My daily disclaimer:
I am new to this and will probably unintentionally say the wrong thing and offend or piss someone off, so I apologize in advance
Addressing racism (Covid-19, masks, immigration, LGBTQ, poverty, education, etc., etc., etc.) in a small community.
Since the world imploded, everyone has an opinion. And everyone seems to be airing those opinions publically. Then everyone else feels the need to comment/discuss/criticize, also publically. Anger flares. People are offended. Friendships ended.
“I am more community-minded than you.”
“I am less racist than you.”
“I’m more ‘woke’ than you.”
Comparisons that divide rather than unite.
It’s all over social media. Everyone’s doing it. But it’s a whole different ball game when those comparisons and judgments are, at least in part, based on already-established biases based on previous personal interactions with the individuals who are speaking.
I know that I am guilty of it. I was in full force judgment mode last night.
A community member posted something recently that I happened to think was ridiculous, but she didn’t. As is her right.
The reactions were firey, critical, and personal.
I kept my mouth shut, mostly because it seemed like the rest of the community had enough to say without me adding my two cents.
If someone I didn’t know had created the post (which, by the way, I had seen before, so someone I don’t know did put it out there first) I would have scrolled right past, dismissing it as worthless, (which is what I did the first time I saw it.)
But, because I knew the post-er, I read the entire thing and each and every comment.
And I judged. I thought, “Really? You? Come on – I expected more.”
But still, trying to avoid adding to the shitstorm, I kept my mouth shut.
In a small town, there is no way to take a person at face value, to hear what they have to say on really, any issue, without incorporating what we already know or think we know about that person.
Well, you send your child to a different school than I do so I can’t agree with you on anything regarding education.
I’ve seen you be brutally selfish and self-serving so how can I believe that you are thinking about anyone’s best interests other than your own.
I saw you in the grocery store without a mask so don’t talk to me about being a caring community member.
It can’t be avoided in a town this size.
We have opinions of each other, good or bad, right or wrong, that will color our perception of anything coming out of a person’s mouth to the point of detriment.
How can I listen to what someone has to say when I’m too busy thinking, “You are the most egotistical human being I’ve ever known so you can’t possibly care about this issue as much as I do, and therefore I won’t take seriously anything that you say”?
And suddenly some stupid shit on your wall is that much more laughable.
And conversely, I like what you said at the School Board meeting last month so I am going to blindly agree with your recent post about Black Lives Matter.
I saw you at the hardware store without your mask so obviously, you’re a bigot.
It’s fucking mayhem out there.
These conversations quickly become chaotic. A discussion about whether or not the CDC has been upfront with the world about Covid-19, leaps from accusations of fascism into “White people should just listen to indigenous people.”
It’s all over the map. Everything is connected; race is, unfortunately, an underlying piece of every issue we address. The coronavirus overshadows all aspects of daily life. I get that it’s hard to keep things separated because it is all intertwined, but I also think that it is easier to mix it all up and make a conversation a muddled mess when we know each other.
We are talking about taking our biases out of The Conversation. The Conversation itself is about removing biases – biases about race or religion or sexual orientation – but that is really challenging when it’s your neighbor against (or with) whom you have a personal preconceived notion.
I know that I am more prone to jump on or off a bandwagon based on my prior interactions with the bandwagon driver.
I’m fired up about members of my community who I “used to respect.” There are certain people who I avoid at the post office or coffee shop because I can’t agree with their stance on masks.
In some ways maybe it’s a good thing – neighbors calling out neighbors on their bullshit.
But on the other hand, are we allowing issues to become more personal and more offensive, based on who is addressing those issues?
Is familiarity breeding contempt?