Last month I was sitting on a plane that was supposed to be a direct flight from NYC to Honolulu when the pilot’s voice came on to announce that there was trouble with one of the engines and not to worry. The plan was to land in Portland and take care of the problem. The immediate problem other than the obvious was that this announcement came an hour before we would arrive in Portland. I looked at my seatmate and those around us, including flight attendants and saw worry and fear so clearly. I leaned back in my seat and decided that all I could do was trust.
I remember thinking that I trust these pilots to know what they are doing even though I have not met them. I trust that any dark and scary imaginations that my mind can conjure up cannot and will not compete with their knowledge to do what they do regularly and that is to fly this plane and land it safely. They live this and I trust that they have stories to tell from their experiences. My seatmate shares that she has flown this airline for many years and has never had this experience. So, she decided to join me in leaning in to trust.
I had just finished reading O Magazine’s issue dedicated to talking about race and my mind went immediately there. I thought about this idea of trust and its relationship to race relations. People of Color are often subjected to the day-to-day oppressive notion that someone who has no clue and has never walked in your shoes is the decided and sanctioned authority of your experience. The people outside of our experience get to say that “you are making it up,” “that doesn’t happen,” “it was mean but I don’t think it was racism” or “let’s wait until all the facts are in” and the insanely frustrating “why do you always have to play the race card?”
People of Color who are socio-economically diverse, educationally diverse from all walks of life who tell their stories of similar abuses who should be the authorities on their experiences in this country, are not believed regularly. There is little trust or there would be more change. That many of us including myself experience this among people we know, respected friends and colleagues, slowly erodes our faith that the ethnic and racial conflicts in this country will ever end.
Trust, a little word with HUGE power.
While there is an enormous amount of work to do and continuous conversations to be had, I ask us to start to look at this idea of trust and the role it plays in our relationship to one another when it comes to race and ethnicity specifically. The sad truth is that even People of Color have been poisoned by the insidious beliefs of mistrust that have been so strategically ingrained in the fiber of this country.
Can you trust that we live this life every day and our experiences are where our expertise lie? Can we fly the plane while you sit back and trust that because we live this we know about all the turbulence and bumps ahead and exactly where things are going to land?