It's Ok to Start with Me

It's no secret that I feel passionate about social justice. Often this manifests in rights for the LGBTQI community, as seen in my previous post. It's a little easier for me to engage in conversations about gay rights because the usual arguments against them are biblical. I was raised in that world and know how to live outside of the ideology that perpetuates restricting the freedoms of others we don't know and don't understand. Things get a little grittier when I try to advocate for the rights of racial minorities. For one, I grew up very sheltered and very white. So while I think of myself as an ally and care deeply about social justice for racial minorities, I also know that for me to really be an advocate, I must learn and I must listen. 
With gay rights, I don't know what it's like to be gay but I feel I have a good understanding of the mindset of the opposition. In instances of racial injustice, I don't understand either side. I care very deeply and believe undoubtedly that #blacklivesmatter but I am not black. I don't understand what it's like to be black in this country. I'm trying to acknowledge my white privilege and I'm trying to listen when black people (and all racial minorities) tell us what it's like to be them. That is such a huge part of this for me, to listen to the stories people want to tell me. What I'm still surprised by and grieved by is that this attitude of wanting to sit in the reality of my privilege and set aside whatever it takes to level the playing field for everyone is not as common as I assume. I feel like I've had my ass handed to me on racial justice issues of late. Mainly because I've chosen to disengage when it's clear the person is not listening and does not come at these issues in the same way as I do. So when I engage thinking, this person wants to learn, they just need to listen, and they yell and scream a lot of realities that just aren't true, I choose to walk away. It's not because screaming back isn't necessary. I sometimes wonder if I'm failing when I disengage. Such is the culture of online conversation. Whoever rants the most appears on top. 
But I try really hard to keep my emotions in check when I discuss things of social importance online and if I'm screaming, I'm not listening either. Sometimes when I listen to the other side, it's devastating. I'm genuinely depressed and disgusted by the things I've heard lately. I'm really surprised that people want to believe that white privilege, racism and police brutality are media tricks and old news. I'm truly baffled. More so, my rose-colored glasses approach (assigning positive intent, giving information with respect, assuming people want to learn) is really not working here. At this point, I want to acknowledge the victory I've had in choosing to disengage and not scream back. But I'm really sad. And even saying that I'm surprised by the level of racism around me is evidence of my privilege. It is not new information to the many who have fought on the front lines for a lifetime. For me, engaging in this fight is a choice, a passion that I could walk away from at any time (theoretically). That is not possible for anyone who physically presents as a minority. That is enough for me to allow my anger to reinforce the necessity of these conversations and to know that it's not up to me to change people's minds. I can start with me. That'll have to be enough for now.

The Illusion of Intellectual Scarcity

I consider one of my greatest gifts to be my intuition, specifically within the context of human interaction. I got my degree in psychology, with the idea that one day I would go to graduate school to become a therapist. I finished college at 21 years old and felt like I needed more life experience before I could offer a client lasting help in therapy. All these years later, it's still on my radar, though I have a lot of care-taking tendencies to continue to let go of if I'm ever going to pursue excellence in therapy (no other way to pursue such a tender calling, in my opinion). And I may not end up becoming a therapist at all. I see this process as part of my journey in becoming whoever I'm meant to be no matter which activities that does or doesn't lead me to. 
Sometimes I find myself intimidated by my more intellectual friends. For some funny reason, I have several friends in my sphere who have been trained in the art of debate. While I'm certainly honing my ability to have intense conversation with the honest intent to learn, rather than to correct, sometimes I find myself logically outmatched. Occasionally, my intimidation keeps me from writing. There are so many well thought-out pieces being written every day, shared online and submitted to my psyche for further rumination. What makes me think that my more emotional/relational perspective can really add to a cultural conversation? I'm not one to research statistics and frankly, I'm not all that interested in being intellectually compelling. 
My niche is more in perceived rightness than in provable logic. I live my life based on my beliefs, which are being filtered more and more through my intuition as I learn to give it more value and space. While I admire my friends whose belief filters are based on logic, I'm learning to validate the mystery and wonder of living by instinct. (Perhaps their instinct is to find truth through knowledge so this is just the other side of the same coin). One of the challenges to validating my feelings-based worldview is that I grew up in an authoritarian culture. My dad is a military man, extremely logical, a total perfectionist and a conservative evangelical. I'm the youngest of seven and female. These factors put me in a framework of seeing the world as pretty damn black and white. Plus, I'm a people-pleaser...gah! Instinct gets undervalued when there is always one right answer and the authority figure already has it. I don't mean this as a criticism of my dad personally or even of the intellectual worldview (to be fair, there are many variations on a intellectual worldview, including a total rejection of black and white thinking) but just as a means of highlighting the effort it has taken for me to say that living in my heart and mind, which is very feelings-based, is perfectly valid. 
Along with my authoritarian family culture, there was my church culture to contend with. I could discuss at length the very elevated value evangelical culture places on the Bible, in which my church of Christ upbringing upped the ante considerably. In this culture, all instinct that goes against a literal reading of the Bible must be cast out, of the devil and will lead to your eventual demise. There is an actual teaching that your heart is not to be trusted. I'm learning to sit in the places where a literal biblical interpretation and my compassionate, emotional self diverge and ask questions. No longer "why, God, why?" but more "is there another way to see this?" 
As you can imagine, this gets messy quickly, leaving room for more questions than answers. But I'm learning to see the beauty in my intellectual mess because I'm being faithful to the heart that God has given me. The heart that sides with people over behavioral purity. I remind myself that Jesus was a bit of an enigma. He broke an awful lot of centuries-old rules and made a lot of people mad. Oftentimes, Christians use that as an excuse to fight things like gay marriage, almost like offending people means we're doing the right thing. I say, perhaps we're doing the right thing if we're offending the religious sect that has all their theological ducks in a row and doesn't see the very living, breathing, beautiful person right in front of them. The person who was made in the image of God. The person who has inherent value. The person who deserves every opportunity. The person who is equally important regardless of race, gender, social status, education or sexual orientation. The person who isn't broken or perfect, just human, which is all we ever need to be.
I guess what I want to say today is that there is enough room at the table for conversation for all of us feelers too. That perhaps the union of emotional intelligence and logic makes for a better learning experience for us all. And I am trying not to be afraid to speak my heart when sometimes all the voices I hear are speaking their mind.