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I Don’t Feel That Way, So You Shouldn’t Either

Have you ever been right in the middle of a good cry, mascara running and snot dripping, when someone told you that you shouldn’t be crying? That it wasn’t important enough to be upset over? Or in the middle of a disagreement, voice raised and blood pressure soaring, when someone tells you that you shouldn’t be angry?

Having my feelings completely invalidated drives me crazy. It certainly never helps bring resolution. Discrediting my emotions does not facilitate good communication, does not draw me closer into a relationship. That’s for sure.

As I have followed the Trayvon Martin shooting in the news and in blogs and on Facebook, I have observed a reaction occurring again and again. White people will comment on blog posts or create Facebook status updates or write entire editorial pieces, arguing that this incident is not a racial issue.

In my mind, these comments wholly invalidate not only one person’s emotions and opinions, but those of an entire segment of our population.

I am a 39-year-old freckled white girl. I was raised in a small town in which any minorities were most definitely a minority. As in – I could use my fingers to count all the people with non-white skin in my high school, and I wouldn’t even need both hands. I went to a small, mostly-white Christian college. I married a man with blonde hair and blue eyes. And we have pale, freckled white children who must wear SPF 50 sunscreen to keep from getting second-degree burns in the summer sun. I have never experienced a moment of racism in my life.

Maybe, just maybe, my lack of experience in this area disqualifies me from determining what is a racist or racial issue and what is not.

As I read about the Trayvon Martin killing (and other similar cases), I notice that all of my black friends, all of my friends with black sons, all of the black bloggers or bloggers with black sons, all of the black editorial writers — all of the ones I have read or heard from — all of them see this as an issue of race.

And these people have far more experience on the receiving end of racism than I. They have a perspective that I cannot have, unless I learn it from them.

So maybe I should be still and listen to them and learn.

Because invalidating their emotions and opinions certainly isn’t going to help foster meaningful communication.

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