Did you watch the footage of presidential hopeful, Senator Bernie Sanders, being interrupted by Black Lives Matter protestors in Seattle? I couldn’t bring myself to watch the clip for two full days. I kept trying and I’d stop the video. Finally, I watched it in full and assumed the position I usually do when forced to watch a horror movie…under the covers, hands pressed against my face, peering through my fingers. To recap, the women take the stage, grab the mic and they ultimately shut down the event before Sanders has a chance to finish his speech. My heart pounded and I basically squirmed in agony the duration of the video. That’s how uncomfortable I am with disruption. That’s how uncomfortable I am with actions that fall outside of my safety net of decorum. That’s how uncomfortable I am with conflict.
But while I avoided watching the footage, I spent my time reading. I read articles such as this, this, and this which break down the disruption as well as address the uproariously negative reaction amongst white liberals. And I did what perhaps one should never do; I started reading the comments below these articles.
On the Facebook page for Showing up For Racial Justice, an organization made up of white allies, folks were Pissed. Off. Words like “disrespectful”, “rude”, “ill-behaved” and “fascist” were used to describe the protestors actions. Other people felt like Bernie Sanders’ was unfairly targeted. A LOT of people voiced they would no longer support the Black Lives Matter movement if disruptions like these were to be the norm (news flash, more disruptions have occurred and I imagine will in the future). And this honestly shocked me. Is being made to feel uncomfortable or inconvenienced reason enough to abandon a movement as important as Black Lives Matter? People are being brutalized. People are dying. Reading all of these reactions from white progressives struck a cord because I shared something in common with them: we were all pushed outside of our comfort zone and did not handle it well. I realized I needed to do some serious introspection around my own reaction. So I did what I always do when I need a healthy dose of reality check and phoned a friend.
Last week, I challenged myself to make space for people who hold values dissimilar to my own. But it’s just as important, if not even more important, to have people in my life who get it. “It” can be any number of things: parenting, being a stay-at-home mom or caring about racial justice, to name a few. My inner circle is a sounding board to the highs and lows of the mundane, but I also lean on them to discuss the news of the day and to receive crucial feedback on how I’m reacting to the world around me.
I had a long conversation with my friend about Seattle and this is what I came away with. My initial reaction to the protest was negative. I saw reflections of my own feelings in many of the angry posts made by white progressives online and it disturbed me. The actions of the activists made me feel uncomfortable, a sensation I’m not really used to in my day-to-day life. Decorum matters to me. I was raised by parents who incorporated me and my sisters into their world from a very early age. My mom taught us makeshift etiquette lessons to prepare us for success in mainstream environments. We attended parties, we went out to dinners, we wrote thank you letters. That’s my foundation and it was only further built upon as I went to college and then worked in client services in the private sector before transitioning into education. And the cherry that rests atop all of my individual experiences is the fact that I am white. Factors such as these and more shape my worldview and influenced my knee-jerk reaction to the Sanders disruption. But ultimately, it’s not anybody’s job to make me feel comfortable. And it is certainly not the job of Black Lives Matter activists to make me feel comfortable in how they choose to protest. Unpacking the why behind my feelings of discomfort was my work and my work alone…with a little help from my friends.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t do that kind of self-exploration alone. I’m an extrovert. I need people. And I’m so grateful to have loving relationships where I feel safe to explore the deepest and sometimes scariest parts of myself. A surprising but welcome side effect of starting this blog is some of you have started messaging me personal stories or are asking for opinions on something you’ve read. First of all, let me say I love it and thank you. I feel so honored to have these conversations and be a part of your community. When I created this blog, I envisioned A Striving Parent as a supportive community for myself and for all of you. Writing these posts is my attempt at putting the conversations I have in private on speakerphone. And I’m thankful you’re here to bear witness to my stumbles and growth.
Moving forward, I’m going to continue questioning myself when my reaction to a protest or any other event that ties to the racial unrest in our country is rooted in discomfort. My support of the Black Lives Matter movement is stalwart and I commit to doing the individualized work necessary to accept that the way activists and people of color choose to demonstrate or emote is not about me nor my level of comfort. Are you with me?