“This is usually where the desire to dismiss claims of racial oppression come from—it just doesn’t make sense to you so it cannot be right.”
Ijeoma Oluo in So you want to talk about race
I can be justly accused of remaining silent for far too long when words condemning racism should have been spoken. I can, and must, find the courage to speak up whenever and wherever racism enters my world.
However, I am coming to learn the most subtle and deceptive forms of racism erupt, not from the world around me, but from the world within.
In the past weeks, people across the globe have struggled to face the senseless, persistent, and horrific murders of BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) in this country—and find ways to end the atrocities. I have watched and listened, trying to take in the stories of pain, anger, sorrow, and resentment that have filled my news and newsfeed. I listen, and think, as Oluo says, “it just doesn’t make sense…so it cannot be right.”
Of course it doesn’t make sense. How could I possibly even begin to understand the raw emotions coming from a person whose life I have not lived? How could I possibly feel what it is like to wake every morning in a skin that is not white? How could I possibly know the sheer frustration and despair of facing a world replete with obstacles that prevent me from being successful, and inflict constant, lingering fear in me and those I love.
It does not make sense to me, but I cannot dismiss that it does make sense to someone who has lived that life. The only way for me to acknowledge the pain, anger, sorrow, and resentment is listen with new ears. I must listen, as best I can, to stories that are in stark contradiction to my own lived experience. I must acknowledge the validity and authenticity of all stories. It is exceedingly difficult because my day-to-day privilege holds at bay the horrors faced by BIPOC. It is the difficulty of the work that makes it that much more necessary.
As I have endeavored these past weeks to listen with new ears, words and stories come at me with new meaning and urgency…and new worlds open before me. Perhaps, more importantly, I find new worlds opening within me.