Friday, October 30, 2009
Ok, so there aren't going to be any naked pictures of Megan Fox in this post. But I have a funny story about this headline. As any blogger with a decent hosting site knows, you can see how people are finding your blog. Sometimes it'll show you a link that they clicked through from another blog, other times it'll show you a google search that the person did where your little slice of the internet came up as one of the results. You can also see the locations that your different readers are clicking in from. So if you're from Paris, Texas compulsively checking your ex-girlfriend's from Seattle's blog--she's onto you.
Back when I was obsessively analyzing my web traffic, I noticed that one of the main ways that random people came across my blog was by typing "you're what the french call les incompetent" into google. try it. Pretty neat, huh? I used to be the #1 response, (damn you, imdb!) But #2 is not too shabby. At least a few people a day type this into the mother of all search engines, and this post of mine is one of the first results to come up.
What this has to do with Megan Fox: My husband and I were at dinner at the house of some of our couple friends, and the laptop was on the table while we were waiting for the first course to be done. It was a delicious multi-course meal, capped off with a mixture of shaved ice, gelatinous cubes and beans. I'm not gonna lie, that course was not my favorite. But I tried it, and that is what is most important.
So the laptop is on the table, we're talking about my blog and I typed that phrase in to show them the exciting results. My husband then said that I should make a post that had the title "Megan Fox Nude pictures" and we all laughed. Because not only is my husband devastatingly handsome, he's funny too.
What does Megan Fox have to do with race and inequality in America? We were talking about Megan Fox and my blog because a few days before, I had told my friend about something that she wrote that I didn't like.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that most of the people who comment on my blog are friends and family. I know I know, you thought the 2-13 comments on any given post were all from adoring fans who've never met me. Nope, most of them are people I have strongly encouraged numerous times to visit. It usually goes something like this: "Did you know I have a blog? You should read it!" And, if they tell me they've read it, "You should leave me a comment!!!" Hey, whatever works.
So, my friend JD left me a comment on this post about President Obama's health care speech to a joint session of Congress. She said:
I will respectfully disagree with you, of course knowing it's impossible to know what his real motivation was.
I blame it all on the level of political vitriol we've reached. I think Republicans increasingly hate Democrats and their "plans to ruin the country", and this is leading to these types of outbursts. I'm sorry, but I don't see any evidence that he shouted "You Lie!" because Obama is black. I attribute the same factors to the embarrassing outburts about Obama addressing the school children. I am ashamed to be a registered Republican these days.
Shockingly inappropriate? Yes. Highly unprofessional? Disrespectful? Yes. I think that's enough without making this a race issue. Assuming someone is racist because he is a 62 year old white man from SC doesn't seem to match your usual logic.
Looking at how this situation resolved itself, I thought it would be a good teaching tool for my blog about how to have what we call "difficult conversations." The name is pretty self-explanatory, whenever you talk with someone about something that has the potential to make one or both of you uncomfortable (like race,) there are things that you both can do to make the conversation more productive.
The first thing I did was wait a while before responding. It was at least a day, maybe more. I felt my emotions rising when I first read it, and I know that if I had immediately typed something up and pressed "Send" it wouldn't have been a complete picture of what I was thinking/feeling. So a couple of days later, I sent an email that read in part:
I feel like I can say this because we are good friends and I am
grateful for that...
part of the comment that you left on that post really irritated the
hell out of me.
Ok, now this is really funny. I hadn't read that email again until just before I cut and pasted it. This portion was supposed to lead into the second rule of difficult conversations, "use I statements." In my idealized memory of my email, I had very calmly and rationally said, "I was really annoyed by the comment that you left." Clearly not.
If I had used an "I" statement, that would have been good because it would have kept the focus on me and my experience. When you do that, people can't really argue, because it's your experience. It also makes you own your reactions. I wasn't trying to say, "You irritated me." I wanted to say, "This happened, and I chose to become irritated." Because that is a more accurate representation of what happened. I did use a feeling word though, which is a plus.
Another helpful thing that happened here is the first part of what I said. I'm starting with a positive, letting JD know that I value
our friendship, and it is because of that very valuing that I'm saying what I am saying next. This works in many other contexts.
"I love you and I want you to live for a long time--it really scares me when you drive drunk."
"There are times that it's really fun to hang out with you, and I'm glad for that--and there are times I feel exhausted by how much you complain."
Another tip: don't say "but." Just don't. I hardly ever say it.
Instead say "and," or just say whatever the second sentence is. I really like this because it doesn't break up the two statements. We live in a world where opposite things can be true at the same time. Eliminating the word "but" is an acknowledgement of that. Please continue saying "butt" though.
So, JD wrote me back and we both agreed that it would be better for us to wait until we saw each other in person to continue the discussion. Difficult conversations are probably best had in person. E-mail is a medium too open to misinterpretation.
Once we were face to face, JD told me she had a hunch on which part of the comment "irritated the hell out of me." Her guess?
Assuming someone is racist because he is a 62 year old white man from SC doesn't seem to match your usual logic.
Now, this is an excellent guess. Anyone who knows me, knows that a surefire way to get under my skin is to question my mad logic skillz. I buy logic puzzles at the supermarket and do them for fun.
However, this was not the part of the comment that bothered me most. No, the part that made me write was when she said, "
I'm sorry, but I don't see any evidence that he shouted "You Lie!" because Obama is black.
Grrr. Part of my experience as a black person is dealing with white people saying, "this is not about race."
It's like, "White person, how do you know? You don't even know about race! You don't even use your race when describing who you are! So don't tell me what is and isn't 'about race' tyvm."
So while at dinner I tried to frame it in a way that I thought would resonate more for JD. JD has had a long history of working in a very male dominated industry. For the sake of this blog, we'll say it's construction management.
So I said, "JD, how would you feel if you were complaining about the gender discrimination that you have faced on a construction site and my husband said, "Oh, JD that's not about sexism. It's about _____" I'm envisioning something like, "myblackfriend's husband, how do you know? You don't even know about sexism in the workplace, because you don't experience it!"
This is the crux of the argument: When you are a member of a dominant group talking with a member of a marginalized group about some "-ism" that the member of the marginalized group experiences, you need to be very aware of your privilege. Be aware of the fact that your life experiences are different than theirs, and since they have spent so much time as an outsider--give them the space to let that outsider voice be heard. Because our culture doesn't allow many spaces for that to happen.
Now, I am not saying that you have to agree with everything that the person says, or that your experience as a person from the dominant culture is invalid. My problem was not that JD disagreed with me, it was that she disagreed based on a feeling, when I had tried to move past my feelings and get more concrete. My problem was that we live in a society where that is seen as a reasonable argument, because she's white and I'm black. "Well, I don't think/feel that was what was going on."
Oh ok. Conversation over, I guess.
That's not going to work for me. If we're going to have these talks, everyone has got to be held accountable. We've got to "go there." We've got to talk about things that make us cry, that make us want to run away. We've got to press each other and say, "What makes you say that?" "I don't understand this." "I am being irritated the hell out of. "
So after more dialogue, eventually the conversation came to an end. I don't want to speak for JD, from my perspective it had a very nice resolution. After we finished talking, she proceeded to shower me with gifts. LOL--she really did, but not because she felt bad. She and her husband were shedding some of their worldly possessions in preparation for a grand adventure.
That's it in a (very long) nutshell. JD I hope you don't mind me turning our interaction into a blog post. I am really curious to hear your take on the situation. And to my other readers, (Kate, Mom, Laura, et al.) If you have any thoughts--I'd love to hear them (:
Posted by myblackfriendsays at 3:43 AM