Get over "it" and move on? A dialogue that exposes my impatient side...

So. Our last dialogue meeting was about a week ago - I am still processing and coming to terms with my own open and hidden reactions. As we are getting to know each other a little better each time, there has been a noticable shift from polite and somewhat distant attention to emotional, sometimes disturbed and even confrontational listening.
I like that. A lot.

What I realised more than anything though was my own lack of patience and tolerance when it comes to fellow white people being (unintentionally) dismissive of our black or multi-racial counterparts experiences of racism. Be it by too hastily comparing those traumatic and humiliating events with episodes in their own lives, where they might have felt victimised, implying: "I know exactly how you feel, and it is actually no different being victimised for being fat from being at the receiving end of racism." Or be it by insisting they don't even notice somebody's skin color (my favourite: green/pink or brown I don't care, we are all human.... yaaaaaawn) - which immediately puts them in the safe space of never ever having to dig deeper into their own racial bias, which none of us white folk are immune against. Since having become aware of the pitfalls of my white cushioned upbringing - oftentimes through my children and the reactions we provoke - I have had many ignorant,  confused and even shameful moments, in which I came face to face with my own ingrained perceptions and assumptions. Sometimes it is as simple and immediate as assuming that a black woman in a friends kitchen must be the house keeper, when in fact she is the owner of the house preparing supper for us. Sometimes it is more complicated than that and requires more complex thought processes. And this is what I get from this group: a chance to unravel my assumptions and find out more about what connects us and what is different in an enriching, inspiring and exciting process!

To that end, I am listening with an open mind and heart when some of us feel safe enough to contribute with their frustrating, depressing, annoying or sad stories around racism experienced on a daily basis. It humbles me and makes me feel immensely grateful to be allowed into that space where I see my role solely as  listener and witness. I am not here to validate or dismiss somebody else's experience. I am not contributing anything useful to the dialogue if I immediately pull out a "similar" story from my own bag of  sad experiences and thereby override somebody else's story. My role is not to voice (or feel pity) -  as the women in our group are incredibly strong and confident - and don't want or need anybodys "aach shame".

 It is awareness and understanding we need for what racism does to us: To us white folk as we grew up with distorted pictures, stereotypes and  prejudices relayed by media, society or relatives,  and are now faced with the challenge of owning up to our assumptions and early conditioning, to admit to what we might have (unintentionally) contributed and disect with courage and honesty what beliefs we are still - unknowingly - holding onto.

 To our not-white fellow human beings, who are at the receiving and of open, hidden, institutional and daily racism, which affects people in almost every aspect of their lives. As one of us said: What frustrates me most is that I have to take every single critisism or comment and pick it apart as to whether it is a racist remark. The resulting inability to process constructive critisism in a positive manner is one of the direct results of racism and a solely white privilege - one that I was certainly never aware of  and am only now learning to appreciate.

And no, I don't think we should get "over it  and move on to solutions". How can we find solutions for something that we don't even acknowlege as a society, leave alone understand?  I think listening is part of the solution as we will likely never solve the problems of a racist world, but can only begin to change our own group (and I hope  it will grow into more groups) by firstly understanding on a deeply personal level the implications of racist experiences in our lives. This we can achieve through learning about these experiences. In factual detail. In emotional depth. In acknowledging and creating awareness for these experiences in a culture where they are mostly being dismissed as "the issue of a black person who simply can't move on". We need to create more safe spaces where people who experience racism can share with other people who have never been on the receiving end of a racist remark in their lives. I think it is important that these spaces are diverse and contain both witnessing and telling of stories, so that we can move on from complaining to explaining, from denial to understanding.  I believe that there are more people like us out there - and would love to invite them to join our FB dialogue.... maybe that's a topic we will discuss next time.

There is of course the valid point that by talking alone, we won't change things. So of course we can also stand together and make a point of doing something, anything to make a difference. We can start a website where we continuously expose racism, we can out racist institutions, we can support each other in racist situations..... There were already great ideas emerging at our meeting and I felt a surge of energy from all of us at the thought of being part of change!

So how about we combine  Listening and Acting - with emphasis on respectful, open minded and open hearted listening in order to enable us to act in a way that is mind-ful, purpose-ful and effective. And lets not forget joy-ful - which is the part where we dance together and invite each other round for dinner ;-) - That reminds me:  on the 14th of February we dance at the NIA Studio in Obs for "One Billion Rising" - it would be great if our group could be represented in some way! Love to you all


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