Dear Baltimore: I’m listening. Keep talking.

I was away  from a computer – though not entirely without internet – when news on the earthquake in Nepal and the uprising in Baltimore was breaking this past week. (For more details – many of them mundane – on where I was and what I was doing, see my other blog about spending a year in rural Korea.)

It was kind of killing me. Not being able to really write anything in response to these huge events, those in Baltimore, especially.

FB likings and sharings and statuses and that oh-so-notorious string of comments that can so quickly nosedive into petty squabblings and generate loads of ineffective and futile hostile feelings towards one’s more conservative, knuckle-headed, and grossly insensitive friends and relatives…oops, see what I mean about what can all too easily happen? and often does, can only do so much. I’m not saying FB activism (or “slacktivism,” perhaps-yeeps!) never accomplishes anything positive. Just that (like all other forms of social media, and of communication in general) it definitely has its limits.

As I was saying, it was frustrating not being able to blog about it all right away. (And on a somewhat lighter note, I’m now in serious danger of brain constipation – I have all these potential posts and thoughts and paragraphs and ideas and WORDS WORDS WORDS stacked up inside my brain and waiting to explode in ink.)

Though why I felt (and feel) so desperate an urge to “respond,” what on earth I hope(d) to accomplish by doing so, what difference I thought/think a few words from me on an obscure blog might make, or why I even felt qualified to respond at all in the first place are all matters for more analysis soon – perhaps in future posts, or perhaps just to myself. Probably a bit of both. (Yeah, most likely that one.) But I’m not sure yet.

What I do know for sure is that these events are really important, and merit a lot of further discussion. A LOT. We (speaking as a white woman writer) shouldn’t wish for conversation on them to be hushed up or wait for it to all just “blow over” soon. For one, I don’t think it’s going to. For another, it shouldn’t, and I don’t want it to.

So if only for that reason, if only as an attempt to further perpetuate and encourage important conversation on these crucial current events, I plan on posting a lot more prompted by thoughts on the events in Baltimore soon.

But in little bits. (I’ll be away from a computer again this next week – urgh. Note to self: frustration at that also warrants further analysis and evaluation…) For now, I just wanted to start by simply saying that THIS MATTERS. Deeply.

Black lives matter. White responses (or lack thereof) also matter. And I’ll be writing/posting more on this as soon as possible.

And you know what? Maybe it’s actually a really good thing after all that I was without keyboard access this past week…because perhaps the first, most needed response that is right for a white person to make to all of this is to LISTEN. Not to say, Be quiet, stop with all the commotion, calm down, or even, Here’s what I think about all this. Here! Hear! Here’s my liberally-educated, articulate, young white opinion…

But rather, Okay. I’m listening. Keep talking.

For myself, I think the most honest response that I can make right now is something like:

I want to listen. And I have listened a bit, but not enough. I know it hasn’t been enough. Forgive me. My life’s pretty comfortable, and honestly,  I don’t really like conflict and generally avoid it when I can. It’s so easy for me to fall into the hypocrisy of deploring blind supporters of the status quo and silently just be one of them. I do that. do that. Too much. And I’m sorry. At the same time, I’m also not sure how to proceed now. (It’s also easy for me to just apologize and make excuses; to say “I’m sorry, but___.” I hope this isn’t another one.) It’s easy for me to feel like my listening or not doesn’t really matter. In many ways, though I am an American, this all seems very removed from my own life. I grew up in a rural, Northern, nearly all-white community hundreds of miles away from Baltimore. [America is huge – that’s one thing I’ve started to grasp more about my own country since spending the better part of a year in another.] And I currently live in Korea, halfway across the world. But I do believe that this matters. And I want to listen. I do. So please. Keep talking. And help me, teach me how to listen better.

At least that’s a start.

 

If you’re another white person seeking to listen to Black and other minority voices more and looking for resources, Upworthy is one that I’ve found to be great so far. And if you’re somebody who has good, practical suggestions or other recommendations for how I and other white folks might be able to listen more/better, please, leave them in the comment section.


May 26, 2017 – Postscript: It’s been on my mind for a little while now that I should add an update to this post – something to the effect of, since first writing this post, I’ve come to realize that/learn more about how it’s troubling for a white person to ask/expect a black person(s)/people to “teach them,” specially, about race relations and ongoing racial injustices & issues for POC, etc. Since writing this post, I have been making a lot more efforts to educate myself on the experience of Black life in America, though I’ve still got a long way to go. A fantastic, very full list of resources for white people to educate themselves along these lines is provided in the “Benediction” chapter of Michael E. Dyson’s superb book, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America (2017) – itself a must-read.

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