Monday, 25 April 2016

Bearing a new vocabulary, and learning it.

Regular weight bearing exercise encourages your bones to adapt to the activity and to build more cells, becoming stronger in the process.
With regular exercise you should notice an increase in your energy levels and stamina, which in turn means you can do more exercise and get even fitter!

Entering the world of the Other sympathetically involves learning new vocabulary and meanings, acknowledging that what you thought was the case often isn't (and sometimes is.) Like weight bearing exercise it requires thought, repetition, care, encouragement and taking things slowly as well as bearing discomfort in order to gain benefit. When it's painful to lift the weight we need to be careful not to pull a muscle or break a tendon: we seek the expertise of someone who knows more about weightlifting than we do. We work more slowly and carefully, respecting our limits at the same time as exploring what those limits actually are.

When we experience weariness, contempt, dismissal, sudden loss of interest, withdrawal from debate around difference I propose we need to do something similar. Recognise that we are feeling these things, without judgement. Pause and allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that emerges rather than pretending that nothing is happening. Work a little more slowly, respecting our own limitations rather than ignoring and blasting through feelings that can be challenging and distressing fuelled perhaps by shame or sudden recognition or something else entirely which can lead us to extreme opinions that make little sense. 

We need to be careful, however, about asking for help from people who may know more than we do, because less privileged groups get very tired of teaching people with more privilege.

(How are you feeling about the word 'Privilege'?)

It's not a Black persons job to answer questions from a White person about racism.
It's not a Trans* persons job to answer questions from a non-Trans* person about transphobia.
It's not a woman's job to answer questions from a man about feminism or sexism.

Particularly since the focus of the questions are all too often about the person asking them.

The internet contains all the information you can imagine and then some and we can use it to explore the experience of people very different from ourselves without demanding one to one private education. And without experiencing overwhelm.

Try this first, written by a White man. How are you feeling? Where did you experience resistance? How did it manifest? Where did you get bored? And so on. You don't have to tell a soul about your experience, you especially don't need to feel guilty, if you do. Just attending to feelings as an exercise in observation is enough.

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