Thought Piece: Race and Regret

Do you ever say something about oppression that you wish you could take back? I’m not talking about speaking from a place of privilege in which you demean those without it, but rather from the margin about the margin to the “center” or “centered margin.”

Actually, I think I should have titled this post, Race, Class, Gender, and Regret since it seems that the intersection of those first three, where class is the hidden prevalent, most often leads me to the latter. Often I find myself trusting that the awareness someone has about feminism or racism will allow me to constructively engage them on issues of classism and racism when it is the former and sexism and classism when it is the latter.

What has been amazing about blogging is that often, I find that I regret nothing. I say what is going through my mind about oppression and the people with whom I am speaking, stop, take a thoughtful pause, and respond with the intelligence and grace I expect. And my mind, my trust, and my vocabularly for social justice expands as a result. These moments are similar to the way I have lived my life most of my life, trusting that we will work toward cooperation and understanding and not toward violence and “power over.”

Other times, they lash out. But before I am able to limp away and swear never to speak out again, which is often the only recourse to avoiding a flame war on the internet, others speak from a place of cooperation. And the person who lashes out and I are made stronger through the struggle to find common ground with one another again. They hear that I was not calling them a bigot but rather questioning something I saw, or felt, or remembered, in the hopes of finding clarity and sisterhood. And I hear that they were not trying to demean or degrade but were hurt by the shock of recognition and the pain of having it caused by a friend, or that they really needed more knowledge or different eyes but they didn’t know it until it sunk in. Sometimes, I have read their words wrong b/c I missed a thread from a previous conversation I was not in . . . and then my mistake is forgiven as I am willing to forgive theirs in these other instances.

These moments make me willing to keep trying in the face of so much ignorance and hatred and ongoing failures in the “progressive” left. They make me believe that the politics of love by which I live my life will always trump the politics of power or victim stance that tunnel visions and divides along us and them.

At the same time, the internet is both an instant and a prolonged conversation. What you say happens in a second in which you either walk in faith or hatred or sarcasm and cynicism, all  gone a moment later. Yet your words stay forever, archived by google, picked over by people who don’t bother to read them, or don’t care to wonder about your intentions. And worse, some people will unethically edit your words to make their point stronger.

Its these moments, that happen over and over again on the internet, that make me wary of everyone and everything. They swallow my voice and my hope before I dare to exercise either and they make me overly cautious in forums that require me to be the most bold. Worse, they make me shutter at my own naivity everytime things come undone. And worse still, it makes me question speaking about my core truths especially in forums where credentialing requires that only established knowledge counts as truth whether it has truth value or not.

So today I walked in faith. Despite the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I will come to regret it. I write this b/c I already regret it. And only time will tell if this will be a moment in which I grow or shrink. In which my faith in others expands or dissolves and I start to cut at the limbs that weave in between and around yours until there are only stumps and sharp edges where we once blended.

I have to believe that speaking is better than silence. I have to believe in the people with whom I choose to speak, especially those with whom I may disagree.

How about you all?

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