As I reflect on my first few days with new hearing aids, I find myself thinking about that line from an old song. It slowly becomes clear how much I was missing. It would be impossible to not connect that physical sense of hearing with the struggle we are having to listen to each other during this incredibly divisive time.
I had a talk with my older brother this morning. We don’t really agree on politics the way we use to. But we talk to each other about our thoughts anyway. And while I know when we hang up we still may not agree, I think we do understand each others thoughts and feelings a little better. Another thing that stands out is that underneath the charged vocabulary we may use, we agree on a lot more than we disagree on. So I found myself wondering why we are able to talk about these difficult and divisive issues when so many are not able to do so. It is clear that these talks are critically important.
The entire world is rightfully protesting the horrifying murder of George Floyd. Even during a global pandemic, people are willing to offer up their lives to have their voices heard in support of the critical message, Black Lives Matter. “Why this message?” is something I hear from white folks. “Don’t All Lives Matter?” many ask. Well, it appears that no, all lives don’t matter. You would have to be blind to not see that Black and Brown lives have not mattered for a very long time. So, in reality, we cannot say, “All lives matter” until Black, Brown, and Indigenous Lives Matter. I ask white folks to please not take away from the important message, Black Lives Matter. Listen to why it’s important. Listen to people who fear for their lives every single day. Listen to the mamas who fear each time their children leave home for school, play, or work. Listen to those who do not have equal opportunities in a country that claims to be founded on equal opportunities.
When my children were young I never had the “when you get stopped by police” talk that we hear many Black and Brown folks have with their children. I understand completely what a sense of privilege that statement comes from. Both my children were stopped by police when they were in their teens. Neither feared for the lives. They may have feared getting a ticket but they didn’t fear for their life because of the color of their skin. That was the only thing that safeguarded them. I’ve spoken with Black and Brown mothers who share their experiences of fear when their children, particularly their sons, get their drivers license. No one should have such fear. Not in a country that was supposedly built on “Liberty and freedom for all”. We realize that’s not true, right? We realize that liberty and freedom went to wealthy, white, male, landowners. It certainly didn’t include women and it certainly didn’t include people who’s skin was dark. And it continues today.
It isn’t a news flash to say that we have an orange menace in the White House who is doing everything in his power to undermine our democracy and that he is succeeding at alarming rates due to the blind support of the GOP. My son and I talk about this a lot. He shares his knowledge of history and geopolitics with me and explains how authoritarians rise to power. It is chilling because we are here. We clearly have an authoritarian wanna be at the helm. Will he succeed? I don’t know. I’m fearful he will and hopeful he won’t. But one thing is for sure and that is if we want to get him and the swamp slime he surrounds himself with out of power, we need to hear and listen to each other, even if it’s difficult and grates against all we believe in. But….. with that said, here’s the cognitive dissonance and question I struggle with (my son doesn’t struggle with it at all), do we give voice to fascists? Do we listen to them? With the symbolism that my new hearing aids give to this moment I cannot ignore the fact that when background noise gets too loud and uncomfortable I find myself turning them off. Is this what we do with racists and fascists as well? By listening to them are we empowering them? Or are we possibly uncovering issues that led them to such destructive thinking?
It’s important to share that I stand in support that Black Lives Matter. That is the message I want to hear and understand completely. This is the message I will focus on and listen to. I; we; must listen and understand even if it causes some discomfort. It’s not easy work realizing that racism has been a part of your entire life and that you have benefited from the systemic racism of our society. But we must get over that hurdle and see it and hear it and add our voices to the dismantling of it.
May we listen while we stand and may we use a supportive voice in solidarity,