I like you.
But this might sting a bit.
Hold on to your butt, Stephen Stillwell
This is incorrect. Denying the role we play is just as bad as the racism is in and of itself.
You cannot imagine how hard things are for someone else without being inside their experience and you cannot imagine how depressing and traumatic it really does feel knowing that your skin color announces so many things about you before you even open your mouth.
As an empathetic person, the way to respond to the experience and observations of others regarding their own life, is not to turn the tables, but instead to ask more questions — questions that shine light on that person’s story, not to defend yourself.
I understand that facing up to who we are as white people is a hard thing to do. But we must admit our privilege; we must be listeners, be empathetic enough to leave our own experiences, our own feelings at the door.
Do we have pain too? Sure. And there are plenty of times and places where our pain is heard and felt.
Sometimes it is other people’s turn to speak.
We have to hear the words, absorb as best we can. We have to respond in a way that shows our love and concern for the speaker.
This isn’t about YOUR feelings. It is about theirs.
If a POC’s truth is that “some” white people have treated them a certain way, it often cannot be articulated in that fashion because the second that qualifier is brought out, the very people the message is directed towards will disregard the experience — try to call it an exception and ultimately absolve themselves of their own bad behavior.
What’s more is that you do not need to take it as a personal slight and push hard against their experience.
It is a beautiful thing when someone feels strong enough to open up and speak the truth of their experience.
It is a horrible thing to look at them as they do so and say, “you’re wrong. Not all of us are like that, that’s only what you were taught and not what really happened.”
That’s called invalidation. And it hurts ME when others do that to me so I endeavor to avoid hurting others in that way. It might sting a bit to hear the pain of their experience, but that is NOTHING compared to living it.
It’s not ok to ask someone to “prove it” when they are explaining something from their own experience. They don’t have to prove it to you.
It is real, the person speaking is being brave, loving their fellow humans enough to tell us the truth.
That’s love. That’s strength. We all have a responsibility to ourselves to teach others how to treat us. ALL HUMAN BEINGS have a right to set boundaries.
You don’t have to respect it, but not respecting it isn’t going to get you anywhere with anyone.
Instead of telling the world how POC got THEIR OWN EXPERIENCES wrong — which think about that; how can you be the judge of it? who are you to say they aren’t speaking the truth about THEIR OWN LIVES? Instead of that reaction, why not sit with what they are saying for a minute? Why not try to absorb it? Really hear it. Imagine how you might feel if you were that person.
Then remember that you don’t have to feel that way for any longer than you choose to — understand how that is a privilege — to put down that pain and walk away.