I am reflecting on how I communicate to the world.
Many people (including those I have not spoken to in years) speak up every once in a while thanking me for the articles/posts I share, noting that these things help them think, or speak to something that they are reflecting about, or challenge them, or inform them.
Though there have been people who have opposed things I have posted or had critiques about aspects of what I share, I have not had anyone be antagonistic toward anything I have said or shared.
For most of my life, I have been neutral or apathetic toward sociopolitical issues, without teaching on how to critically engage society and politics. All I knew about society and politics I read from the newspaper or learned in class– everything was distant and factual. Things were, and that was it. When people had opinions, I saw both sides and felt no leanings either way, except that I wished that people would be nicer to each other. Sometimes, I felt frustrated that I lacked strong opinions. I wanted them, but had no tools for forming them.
Now, I am understanding more about who I am and have tried various lenses for understanding the world. Some of my favorite lenses are feminist, postcolonial, race-critical, queer, postmodern, and historical-critical. I am an Asian American woman who has personally witnessed how the patriarchy hurts men and women (and now understand how it affects trans* folks as well), daughter of Green Party Taiwanese parents, a believer in the fluidity of sexual orientation/gender identity, curious about how history and culture affect the Christian canon and the Hebrew Scriptures, and a millenial from California. Of course those are my favorite lenses– they are the right prescription.
I am realizing more and more that it can be hard for people to understand my point of view, and find myself bumping up the most against people who are white and moderate. My lenses work for me and they make everything come into focus, and show me what I am interested in looking at in a way that I can understand. It makes sense that someone who does not share my life experience would find my lenses fuzzy, or too sharply focused to the point that it strains their eyes.
I hear from people who are white and moderate that sometimes when people ask them to wear some of my favorite lenses one too many times, that it turns them off. They talk about how they feel like issues are polarized, and they are forced to pick a side, and how those decisions make them feel less like wearing my lenses. They don’t say what their alternatives are, but I feel that implicitly, they are trying to say that being asked to wear my lenses makes them long even more for their lenses, or for sunglasses that would darken their vision, and mute out what they see as noise.
I love the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr’s letter from a Birmingham jail about white moderates, because I feel like it is true.
He writes: “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.””
However, I am worried that it is uncharitable. On the one hand, I feel that people who are forced to clarify their positions will clarify the positions that are truest to them, and however firm I stand in my position has no bearing on whether or not they will choose to stand alongside me. On the other hand, I have heard from many who are more moderate that the volume with which I announce my position does make a difference, with the implication seeming to be that if I were quieter, then they would by and by, come to see things my way, or not. The louder I am, it seems, the more put off they feel.
What do you think? I will not be replying, because my intent is to focus on listening. Please feel free to share your thoughts, with compassion and understanding.