Sadly, Being Nice Rarely Changes Things

While I’m usually pretty nice and well behaved here on my blog, it has happened a time or two in real life and on social media that I have been criticized for being too harsh, too dramatic and too provocative. The way I communicate has been called vulgar, bombastic, hateful, angry and divisive. More than one person has tried to plead with me (or shame me) to tone it down. Typically they claim that no one will listen to me because I’m alienating people. Clearly, I have not found these arguments or criticisms particularly persuasive.

To demonstrate why, take a look at these fascinating charts:

Between 2009 and 2014, the percentage of white people claiming that we have done enough to give blacks equal rights vs those who say that more needs to be done remained stable. Most white people had declared mission accomplished. But by 2015, the positions had completely reversed with most white people suddenly deciding that we needed to do more to give blacks equal rights. What happened? Well, Black Lives Matters happened. Conflict happened. Protests happened. Arguments happened. Roads were blocked, events were disrupted, people shouted and refused to back down. A few even set shit on fire.

Much like me, BLM was criticized for being too harsh, too dramatic, too provocative. They were called vulgar, bombastic, hateful, angry and divisive. They were told that all they were doing was alienating people. Right wing media engage in a demonic smear campaign against them to make J. Edgar Hoover do a jig in his grave. The leaders of BLM, however, had studied the history of non-violent social change and they knew better than to give the calls to simmer down and be nice any credence. And for all the criticism and complaints, people’s eyes started to open and their minds began to change. Their denial became less sustainable. In a very short amount of time, opinions flipped quite dramatically.

You see, the idea that we can get people to change their minds about important issues, come out of denial and recognize the error of their ways through civility and dialogue sounds high minded and reasonable. Except reality doesn’t actually work like that. It could, if people were better at listening, less defensive and less invested in victim blaming. But they’re not.

Which is why it is both good and necessary that we have some people who are willing to be obnoxious, piss everyone off and refuse to back down. People who are willing to have people think that they’re a jerk and talk shit about them and say nasty things to them. And while not everyone can or should be that sort of person, I am quite happy to be one of those people at this moment in history. I get that at any given moment. I have a fair number of people mad at, disgusted by or appalled at me. That’s OK. I’m a mom; it’s not a novel experience for me.

What’s So Great About a Bible Hero?

Did you know that research has found that people in interracial marriages report that marriage is more difficult than they anticipated and are slightly more likely to divorce? As someone in an interracial marriage, I can tell you why that is. Our normals are different. And that causes problems.

By normals, what I mean is what we each assume is right, good and normal. All couples deal with this. You think it’s normal to walk around the house in your undies and your beloved wouldn’t dream of walking out of the bedroom with out his shoes on. He thinks spaghetti is served with velveeta melted on top and you’re not a lunatic, so you recognize crazy when you see it.

Most of the time we are able to adjust, compromise and accept that each of us thinks the other person is certifiable in some way. But people who marry people from other races tend to face much deeper differences in what they think of as normal. African American’s relationship with authority is much different, more complicated and often more rigid than a white American’s. (Oddly enough, attitudes towards authority just don’t come up much while dating.) A woman I know married a man from Peru and was shocked to discover that he expected her not to speak with men she didn’t know when he wasn’t present. He was shocked that she would even consider doing such a thing. Another woman I know married a man from East Asia and learned that they had very different ideas about secrets – he felt perfectly comfortable telling their children lies about some important things to protect them from hard realities. Authority, gender, secrets – when people from different cultures get married, they often discover that they are in conflict about some very deep things.

What makes interracial relationships so difficult, I think, isn’t just the conflicts that come out of these differing ideas of what’s normal. It’s that you are constantly being forced to examine and question the underlying assumptions you have regarding really deep things. And we’re not good at that. We can barely admit when we’ve taken a wrong turn and gotten ourselves lost. Considering if maybe your entire concept of the role of fairness in relationships and society is off is painful and confusing. Add in the fact that there isn’t necessarily a “right” answer to questions you always used to know the right answer to and  . . . . arrrrgh!

Sometimes you just want to tell the other person to leave you alone – life was just fine before you came along with your crazy ideas and made me question the existential meaning of housekeeping! (And yes, I do know that in my case, some of this is driven by the fact that my husband and I are very intense people who completely over-think everything. But really, that just means we can define what we are arguing about in greater detail than most people!)

I happen to think that as hard as it is, couples in interracial relationships are doing hard, but good, important work. The sort of work the heroes of the bible did, in fact. Wait . . . what? Interracial couples challenging each other’s ideas about normal is just like the bible heroes? How’s that for a complete non sequitur! Allow I to explain. Continue reading

Change and Brain Habits

So often, we mean to change, but our brain won’t cooperate.  We will do our best to let go of or forgive something only to have the same thoughts and feelings show up again and again.  Or we determine to do or not do something but we keep getting pulled off course by forgetfulness or temptation or habit.  If we don’t know better, we will assume that this is a sign that we haven’t really changed at all.  Sometimes there is more work that needs to be done before you can really change.  However, often your brain  is simply traveling well worn ruts out of habit.  It doesn’t mean anything beyond that.

We’ve all had the experience of changing jobs or moving and then catching ourselves mindlessly turning in the direction of the old job or house while out driving.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re yearning for that old house or job.  It’s just our brain’s “muscle memory” kicking in.  Because that’s how our brain works.

So, if you have been genuinely trying to change, let go or forgive and your brain isn’t cooperating, don’t be too alarmed.  Just take the way-ward thought to God with this message: “I found this wandering through my head and I believe this is your problem to deal with now.”  Repeat as needed.