For 9 years I was a white man with dread locks. To clarify, I still am I white man. But I no longer have the dread locks. For 7 of those nine years my self-awareness of what that meant was limited to my immediate circle. Excluding my Dad, the general consensus was: Tom your hair is awesome. And with no other feedback around, I kept moving confidently in the direction of Tom Earl with dread locks. And so they grew all the way down to my waist.
Flash-forward to the year 2013, 7 years into it, I learned that it’s not all about me. But this post isn’t the story of why I cut my hair. This is about a time I was deeply invested and committed to a belief and came to realize I was wrong. As right as it felt, I was in fact participating in institutional racism.
If you can imagine, this wasn’t just an abstract belief. I had invested years of time and energy into it. It was a part of my identity.
And what shifted it all, what really made me look in the mirror and ask myself is it worth it, was one question.
“Do my feelings matter more than the lives of those my actions impact?”
I asked myself - ‘are my feelings more important than someone else’s life?’ - over and over and over and over again. I had every excuse in the book to answer it in a way that didn’t equate to me having to change.
Eventually, unless I was to remain in denial, I had to recognize: Yes, I was putting my feelings over an entire group of people. So, I cut it. Like I said, long story short.
Why bring this up? I share this because I keep asking myself this question regarding this year’s election.
I hear Trump voters saying they aren’t racist or sexist or homophobic. They voted Trump because they felt he was the right choice. And I ask, do your feelings matter more than the lives of People of Color, or people who are LGBTQ, or women, or Muslims or Jews?
Folks keep telling me, Hillary controls the media and they brainwashed you into thinking Trump spreads hatred and bigotry. My friend, that sentence right there should be an insight into how insulated one’s circle of friends are.
I don’t hear from the media about Trump’s actions, I hear from people I know. Real life people, who have been assaulted, intimidated or screamed at by someone who concluded with, “And now that Trumps here, we are kicking you out of our country.” That’s not from the “liberal news.” That’s from real life.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should have voted Hillary. I am asking myself this same question about my vote for Hillary. Do my feelings matter more than the lives of those affected by war and other actions of Hillary’s?
And that is the real question I’d love to be discussing. How was it that neither presidential candidate was someone we could say was truly anti-oppression and anti-discrimination?
This is bigger than just a presidential election or politics. It is about how many people are desperately trying to hold on to what they feel is right and true. But what does it mean when one’s truth creates a world that is unsafe for others to be in? When one’s beliefs erase another person’s identity? When my feelings of what is right overlooks the consequence of my actions?
It was my hope that I might offer a tool of reflection for self-awareness. This question has now become my guide, “Where in my life am I putting my feelings over others?”
As someone who has privilege in almost every aspect of my identity, rarely, am I ever able to answer that accurately by myself. Which is why I value dialogue much more than mono. And so with that, I’m going to switch to listening.
Peace and Blessings.