There is this story I have just been involved in. It involves 2 genders, 2 races, 4 nationalities, 2 people (directly), 6 people (indirectly/at least), and the politic of personal and transcendent peace. It unfolds over a few months and carries lifetimes of pain and struggle. I will not write the entire story now, although the details help illustrate the point I am going to try to make. That we are all equally trapped in our identities, personal histories and assumptions, and that even the space that represents the release from assumptions - political correctness - is itself an identity that must be shaken, because those that truly understand it, understand it's flimsiness, a stop-gap at best. Political correctness, the slowing down of our speech and exclusion of language that might carry offense deeper than what we intend, is currently the best our culture has, because the hate certain words carry runs deeper than our imagination can muster and we have to do what we can to stop hate from running through us.
Personally I have always struggled with the notion of political correctness, even though I understand it's need. So in this story, I am not the hero, just another player stuck in my own ignorance and attitudes and pitfalls. In this story, I, led by the other to use a word I wouldn't ever use, because it never felt worth it. But with his permission I allowed myself to lift the unconscious ban and try it on. To inhabit the taboo and believe that we, doing this work of growing our souls, can play with these identities and all that is put on them. So I enter into the poisoned well of hate that is carried in this word and i stretched it with my humor. And I forgot my place in the process. I forgot the danger of playing with hate. And so the next day, emboldened by my self - selected freedom, I reference the word again. This time in the title of an email. And in an effort to solidify a bond of working beyond categories I end up clarifying the true divide between us. that is not us, it is beyond us, and runs through us, and we are not above it but accountable to it. because it's not us. we are not us. we are just the stories we carry, put on us, so we can shake them off and redeem them.
The story unravels in a way that cause me great pain. I got accused, via another, so I'll never really even know what and how I was accused. But it was represented as badly. It took me time and discussion to stop being defensive. To let go and find my own fault. To take ownership over my naiveté and ignorance. When I had written the word I felt I had permission to go beyond all the negative energy it carried. As if I was stronger than society and culture. And it was only through the eyes of my dear friends that I was brought to the light. Those friends were able, gently, to show me what I knew - but needed help to see the way it ran through me. To see the way I was wrong and careless and trailing a stream of hate whether I intended it or not.
My learning in this situation is not just to stop using "bad" words. Which I will try to limit. That should be obvious. We should be careful with words. If you don't speak spanish, you don't try to make a sentence with spanish words. The same is true of a lexicon that one cultural group uses freely and is restricted to another. Think of it as a foreign language, translate and speak (as much as possible) in your own language. Don't deny the language. I can listen and evaluate what musician Old Dirty Bastard might be trying to say, but when it runs through me, I must try to always move with greatest possible respect. That isn't an empty, absolute principle, just a lighter touch.
But the deeper learning was beyond that. It was about letting myself feel how that situation arises. Where my work is. To feel my own ignorance, as it runs through me and the resistance within me to getting past it. The layers and walls that protect me from identifying my own limitations -even though there was an inkling that wanted it. (which is why i couldn't drop it with my friends). In that process I gained compassion for those that are ignorant. Not acceptance, you cannot rest there. But to see how hard it is to go under. To know how hard you need to dig to truly dig that up and get beyond it. It is not easy and we need to be patient with each other - and trust that you are ignorant in the way you need to be to heal the story of the people you carry. Personal ignorance is also an awakening to ancestral limitation. something like that. just working through the edge of this idea now. but the key thing is that it is our responsibility to change things at as deep a level as we can manage.
However it goes, for me it was a jewish man and black woman - both who i love and connect with deeply - that were able in different ways and different times and in different languages to hold up the mirror to me so i could see what what going on - beyond me. and they did it with such respect and love for who I am and all that i do, so i could see my ignorance and not feel ashamed and shut down. so i could face it, take responsibility and share.
So. thank you to those that shook this up, for those that stretched it out, for those that helped me free.
there is no "safe" identity in which to hide or rest, but things can move and this new way of seeing gives you more strength to go on, than you could have imagined.
I accept the gift of the assumptions and ignorance I carry and the work I have to do to shake it. I literally have my work cut out for me, as you, yours.
So. Happy Black History Month. May we all find our ignorance and have the strength and community to help us get beyond our limitations.