One of the struggles I have being in higher education is the balance of being political and outspoken on particular national topics and issues, especially through social media. Every day, I scroll through numerous posts, photos, and tweets from friends, family, students, and mere acquaintances. Primary, secondary, and tertiary relationships. The content of these messages varies from items I wholeheartedly support and things I vehemently oppose.
Balance… Two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak.
I think it is important to keep reading and listening to information from all sides of a situation, no matter my position. I cannot understand someone if I immediately dismiss them based on disagreeing with something they post, tweet, or say. We cannot engage in a truly, authentic dialogue if we are not open to hearing the other person and trying to understand their position. If we did less proselytizing and more listening, I believe we could make more progress.
I also recognize that my various privileges make it easier for me to take this stance. The violence occurring is not perpetuated against people like me. I am able to sit in a place where I can absorb this information because it is not aimed at me. As I see numerous friends check out of social media for a few days to heal, to mourn, to recover, to practice self-care, I am reminded that even though I am affected, it is not to the same degree as others experience.
Balance… Progress will only happen IF we can find common ground.
There are many things happening in our nation that concern me, and I believe need to change. These are not new issues. They have been festering for years, decades, centuries. They are bubbling to the surface, at seemingly more rapid rates. I know that change can happen. Progress can be made. We need to talk to each other to make that happen. Diametrically opposed platforms with an unwillingness to engage in dialogue will never get us to where we want to be. We have to find the places and spaces that we share as humans and start there. We need leaders who will model this for us. We do not need figureheads bantering in ways that continue to divide and separate us.
Balance… Ignorance is bliss.
Even the most ignorant can change. The difficulty is appropriately challenging the person in a way that does not push them too far, where they completely retract. Then it is about supporting them as they potentially adapt new knowledge to their pre-existing schemas. It is not a one-time conversation. It is an ongoing process. That is what dialogue is about. It takes time energy and effort. A post or tweet will not change the ignorant because it is difficult to demonstrate an ethic of care. Shaming someone into changing is also not the way.
Balance… Remember at one point and time, we were all ignorant.
To not recognize our implicit biases, past beliefs, and mistakes is a disservice. People evolve in thought and feeling. We are taught things and then often need to un-learn and re-learn as we grow older. As we gain new information, we decide whether to ignore it or incorporate that into our way of being and thinking. Sometimes we discard that knowledge. Sometimes we absorb it.
We need to expand our worldview. We have more information than any generation before and more ways to access that knowledge. The problem is this ease allows us to further entrench ourselves in ideologies that support our current beliefs. Anyone with technology has the ability to scaffold or dismantle an issue. Anonymous likes, retweets, reposts, and follows further embolden individuals who aim to separate and vilify the “other.” We have gotten less critical and more accepting with our information. Not every source of information is a valid source.
Balance… Our world is not black and white, it is gray, and that can be difficult to resolve.
Dualistic thinking can be detrimental to progress. Our hearts and brains are big enough to feel more than one feeling and think more than one thought. We have to role model this behavior for others to understand that it is okay for there to be multiple perspectives.
Balance… The road is long and winding, but there is a final destination.
I have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of work to do. It is extremely difficult work. It will not be easy. It has never been easy. We need to find a way to do it. I am tired of seeing posts and messages from people questioning the future. Contemplating leaving the country. Discussing how they have conversations with their kids about the realities of society. I am tired of seeing it because it is disheartening. It is gut-wrenching.
*I started this post after the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, and prior to the mass shooting of the Dallas Police Officers.