Are We Listening?
I have thought all day about whether or not I had anything of worth to add to the conversations we need to be having in America today. I go back and forth between just keeping my mouth shut so I can listen more and my silence on the matter being mistaken as unsupportive or unaffected. I don’t know what the right decision is, but I know my heart is broken. So here are some thoughts.
I have had the privilege of working in the field of exceptional education for more than 25 years as a school psychologist. Many times over those years, I have had the opportunity to help advocate for students who had difficulty with communication and as a result were displaying significant behavioral difficulties in the home and school settings. What I learned in almost every situation is that the behavior was simply the attempt of the student to get our attention so that something much more important could be communicated. The longer the miscommunication occurred, the more intense the behavior became; however, once those students were given a way to communicate effectively with the adults who played such a large role in their lives, their negative behaviors decreased or diminished completely because they were understood.
As a white woman of privilege, I have no right to say that I know how black Americans have suffered based only on my perspective. I won’t even pretend I have a clue. But I do wonder if the outcry of behaviors some of us are criticizing as violent and hostile are the only method of communication many feel they have. Over years and years of our not listening or being able to understand what persons of color are trying to tell us, has it come to the point where the only thing that will garner attention from us is rage and violence? I’m afraid that could very well be the case in many situations. Not that we condone it, but can we at least try to understand it?
My heart is broken over the pain we have caused. When my children have been mistreated in the slightest way, I’ve become angry and determined to remedy the injustice, yet mothers of men of color fear the very lives of their children on a regular basis and we ask them to just calm down and trust us. Why would they? Change has been so slow to come and on many days things seem worse than ever before.
I don’t know how to fix it…but I do know I can ask the hard questions and I can listen. I do know that behind what many of us consider to be disrespectful or unruly behavior is a pain so deep that any other response seems meager. I pray that all of us will begin with conversation in our own homes and circles of influence to end racism. I pray that we will allow our children, who do not come into this world full of hate or even able to recognize differences, to love those who are different from them and to form relationships without fear. May we learn from them. I pray that we will intentionally seek out friendships that include all kinds of people for when we are friends the tough conversations that will change the world can occur. I pray we consider perspectives other than our own and even when we don’t agree, we can be kind and respectful of one another. We are ALL created in the image of God and the ground at the foot of the cross is level. Jesus is the only hope we have.
Above all else, I pray that we go to scripture as our guide and prayer as our response as we ask Him to help us see one another as He does. May God have mercy on us all.
Finally, I ask for forgiveness for the times I have formed opinions of anyone based on the color of their skin and I pray that my spirit will be grieved anytime it occurs in the future. I want to do better.
“Search me O God and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts.” Psalm 139:23
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