Meditation On Conflict
|Amy Widdowson||Jun 12, 2020|
Hello, darlings. I’m off work today for a “Day of Reflection,” time offered by my employer Zeno Group to learn about and ruminate on systemic racism (a reminder that this five-year-old daily(ish) newsletter is one hundred percent my opinion, my opinion alone, and in no way represents the opinions of my employer or my clients or my colleagues.) This Day of Reflection follows two weeks of frank and honest discussions on which specific practices we MUST eliminate or enact to take measurable steps towards addressing bias in our own house.
So today, I reflect on conflict. Namely, how my avoiding of it hurts others and supports a suppressive system.
Cousin-of-the-Missive Kate H. shared a powerful sentiment from instagram this morning: “We cannot be both anti-racist and fully conflict avoidant.” Because being anti-racist means pushing aside learned behaviors that many white people—and especially white women—are socialized to adhere to from a young age. We’re trained to respect authority and be polite, and are rewarded for following the rules. And on the other side of the coin, we are discouraged for being loud and shushed when we speak up, and are told to “calm down” when we get angry.
Our collective lack of anger and conflict in favor of comfort supports a system that devalues black lives and kills black people. Because posting a black box, or sharing the post above is one thing. But are you willing to sit in discomfort and conflict to do the right thing? Are you willing to tell a friend that their joke is racist? Are you willing to call out a high school friend’s post that says All Lives Matter? Are you willing to push back on a colleague who makes an off-hand comment about how white men are actually the ones oppressed? Or a neighbor who starts talking about how the term “Karen” is as bad as the n-word?
I’ll tell you, until last week, I don’t know if I would have, because of my own fear of conflict. And if I’m not willing to make myself uncomfortable in those small ways, then I’m an ally in name only, and a pretty useless one at that.
And THIS is where silence is violence, where not speaking up supports and strengthens white supremacy. Where my desire for comfort means I put myself above other people.
Because in my life, I’ve looked the other way, or left the room, or uncomfortably laughed and went about my day. I can intellectually believe in equality, and consider myself progressive and tolerant, but then leave uncomfortable situations and pretend they didn’t happen. That’s my privilege. And that silence was, and is, violence.
And I know there are BIPOC readers of this newsletter who are angry and frustrated because this is what they’ve been telling us for years, They’ve been told they were overreacting, or difficult, or they weren’t even addressed, just passed over for promotions by management for fear that they rock the corporate boat and call out performative corporate activism. And if you have stories like that to tell, I would gladly share them here for this little corner of the internet.
In preserving my own comfort, I have contributed to the oppression of others. And I must do better.
A group text of a few of my best friends (what’s up, coven!) has of late turned into a steady stream of meditations on privilege, sharing resources on racism and inequity, and ideas on how us white women can actually do something to make a change. So I am going to spend today reading White Fragility and examining how my own discomfort harms others. And then I am going to follow the Coven’s lead and “Adopt A State” to start getting politically active again. Which isn’t much, but it’s a start.
Hold me accountable. And I promise to set aside my own comfort and hold you accountable as well.
And here are other pieces that I saved to share with you this weekend that are mostly incongruent with the above, so take this list with a hefty grain of salt.
Taylor Lorenz, The TikTok House Wreaking Havoc Next Door (NYT)
Makena Kelly, Inside Nextdoor’s ‘Karen Problem’ (The Verge)
Rachel Sugar, Our masked future (The Goods at Vox)
David Roth, American Psycho (The New Republic)
David Roberts, The Tom Cotton op-ed affair shows why the media must defend America’s values (Vox)
Be kind to each other, and be better for everyone.