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  • Writer's picturekalidc

Find Your Courage for Discourse



It's going to take all of us.

 

I did not watch the video of Tyre Nichols’ murder, nor did I watch the video of George Floyd’s murder. I don’t need a video to remind me how easy it is for a Black person to be killed by a government entity, nevertheless one tasked with ensuring our safety using its surplus of guns (funded by our taxpayer dollars). I also don’t need to see a video to feel angry, terrified, and deeply disappointed that all of this (police violence, media exploitation, etc.) keeps happening and will likely do so for the rest of my life. 


However, the time following this particular round of televised police brutality felt qualitatively different for me. Somehow, I had enough emotional strength to engage with non-Black people outside of my inner circle about Tyre’s murder. [This is new for me; it was pre-Batman phase Kali behavior.


Since then, I don’t talk about this stuff with non-Black folks, unless they are in my deep inner circle. This is also why I stopped growing friendships with white people. I don’t want to put new (white) people in the position to disappoint me by their ignorance about imperialism, unintentional microaggressions, or clear lack of experience interacting with non-white people. Why take the risk to broach topics that make people nervous, make people stumble over their words, and eventually say something that will make me lose respect for them and put any future of a friendship in peril?


To be sure, I do believe it is not the responsibility of individuals with oppressed identities to intentionally engage in discourse with others around topics that will end up hurting them emotionally.


But, I have dedicated my professional life to building bridges across difference to combat oppression. So often, I have to dig deep inside myself to talk about potentially harmful topics with people who have the potential to hurt me (and, in ways that make it hard to be mad at them, like when a misstep is clearly unintentional or their experience is just so different from mine to know any better). Times like these, I have to get in touch with my courage to engage in uncomfortable conversations because, like Maurice Mitchell said, if Black people are 12% of the population, I need the help of the 88% to achieve my goals. Many Black people don’t have a desire to know white folks or feel this responsibility—I hear this from my patients and friends all the time and I respect that. Yet, because of my goal to be the new Oprah we all need and to unite mankind around my charm, I have to.


As expected, in the wake of the most recent atrocity targeted at a Black person, folks in the thread said stuff that made me feel some kind of way (e.g. the some kind of way I feel when engaging with loaded conversations about race with white liberal people). But, this time, a surprising thing happened: I kept engaging. In that process, I did find myself questioning my respect for folks involved, but, interestingly, I moved on. It didn’t stick like it used to, and I didn’t lose my patience and I was able to keep chatting.


I’ve been thinking about why I’m not just tolerating, but even eager to engage in discussions that have a strong probability of de-railing my day by adding to my disappointment in white people’s ignorance. Quite frankly, I think it is because I’m fed the fuck up. I’m tired of the same ole conversation about who watched the video, how terrible it is, and the social media posts reminding us about all the videos like this (and, all the people killed by the police).


What aren’t we talking about in our personal circles? Why aren’t we discussing the defense budget or taxpayer dollars funding military style police gear? Why aren’t we discussing the role of colonialism or capitalism in conformity, groupthink, and how “outsiders” can become so dehumanized that you can justify beating the shit out of them? Or, questions like the one Rachel Cargle posed, why don’t we see videos of white men being beat up or killed by police going viral on social media?

Aren’t we bored of talking about the same shit in the same way we always do? Or only talking about it for a week after the headlines or during Black History month? Obviously, I’d prefer we took action, but if we can’t even move the conversation forward, let’s start there.


Which leads me to wonder, at a time like this, when the world is so terrible, where is our courage for discourse?



Your Therapy Takeaway

Stop playing the oppression olympics 


This is a tough one because, well, we are humans who all want to be recognized for the unique challenges we face. In a perfect world, everyone would get the recognition and reparation that they need to thrive and be whole. However, we do not live in that world so our psyches must learn to deal with truths that others may have it harder or easier than us in this game of life, by virtue of chance like where they were born, what body they were born in, and the wealth of the family they were born into. 


Yet, it is so hard to have any discussion about who might have it easier, or who has more privilege in a given context. The key word here is context. For example, tomorrow kicks off Black History Month. Shouldn’t we try to center Black people in discussions about the state of our society? Why not keep the conversation on the impact of the atrocities unique to present day Black Americans like the intergenerational effects of enslavement or forced removal from your homeland? Can you dedicate time to learning more about systemic oppression against Black folks to share with your non-Black community?


It needs to be okay to center one social group or identity at a time to understand what their experience is like. This requires resisting the urge to tack on “well, other folks had it bad too.” This also includes striving for nuanced, thought-provoking, and courageous conversation that might move the needle towards ideas for action. Wouldn’t it be so interesting to participate in a conversation about the differences in class privilege between Black men and Black women; or the privilege of light skinned Black people versus dark skinned Black people; or how being Black plus genderqueer, neurodivergent, deaf and hard of hearing contributes to a higher risk of exclusion from society’s benefits? Is this not more impactful and interesting than expressing how sad or surprised you are that racism still exists?


If you are blessed with privilege as it pertains to class, gender, race, religious, ability, neuro-functioning etc, ask yourself: what are you willing to sacrifice?


How does “doing the best for you and your family” lead to competitive efforts against those with less privilege or more oppressed identities who are doomed to lose? Are you hoarding opportunities when you could remove yourself from an application process or sacrifice a promotion so others who aren’t represented can have them? Is there one way you can commit to moving yourself closer to sacrificing an opportunity, a financial gain, or going after a limited resource?

We are holding ourselves to the standard that, no matter how hard it is, we need to be able to talk about how the identities intersecting with “women” actually lead to differences in privileges and access. Women’s groups have a pretty shoddy track record when it comes to inclusion and equity. We all know how quickly the conversation comes back to an echo chamber of the same topics: pay inequity, the costs of daycare, and, perhaps more recently, the overturn of Roe. 


My stance is that we need to make more time to learn about the history of oppression of different types of women. We should care about others' history because there is certainly overlap with our own history. And through recognizing the overlap, we can recognize the similarities in our plights, and respect the difference that make some plights more devastating, or relevant, depending on the present context.


We need to lean into the both/and gray area, which is a space of acceptance that we all hurt, but some of us have been hurt in ways that push us closer to the brink of despair. Only then can we move past the superficial advocacy efforts to tolerate unavoidable interpersonal ruptures in the coalition building process, emerge stronger through repair, and finally, come up with change that lead to benefits for all women.


For example, how much do you know about the history of rights for women who are Arab Jews, or the unionization efforts of immigrant women who serve as your childcare workers, or rates of domestic violence against women in Appalachia, or the tensions between women who identify as L/G/B/T? If you do know the history, then why aren’t we talking about how we can bring these groups together in solidarity to fight against the system holding us all down: white supremacy.


Take a risk to engage with Hard Shit

White people, how can you muster the courage and, subsequently, the energy to educate yourself so you can apply that courage confidently and appropriately? Because I need you to start talking about the hard shit without being so afraid or worse, silent.


Especially if I, a Black person, am asked to have the courage to not write you off as problematic for your unintentional microaggression? Or, if I am expected not to participate in cancel culture or avoid vilifying you for making one politically incorrect statement, then I am asking you to take the next step too. If I expend my emotional energy to extend trust, it is a slap in the face when you don’t call out the sexist co-worker on the Slack channel, or fail to use your privilege to fight against racist company policies, or neglect to intervene when you witness unfair treatment of BIPOC customers in an establishment you are patronizing.


I’m not even asking you to do all that right now. I’m only asking you to put yourself out there to talk honestly, vulnerably, and courageously about your whiteness, wealth, or privilege and its relationship to how the Tyrone Nichols’ keep getting killed by a policing system shaped by individuals who are white, wealthy, or privileged like you.


*To the Black folks on in our community, I’d urge you to celebrate Black History Month doing whatever the hell you want. And, for the brown folks who read Therapy Takeaway, this week’s tips may hit a nerve for you, and, I’d urge you to identify one change in our system that would support justice or equity in the Black community AND in your own community at the same time, and then — to talk about it with others.


You got this,

Kali

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