Not All Comments Are Created Equal

 

I was reluctant to start a blog. I was reluctant to put my feelings and experiences online, where anyone could read them. Where anyone could comment. I don’t usually do things like that, but rather prefer to keep my thoughts and opinions private, sharing them only with friends and people I feel comfortable with. I decided to push my boundaries. I decided to start a blog.

A single messenger can only deliver a message so far. Often, people will discount the messenger’s words before he or she had even had a chance to say them. Because of the messenger’s reputation. Because of the messenger’s looks. Because of his or her beliefs. Because of their own preconceived notions about what they imagine the messenger’s beliefs to be.

Let’s be more specific here: If you ask a far-left liberal and a far-right conservative to sit down and debate an issue, sparks are going to fly. We see it happen every day on news broadcasts and in other forms of media… sometimes even in our own homes. Each tries in vain to convince the other that they are right. Defenses go up. Voices rise. Neither listens with the intent to learn. No one grows.

The message? Lost in the vitriol.

But messages can take alternate routes. We are a continuum of people who form a continuum of beliefs. We can discuss, truly discuss, new ideas when they are not so far removed from our own. If we sit down and talk with someone whose beliefs are only slightly further along the continuum, defenses stay down. We listen. We learn. Walls come down. Everyone grows.

My voice can only go so far. I posted I See How You See Me in the hopes that someone would read my words, consider my experiences and use them to expand their own awareness. I also hoped that they might pass them further along the continuum, into communities where my voice is discounted before I even open my mouth to speak. In this way, I hoped that my message would transcend ideology. That it would transcend status. That it would transcend the barriers fear throws up for us. That it might help us to talk across those barriers. That it might help those barriers to come down.

I got a lot of comments about my first post. Comments validating my experiences. Comments complimenting my writing style. Comments encouraging me to write more. Comments from families like mine who have had similar experiences and wanted to share them. Comments that turned into long discussions about race and White privilege. Comments that felt good to hear.

It feels good to be validated.

I knew I would write a second post. I had a good idea for it and ran it past a few close friends. I wrote it in my head. I thought about committing it to paper. But then I had to go to work. I had to make dinner. I had to attend a parent meeting. I had to… relax.

Relax. You did it. You spoke your mind publically. They heard you.

Good job.

Validation can breed complacency. I still haven’t written the second piece.

But then, I got one more comment. One that intrigued me. One that reaffirmed my resolve to once again put my words out here. Where you can see them. Even though it makes me uncomfortable to do so. Even though I don’t usually do things like this. Even though I am usually private. Even though I am a little lazy.

The comment came out of a discussion on another social media site. From a White person I have never met, who seemed to be having a hard time understanding the idea of White privilege. I suggested that they read I See How You See Me and gave them the address so they could. I was hoping it would help them to understand the concept better. To consider things from a different perspective. To see that their life experiences have been very different from mine. I didn’t expect them to agree, but I just wanted them … to see.

They initially responded by calling my post a “sob story link”, and then went on to elaborate:

“I read it, your writing skills are not impressive. The story was boring, not relevant to anything I’ve said, and obtuse. Oh people have looked at you and your family funny? Not everyone agrees with you and casts glances? Join the other 6.5+ billion people with similar experiences, yours isn’t anything remarkable, exceptional, or even interesting…you’re an idiot… I just don’t care about your life and any adversity you’ve faced, we’ve all faced adversity…One of your kids doesn’t look much like you…who gives a shit you must’ve known the child wouldn’t when you had sex with the father that also doesn’t look much like you. And who cares about your police interactions and how you raise your children, how is that remotely relevant to anything I’ve said? You’re not the only person out there who’s had negative interactions with police, or had to have awkward conversations with your kids…You act as though you’re special and have more important or relevant opinions because you’re related to black people, you know that’s ridiculous right? You’re acting as though because you have a mixed family you’re somehow special or unusual, a lot of people have mixed families including me. I don’t feel the need to throw out stories involving my darker relatives to feel morally superior, to distract from a subject, or to sway audiences with feelings instead of logic and facts, so why do you? Your whole post amounts to “I know some black people so I’m right.” How ridiculous.”

 

I see how you see me, Comment Poster.

Do you see how I see you?

Do you see that your blanket denial of my family’s experiences is a luxury that we do not share? Do you see that your hurling of insults is simply another example of the encounters that I wrote about in the post that angered you so much? Do you see how these comments are an example of the very privilege that you claim doesn’t exist? Do you see how these comments fuel me?

These words fuel me.

They fuel my resolve to help myself and other people who enjoy a place of privilege to confront our own biases so that we can truly see, understand and address White Privilege. These words bring me back to the reasons I felt the need to start this blog in the first place. They strengthen my resolve to write more. To put my feelings and experiences online, where anyone can read them. Where anyone can comment on them. I don’t usually do things like this. I am usually private. I usually prefer to share my opinions with friends and people I feel comfortable with.

Thank you, Comment Poster, for breaking me out of my complacency.

Thank you for reminding me of how very far we have to go. To get past the fear. To reach beyond the barriers. To confront our own defensiveness. To have the deep conversations we need to have in the hopes of someday reaching a place where we can finally say ”all lives matter” and know that it is true.

And I want to get to that place.

Are you willing to go there with me, Reader?

Are you willing to confront your own demons about race and privilege? Are you willing to work through your own fears and insecurities so that we can have the deep conversations we so desperately need to have? The kind where we both listen? The kind where we both grow? The kind where we are both willing to put ego aside, look for real solutions, and walk away honestly thinking about our old ideas from new perspectives? And are you willing to help me to do the same?

It is clear to me that Comment Poster cannot hear the message if I am the one delivering it. But maybe it can still reach them. Maybe you can understand my message, and can help to move it one step closer along the continuum. To someone else who can then take it one step more. And then one more.

And then, maybe we can get to that place. The place where ALL lives truly do matter.

Even mine. Even my Black daughter’s.

Even Comment Poster’s.

 

 

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