who we are and how we connect with others that makes all the difference. The ways that we approach conversations dictates the outcomes of those conversations. The more purposeful the intention, the more likely an expected outcome will be achieve. Centralizing conversation and genuine dialogue as the context through which you approach others is something truly profound. There is a massive distinction between calling people out, and calling them in to conversation. Social justice is about the benevolent potency of the latter.
“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted” Ralph Waldo Emerson
We live in comparatively the most progressive day and age. We have come a long way, and yet we still have so far to go. More and more we hear this dichotomy of arguments for celebration of diversity, equity, and inclusion being directly opposed to this notion of a censored, politically correct, hypersensitive, coddled societal culture. While each of the extremes have their shortcomings, the true message is being missed. It’s not that people are more sensitive now than ever before but rather they have the knowledge and means to address issues, statements, and actions that have always been hurtful. Plainly put, we know better or have the resources now to be able to do so. The mistreatment and marginalization of people with minoritized identities was wrong, is wrong, and will continue to be wrong. Many a conflict has risen of the denial of the humanity of one another. It is that refusal to value the humanity of others that allows so many of the heinous ways we treat people to occur. That’s the purpose of inclusive language, and attempts to empower those who have been historically been disenfranchised in a multitude of tangible and intangible ways – to recognize the humanity of others.
When we know that our humanity is both the same and simultaneously different from others’ then we can move forward productively. Those who are invested in this complicated social justice work must rework our approaches. Our self-work is the most crucial of all and must remain an ongoing process. The day we stop checking and reflecting on ourselves and the roles we play in society is the day we remain complicit in the imbalances of power and privilege that plague us. With that being said, the external work we do needs to be carefully nuanced. The mindset of the unapologetic (insert subordinated identity here) person has its time and place but it cannot and should not be our consistent mode of operation. We miss out on the opportunity to change others while changing ourselves when we shut down avenues to true dialogue. Dialogue is where two or more parties listen to understand, internalize what is being offered, and speak authentically but with respect. We need to be careful about how and why we call people out. There are other ways to inspire conversation and much less aggressive ways. We should call others in to conversation to reflect on the welcome, open, and inclusive environment we expect for ourselves. We want to come together instead of pushing away. We need to think creatively on what is going to be most effective in bridging gaps, breaking down barriers, and building relationships where we can be vulnerable, express ourselves freely, and learn about one other/our world together.
The burden of those with marginalized identities is this nearly impossible task of having to educate through the hurt. It’s often left to those who are most impacted to convey how they have been affected to those who have done so, and even that does not guarantee a useful conversation. That is why allies are so important as they hold the dominant identity and are able to express messages and meanings differently than those with minoritized identities. Such is the burden but it comes with the territory. It is difficult and we are challenged to assess, quite often quickly, how best to react – if even at all. We are constantly negotiating our silence and that’s a problem, but if we are not the ones to express our thoughts, opinions, and feelings, than who else will do so? We have to own our stories, including how others make us feel, and learn to tell our stories so that others will listen. We have to know how to proceed. Do we start a conversation immediately, take time to process, let things go, ignore things all together, bring others in to the mix, etc. all are viable options. Our safety and sanity should be top priorities but as often as we are able, we take it on ourselves to educate our oppressors/aggressors. If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not because of us, then why? Where else will people learn about our cultures, backgrounds, and identities if not from us. We have to open more channels of communication instead of shutting them down if we want to create a more inclusive world for all people.
Learning how to best articulate your emotions and most passionate ideas is a complicated process but an absolutely imperative one nonetheless. Those who are most successful in sparking social change do so by working with the system and subverting it, instead of outside of it. They speak with purpose, and even so more listen with an open heart. They don’t censor themselves but rather control their tone, pitch, body language, and message. We have to speak with conviction. We have to learn to pick our battles strategically, and win them through all that we advocate for in peace, hope, and light. We build coalitions, serves as a catalysts, and cultivate connection instead of severing it. We keep education at the center of all that we push for. How can I learn this experience, and what can I teach someone else. What does improvement and a better world look like to me? What does it mean to live in a society that has the right to free speech but acknowledges that liberated expression does not exonerate you from the ramifications of what you say? We fall in the trap of become our oppressors when we make generalizations, speak for entire groups, and silence other voices. Our voices should be used to amplify those of others. Without all voices present, not all perspectives are represented and no resolution or change can truly come. Calling in to conversation is what we are tasked with pursuing as often as possible in efforts to better our locales, communities, and personal selves for everyone.
The quote this post began with is my all time favorite because it is the framework through which I approach difficult conversations. Being challenged is part of the process to understanding ourselves and others. If there’s no struggle, then how are we expected to change? Like I said, giving the benefit of the doubt, believing people to benign, and treating people as individuals is so important just as you would expect others to show you the same lenient courtesy. The platinum rule applies here in which you treat people they way they want to be treated. Call in, call in, call in, as much as possible. It’s an amazing opportunity to change someone and to be changed by someone else.