Rehearsal report: a question.

Monica assigned us, about a month ago, something she had done in her Power, Privilege and Oppression class (What a class title!)  

The task, as summarized by me: Find your resistance. Who, if they walked into your life tomorrow, would you struggle to serve to the best of your abilities, more or less because of groundless (and perhaps unintentional) bias on your own part? Is there a group of people who you just don’t react well to? What three steps can you take to reduce your resistance to that group?  

I think, in the context of her program, this is about moderating how your perspective and place in society affects how you can help your clients.  

In the context of Mad King Thomas, I think it’s about making ourselves better people, which is a corollary of our motto, Making the World More Awesome. We’ve had a while to think on it. I think Theresa and I were meant to settle on a specific demographic, but it seems we’ve both unravelled the assignment about to the edges of usefulness.  Sorry, Mo.  

I’ve been developing little tests to figure out when that resistance is flaring up: If I feel a physical tightening in my body when I encounter someone I don’t personally know. If I find myself withdrawing into my mind and overthinking when I contact someone. If I don’t want to listen to a person, or I discount what they have to say as “illogical” or “irrelevant”, or I try to shut down the conversation as soon as possible, or I just look away like they aren’t there.  

Sometimes the test yields false positives: A guy at the grocery store tried to talk to me and I averted my eyes and walked quickly on. He called me out for “not being supportive”, which made me feel a little bad. But the reason I was avoiding this guy is because he was there as a representative of the L.A. Times, and while I have no particular beef with the L.A. Times, I don’t need to feel bad about resisting corporations. (In response, I said I support him but don’t wish to give my information out or subscribe…so it helped even in this case.)  

Anyway, once you start to notice this resistance, you also see there’s a flip side to all of this, which is the groups of people you feel comfortable around. Of course, all comfort is relative, isn’t it? A professor warned us that the end result of a postmodern education was permanent alienation, wherever you go. And maybe they were right. Postmodernism of the sort Mad King Thomas acquired at Macalester reduces the comfort level you have within what you perceive as your “own” group. It reminds you not to make assumptions, not to live so Euro/America/self-centric. It dismantles the idea that you belong in any kind of group at all.   

But! The key with this exercise is not to remember people are different from you (duh) but to make active effort toward understanding those you don’t (and in some ways can’t) understand. To make effort toward expanding outward from your own self-centered humanity to the humanity of everyone around you, and, eventually the humanity of everyone on earth. Right? You make sure you are, yourself, a human, and then you extend the courtesy to everyone else. That’s the basic deal.  

Anyway, it’s not hard to leap from there to what’s been happening in Ferguson and New York and …. It’s not that hard to leap from examining why you feel nervous around X group of people to seeing how a cop might react inappropriately to a group. And we’ve all been separately agitated about the #blacklivesmatter situation. We are sad that this shit is happening, and that it has happened for generations, and that the system is STILL failing to address it. I am sad, selfishly, because I’ve lost family to police violence, and I am sad, socially, because other people are still losing family that way.  And I am privileged because, as a white person, it’s way, way, WAY less likely to happen to me or my family than it is to a black person.  

But I feel so encouraged that people are out there, navigating this situation with more and more grace, more grace than I could really hope for, even as the system fails, even as white people overstep and fail to listen, even as people get mad that their Christmas shopping was interrupted. I want to keep noticing when my shoulders get tight and to take that as a reminder that I’m not treating someone with the most dignity that I could.   

Anyway, there’s the rehearsal report for this week.