Opening to vulnerable communication about race

I don’t need to tell you that we are living in fraught and stressful times. In the USA, we are facing a Presidential election that promises to be bitter and disappointing for most Americans. The nation is focusing on huge issues of environmental sustainability, economic (in)equalities, health care, and other pressing topics.

One of the most prominent topics, both inside and outside of the Presidential campaigns, is that of race. Recent highly publicized police killings of unarmed black citizens have brought the topic to greater public attention and scrutiny than we have seen in a long time. Trump’s public comments about Mexicans and Muslims have brought these groups—and bias against them—into the public consciousness in a stark way. The Black Lives Matter movement has emerged and brought an intentional focus on the lack of police accountability for violence against black people.

The current state of affairs is tragic. And regardless of one’s own racial or ethnic background, these topics are emotionally charged.

I’ve been watching heart-wrenching videos and hearing political sound bites about race, and wondering what I, personally, might be able to do to bring something positive to the situation. I know that recognizing my own privilege as a white person is an important first step. Listening to the voices of people of color, and hearing their stories and pain and anger, is another way. Speaking out when I hear people making racist or prejudiced remarks is another way.

At this moment I am also feeling called, though, to use my listening and empathy skills in a particular way. I started my Happy to Listen practice nearly ten years ago, because I wanted to help people to process some of the difficult feelings that come up simply as a result of being human in today’s world. I have found doing so to be very gratifying. But I agree with Gloria Steinem’s assertion that the personal is political… and also with the corollary, which is that political, social, and cultural current events affect us all personally. And I want to use my listening skills to help people to process and work through whatever difficult feelings they may have regarding race at this moment in history. I also know that many people are wondering what they can do to help the situation in their own lives, and I want to hold space for people to explore any ideas they might have in that regard.

So, for the month of August, I am choosing to offer Happy to Listen sessions by sliding-scale donation. I will then donate all proceeds from such sessions to the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. I found their website on Facebook a few months ago, and their communication-based approach to racial justice, equity, and harmony resonates with me.

I am hoping that people of any racial or ethnic background will feel comfortable talking about their feelings and challenges around the topic of race. As always, I promise to listen with an open heart and without judgment, seeking only to hold space and provide a sounding board, as well as to learn, myself, how people experience racial issues in their individual lives. I hope to offer some small help in this way.

If you’d like to make an appointment, feel free to contact me at www.happytolisten.com.

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