“There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” ~Arundhati Roy
There are some serious problems with the current climate of today’s society and the way we relate to one another as human beings. We have become toxic; it’s this “us versus them” mentality. It’s men versus women, it’s race versus race, culture versus culture, religion versus religion, class versus class, democrat versus republican, old versus young. Issue versus issue.
It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter where you come from. Whether we admit it or not, each of us feels strongly about SOME other “group,” we feel like we are right and they are wrong. We feel misunderstood, alone and angry.
And yet, we don’t talk about it, because while we know very well what WE think, we’re also well aware that it can be taken wrong, out of context or in some way misconstrued in a way that makes us look like assholes. Even when we truly aren’t doing anything (or thinking anything) intrinsically off base.
We are shamed for our beliefs, our skin color, our culture, our religion – our parental status, our last names, our sex, our sexuality – anything they can think of, they’ll shame us for it.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: people are talking about it. But the loudest ones seem to be those who are doing the shaming I just talked about. They are arguing and hating each other every single day. Look at literally any public forum and see what happens when you express ANY opinion, ever.
They are angry; and in some cases, understandably so. But their anger makes them empathetically blind and it’s this very blindness that makes them hate any and everyone who represents whatever they’re against.
But we don’t have productive conversations. We poke at each other. We say we want equality. But do we really? Is there such a thing as equality anymore? Why don’t we just live and let live?
I gotta be honest; I’m horribly disappointed in us. And when I say us, I mean me. Because, aside from the one issue that I typically publicly speak about, I say nothing. I keep myself to myself: I don’t talk religion, politics, race relations, sexism.
Why? Because I’m not willing to deal with what comes next. And sadly, that is almost never a rational, intelligent discussion. Rather, it’s awkward or positively painful, depending on who’s on the other side.
The one issue I do speak on has earned me more haters than I can count. But that’s okay – I can take it.
The thing is, no matter how I feel, there are people who strongly disagree with me. And there are some people who, even if I say I understand how they feel and do my best to empathize and understand, will still call me horrible names and say I’m part of the problem.
If I say, for example, that emotional abuse is wrong, then someone insults me in an unrelated way and claims I am just mad because I am fat, ugly and can’t get a man. Whether their opinions are true or not (and for the record, I don’t think they are), they are ignoring the fact (or are unaware of the fact) that I’ve been married to the same guy for fifteen years. And they’re more likely deflecting from the actual issue because they, themselves, are emotionally abusing someone they claim to love.
Either way, just like in every situation, I choose to not give those so-called people my energy. I just don’t talk about controversial issues to most people. And when do feel the need to “go there” with anyone, I nearly always regret it.
There are no limits to what I’ll do to protect my kids, though, and recently, I was forced to deal head-on with a painful issue that came up for my daughter. It’s what moms do, even when we wish we didn’t have to.
After a terribly uncomfortable conversation with one of her teachers, I can’t stop thinking that we really aren’t supposed to talk about (or even notice) some issues. And if we do, we are called names, told we’re wrong or minimized, at the very least.
My family’s situation is different than (apparently) most people’s – we live in a really nice community where we happen to be part of the racial minority.
This means that very often, my daughter is the only white kid (or one of few) in her classes. This doesn’t bother us at all – people are people, we think, and we have good schools and great teachers, for the most part. But very often, probably unrelated to race, this particular teacher has made it clear that she does not like my daughter. When I called her to speak to her about the very uncomfortable issue I’m about to share with you, the teacher confirmed it by saying “we just have a personality conflict.”
In this teacher’s law and government classes, when race is discussed, the exclusion factor gets worse, and my very intelligent, often outspoken daughter is not supposed to comment on it. Because she has learned that her opinion isn’t allowed to be expressed, she keeps her mouth shut until she gets home, and then I do my best to help her understand what happened and why.
We do our best to understand that while we are a minority here, we still look like part of the “problem” to some people, and we do our best to ignore the blatantly disrespectful things that are said, done and assumed about us as individuals.
But you know what? Some things cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. They just can’t.
So when the teacher made a point of telling all of the other students (as part of a discussion about Michelle Obama) that “you African-American girls and boys can do anything you set your mind to,” my daughter came home very upset because, while she agreed that these awesome kids in her class have the ability to do whatever they set their minds to, it feels to her like she is the only student who wasn’t part of this (much-needed, don’t get me wrong) confidence boost.
She said it made her feel like she was the only one who didn’t have such potential. And as her mother, I knew this was too much, regardless of the person who chose to exclude this innocent 11-year-old for no reason other than the way she looked.
My feelings didn’t matter here; I needed to deal with it for my daughter’s sake.
Because, contrary to the experience of most white kids, my children have spent their entire lives in an awesome community where they happen to be the minority in literally every class, on every team and in every friend-group they have. This makes their experience unique to most other white kids, many of whom often grow up in a sheltered, racially singular situation where they never experience being anything other than the majority.
And for awhile, I actually thought I was doing them a service by allowing them to grow up in a diverse environment where they learn to deal with people who are from different racial or cultural backgrounds (but who are like them in so many ways, and who are also just human like they are). They don’t see themselves as better or worse than anyone else. They deeply engage and learn about black history with their classmates, and they understand the truth about the painful history of African-Americans in this country.
And while all of that is great, today, I’m not so sure that I’m doing the right thing. The fact is that all of my children have often been the subject of racially-based insults, but we’re not supposed to talk about it. We’re not supposed to notice, or we’re supposed to accept it because we should know our place (and believe me, we do).
I won’t even go into the conversation the teacher and I had, but let me just say that I expressed my discomfort talking about the subject and did not get any sort of reassurance that it was safe to continue. Still, I did. And while the teacher could relate, she said, to being the only person of her race in a class, and while she said she recognized in the moment that she was doing a disservice to my daughter when she made that comment in her class that day, she still did not express any sort of remorse (and did not correct her error in the moment, either).
And, this woman who teaches my daughter actually said to me when I explained that my kids have never been in the majority in any classroom, that she personally “would not intentionally send her own children to a school where they were the minority.”
As though she were almost telling me that I had made the wrong choice, that if she had been me, she would’ve taken her family and run when she noticed they were in the minority? What was I supposed to say to THAT? Was there any right response?
And here is my problem. We all have reasons that we could be angry and take our anger out on innocent people who did nothing to deserve it. We could all assume that everyone of a certain race, sex, religion, etc. is absolutely the worst. We could all become haters and naysayers and war-makers.
But what would that do, really? It would destroy our society and potentially our world. It would certainly not be good for anyone involved. But it’s not just a race thing – please know that. It’s so much worse.
For example, when I posted a video about a (shockingly) controversial topic last week related to men versus women, I realized why I stay quiet. It’s because you cannot talk to a brick wall. And even if you try, it’ll simply remain a brick wall. And like I said, I do my best to avoid wasting my energy trying to talk to people who do not want to hear me.
I was told that telling my children they are equal is wrong. That I was stupid to believe men and women could be “different but equal.” That I was a man-hating, raging bitch. And those were the nice comments.
So what do I do? I shut my mouth. I don’t say anything unless they force me to say something.
Does my silence make me part of the problem? Does it make me part of the solution? Or does it simply make me nothing?
I can’t tell anymore. There are SO many issues that I feel very strongly about and yet I don’t allow myself to speak about them to anyone. Partially because even when I’ve reached out to people and directly asked them, “How can I be part of the solution for this problem?” they so often either ignore me or worse, attack me.
And there it is: the primary problem with humanity. Do we really even want to change? Do we want to solve the painfully obvious problems that no one really wants to talk about? Can we ever solve the issues if we don’t allow everyone to participate in intelligent, honest conversations? Is there an answer, or are we just doomed to live in an angry, ugly society that tells us that we were born with unchangeable qualities that make people hate us?