Saturday, December 6, 2014

Learning Humility

When things like the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island happen, I have a thousand thoughts and feelings, and dozens of unique and valuable insights that I’m sure are indespensible, for upwards of 20 minutes or even more! That’s plenty of time to gas on about them on Twitter or Facebook, and cringe about later.

So, I’ve been fretting a bit, (boo hoo, poor me), about how to respond to social justice issues that are not mine, but to which I can tangentially relate in some way. For the most part, I’ve decided to read and absorb, and say little or nothing. When the Staten Island decision came out, I Tweeted a few thoughts about cops and disabled people, but quickly found that they seemed off topic and self-centered.

Then this evening I saw the video below promoted in a Tweet from @NaturentheCity, and I found it really helpful.

I will ask and answer another question that isn’t directly addressed in the video.

What do you do if, as an ally, you disagree with something someone says or does in the movement you are allying yourself to? What if you listen, do your homework, and still find a core concept you don’t really buy into?

My guess is that you should 1. Consider bowing out and shutting up, or 2. Focus on what you do agree with and let the other stuff go.

The most important thing, I would think, is to realize that your contrary opinion is probably something that the others are fully aware of. They’ve heard it before, almost certainly. And even if they don’t hear about it from you, depriving the group of your particular stellar idea probably won’t do anyone any harm. In other words, as exciting and compelling as your thoughts are to you, in all probability they aren’t that novel or important.

That’s hard for me to digest and practice, but it’s the only way I can think of to remain engaged in things as an ally, without constantly and pointlessly pissing people off. 

Besides, as a disabled person, I’ve experienced this from the other side, too. It’s amazing how many non-disabled people seem to sincerely believe that their idea about what will make our lives better is something we’ve never thought of … whether it’s eating healthier and losing weight, or asking a doctor about that pain for the billionth time, or not being so proud and accepting help, or any number of suggestions we’ve all heard hundreds of times … each and every one a brand new idea someone just has to share with us, or the universe will implode or something.