I had good intentions of writing- banging away on my manuscript about diversity and inclusion.
And then we kept blowing each other up over religion and sexual identity.
And then we shot each other again over implicit bias.
And then we shouted hate and spewed more vitriol at each other over…well nothing really, but because we apparently can.
And I have to say, it disturbed me. Threw me off my game to say the least. The stage has been set as one of polarized media, negative rhetoric, vitriolic writing, and worst of all, continued hatred with violence on all levels. What are we doing? What are we teaching our children? What are we doing to ourselves?
Maybe it’s because I’ve been sitting waist deep in literature about diversity this summer, the theories of how we can and should and need to be inclusive to help our own society grow, and the long term ramifications of what happens when we don’t do these things. And then I realized that the long term ramifications I read on the paper were happening before my eyes when I turn on any news, open any web page, and live my life.
Maybe it’s because I study implicit bias using facial recognition and non-verbal behavior analysis. I can see people’s discomfort-in their faces, in their body language. It’s a real thing, it clouds our judgment without meaning to do so, and we make hasty decisions in all parts of our lives.
I turned to bell hooks. She soothed my soul momentarily. But she cannot make it better all by herself, much like I cannot take a stand by myself without there being some casualties along the way. “Many folks found they had to confront the limitations of their training and knowledge, as well as possible loss of authority.” Through this, I grapple with my own limitations on the subject, which are many and varied, but my heart pulls me farther into it, asking questions, consuming information, and having more questions after.
Being brave. Asking for change. Not sitting idle. I’m not be the picketing type, but I’m also not the type to sit around and be treated or watch others be treated like crap because of things they have no power over. No control. No authority. Maybe it is “Me 2.0” or perhaps it’s simply “an informed, sick of being treated like shit when others find it convenient, not putting up with it anymore” me. “And learning does not take place when our firmly held beliefs are never challenged. This process can and should be difficult, messy, and certainly uncomfortable. In academic terms, it is when we are at the edge of discomfort that learning truly happens (Arao & Clemens, 2013).” I can recall THREE times last fall when an undergraduate said, “i’m really uncomfortable with this” in reference to the diversity research. I reassured them each time that they would be ok, they were going to be better when we were done, and they would survive. I did not lead them down a path of destruction, but rather one of self awareness. Am I a God? NO. But I know that true learning is an act that can be physically and emotionally uncomfortable. Cognitive dissonance might be the official term for this, but we can call it like we see it: being uncomfortable as hell. I admire and respect my student for acknowledging their discomfort, for sticking with it, and for coming out on the other side with me.
I follow a person I’ve never met because he writes beautiful words and his post resonated with me in so many ways. Dr. Flanagan, my hats off to you if I wore them.
“The biggest barrier to change is the potential reaction to our changes. We fear how people will react if we don’t give them what they’ve come to expect from us.
They like who I am, but will they like who I’m becoming?
People seem to be okay with Me 1.0, but how will they react to Me 2.0?”
I’m sick of soothing others ethos at the cost of my own. Not everyone will like Me 2.0 and I’ve grown to be ok with that. I grew that way after I got sick of being treated as less of a human for the color of my skin. For my gender. For my foreign born status. No one will come out and say they have a problem, so they’ll laugh and pretend it’s a joke but the laughter fades too quickly for it to be genuinely funny and their face and body language shrink away while their false laughter booms out too loudly. Outside of some mild teasing in the 8th grade, where a boy teased me about my eyes and I went to class after in tears, only then to see said boy ripped to shreds by my history teacher (thanks mr. ford), no one ever cared about my ethnicity. No one ever asked if I spoke English. I grew up without ever feeling bad of how I was born, who I was, or where I came from and in 2008, my world crashed. 600 miles south I moved.
I was asked multiple times in a week if I spoke “good English,” if I “had the right papers to be here,” and “do you have a name i’m going to be able to pronounce?”
My answer to all of these in my head contained a lot of four letter words, none nice. The answer that came out of my mouth was much more PC. I vividly remember talking to my parents and telling them they had apparently raised me all wrong because caring about something so trivial seemed so important to people where I’d moved but no one cared at home or in my profession there or in any of the circles I ran in. I know I was naive but I also know that I lived in a much more liberal part of the world. The racism continued and the effects of it for me have been hard to confront. And the kicker to this was in 2012 when I was actually denied service because “no one wanted to clean the yellow skinned ladies teeth.” I was in tears because I was ashamed and mad and terribly sad all at the same time. It was then that I turned, I became an ally, I become an advocate, I became sick and tired of the status quo of it all. I became tired of staying silent so someone else could remain comfortable.
The aggressions toward me continue. A few weeks ago I was minding my own business at the pharmacy and a woman asked me, “is your necklace like you, only in china?” Not even close on both accounts. I told her I wasn’t from China and neither was my necklace. The bias towards me for no reason, the assumptions because of the color of my skin, all based on what? The color of my skin?
Me 2.0 no longer cares about hurting your feelings. Me 2.0 is pretty damn tired of having people make jokes, be rude, unkind, or think that because they’re doing it with a smile that it’s “ok bc I was being funny.” It stopped being funny and I’m ready for the fat lady to sing. Hell, I’ll sing. Let me dispense some ear plugs first. The micro-aggressions, the fragility, the implicit bias, the defensiveness, and sometimes downright racism have all got to exit stage left. Immediately if not sooner. If you want to have a productive conversation, I’m happy to do that. If you want some literature to consume when you’re ready, I’m happy to provide that. If you’re ready to be uncomfortable, call me. If you want to expose your own bias and racist qualities, and then try to make yourself feel better about them without actually doing anything, don’t bother me, call your therapist.
The long and the short of this post is that I’m done with being afraid of how others will react to my change. I’ve been woke. I cannot change the national lens, but I can change the lens outside of my door where I live, work, and exist and hope it contributes to the broader public. Dr. Flanagan is correct in my head, Me 2.0 cares less with each passing birthday how to soothe your ethos at the expense of my feelings, and if you have issues with diversity and inclusion, deal with them yourself, take your jokes to a comedy club. The lights have gone off on this stage.