Why, like any exercise, it’s worth it.
I’m Fired Up Right Now!!
I have been listening to a book on racism that I thought would be good to listen to. From what I have heard, the author believes there is racism, but presents a different view from mine. I am getting frustrated, because there is so much that I disagree with alongside some things that we seem to agree on. I want to meet him and hear more and have a conversation even though I know parts of that conversation has the potential to be excruciating to listen to, but I would commit to it anyway.
I think there is a place for meeting in the middle or at least for understanding his message, at the same time, it is difficult to continue listening to the book, but I must.
I feel I must, because one place that we do agree on is that as a nation, we do not seem to have the patience to listen to or engage in conversations that oppose our strongly held beliefs and convictions. But the question presents itself, how will we move forward if there is to be no listening and understanding? Don’t get me wrong, there are some people that I refuse to listen to anymore… white nationalists, Larry Elder, there are a few more, I’ve listened enough. I try to leave my ears and heart open to Candace Evans who annoys the hell out of me, but presents an argument or two that I can hear on occasion. (Before you come for me, how she came for George Floyd was despicable in my eyes and a complete misrepresentation of the anger so many of us were expressing.)
I am not saying that every disagreement is a conversation you should try to have. What I am saying is that a culture fueled by cancelling people is eliminating the motivation for us to even try. I’ve noticed that there are levels to this. When it comes to conflict, it is easy to make up in our minds what we believe people mean by what they say without even checking in with them. We convince ourselves of other people’s motives and even potential responses and use that to legitimize our refusal to start a conversation. This happens in everyday conflicts at work, at home, in schools and in communities. That’s the basic level.
The middle ground is where I find myself and I am certain that I am not here alone but hey, I will stand here alone if I have to. I believe in the difficult conversations as a way out of the grudge-holding, name-calling, misrepresenting, misunderstanding and ongoing conflicts that never seem to end. I believe that we can have differences of opinions even on the really hard stuff. I also believe that we all need to learn how to be in conflict in ways that allow us to engage in order to understand, resolve or at lease co-exist while working for equity, inclusion and justice for everyone. I believe that consequences for those who disagree with us do not include annihilation, humiliation or bullying.
Which brings me to the highest level, cancel culture. The fact that we do not as a society know how to disagree with each other in my opinion does not need to lead to dismantling people and their lives. Oh, I am not above having those dreams and temptations, but ultimately, I believe in difference of opinions, mistakes, growth, and consequences for wrong, harmful and hateful actions. Some of the people we are choosing to cancel before we even try to rebut or inquire to understand more are; family, friends, people who are in agreement who are also working toward the same goals we have, bosses, co-workers and people whose stories we have not heard.
The potential to stretch ourselves is before us in a time when most are out of patience and tired of working for and waiting for justice. I get it! There is so much wrong in the world that a conflict resolution strategist like me can easily give up on encouraging myself and others to listen to one more word. And yet, I continue to see the value, the movement and the change in it. It may not be the only way, but I believe it is a way that we must continue to learn and use.
This book is pushing me and hitting so many buttons. I wonder to myself why I am still hanging in there with it and yet deep within, I know the answer. Five years ago, I was interviewing people for my Soul of Conflict Summit. I asked myself at that time, how far would I go in engaging in conversation? What’s my line in the sand? I decided I would not and could not listen to anyone in the KKK or any hate group. A week later, I learned about Daryl Davis whose calling as a Black man is to befriend KKK members and engage them in the difficult conversations. His work has led to over 200 klan members leaving the klan and even turning over their klan robes to Daryl. This is his work, not mine but I can’t dismiss him as irrelevant or going too far. It’s not a path I wish to pursue, but it opened me up further to listening beyond my contort zone in order to seek at a minimum, understanding.
This author and I are fighting for the same thing. If I understand him correctly, it just seems that we are miles apart as to how and why. There are others I know like this who I try to keep in the conversations of homophobia, transphobia, sexism, religion, Trump, classism, ableism, global warming and whether or not social media is purely evil. We disagree, yes, but I will not give up on us even as I make sure to conserve my time and energy for the conversations that I am willing to engage in.
I am stretching myself.
Who’s stretching with me?
Hey, and if you disagree with me, I am here for the conversation.