Valentine’s Day is coming up next week, a day dedicated to thinking about love, happier things, and candy. You may think we’ll blog about love, nah that’s for a traditional blog. This is the fakequity blog so instead we’ll write about something different, anger and resentment. Anger is a form of love, if we didn’t care about something or someone we wouldn’t get angry or resentful. My friend and I have a text conversation about anger and resentment. It started about two days ago, and we’re still going back and forth. One of the things we’ve realized is anger comes fast and dissipates. On the other hand resentment lingers, can grow, and is tied to feeling wronged with an element of righteous indignation. I’m a very flawed human and I resent a lot of things. Such as I resent evening meetings where I’m invited to be a community representative but don’t have a real role other than to sit there absorb information and legitimize someone else’s process. I sit through these meetings wondering why I’m there and resenting giving up an evening binge watching the newest season of Voltron on Netflix.
Talking about race and racial equity can easily get emotional. In my text conversation with my friend we went back and forth about whether emotions such as anger and resentment are a choice or if they are instinctual and impulsive. I am working with the belief we can control our emotions and make choices about going to a place of anger and resentment, or the opposite love and understanding.
As part of my own racial equity work I’m trying to be more conscious of allowing time to unpack emotions. It is hard to calmly and rationally talk about race when someone arrogantly says “I went to the training on white fragility and I wasn’t as defensive as the other guy. I’m all good on this race thing.” Those types of comments make me want to jump across the table or throw my pen at them, instead I sometimes sit there and stew and let anger build. I’m envisioning Yoda from Star Wars scolding me saying something like “Anger, To fear, leads, Fear of white supremacy taking over.” I know I should ascertain where the belief is coming from, but this takes a lot of emotional energy. Sometimes I’ll just write the person off and avoid them for life adding the experience to my list of resentments.
Avoiding people and the topic of race isn’t a healthy formula for creating urgency and change. Taking the time to talk and build relationships that further cross-racial connections is necessary to undoing anger and exploring how to undo personal and systemic racism.
To fight anger and resentment around race we need to spend time building stronger relationships with people of color. Relationships force us to confront things about ourselves and others. Getting to know people who are different then ourselves allows us to check our biases, tendencies, and forces us to expand our viewpoints. Tonight, in a meeting a white colleague said “I’m a white person, as a white person I had to realize I had blinders on. I couldn’t learn about race from other white people, I had to open the view from my blinders not put on another pair of glasses. I had to expand my blinders outside of just white people.” It is easy to resent and get angry at people we don’t know, but when we know people we’re more willing to build tolerance, love, and we change our beliefs.
Do Not Tone Police
Please do not use your relationships to tone-police people’s anger. Tone policing is when we criticize how a message is delivered or downplay the emotion (often anger) versus acknowledging the experience or feelings expressed are true for the person expressing it. It is sometimes ‘correcting’ someone else, or dismissing their anger or experience ‘it couldn’t be that bad…,’ or saying something like “I’m a white person and I experienced the same…”
Author and Buddhist scholar and writer Thich Nhat Hanh explains the concept this way in this quote from the book Anger:
“If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist. If you run after the person you suspect has burned your house, your house will burn down while you are chasing him or her. That is not wise. You must go back and put out the fire. So when you are angry, if you continue to interact with or argue with the other person, if you try to punish her, you are acting exactly like someone who runs after the arsonist while everything goes up in flames.”
In a mutually reinforcing relationship we listen to each other and when something doesn’t feel right we ask more questions to build a deeper relationship. We can take the time to introduce to share stories and to remind people they don’t have to solve problems alone.
Love, because we can’t be a total downer
This Valentine’s day I hope you challenge yourself to build a new relationship with someone outside of your comfort area. Anger and resentment form more quickly when we don’t understand each other.
For me I have a lot of really great relationships with people of color. These relationships feed me and make me feel whole. But I am realizing a lot of the relationships I have are with English speaking people. As a monolingual English speaker, I allow this language privilege to prevail in my relationships. I need to invest some time and energy into figuring out how to get out of my English only rut. For a start I better practice learning how to introduce myself in Cantonese for a parent meeting with some Chinese families in a few weeks. Learning how to say hello and my name is the least I can do to prepare and to break out of my English only bubble.
Post by Erin