Pernicious “othering”

Dear President Trump,

I bet Elton John isn’t too happy with your “Rocket Man” tweet from this morning. What were you thinking? Were you thinking? Sure doesn’t seem like a good idea for you to have access to your phone over night. You know how super responsible parents have all family members leave their devices in a common space before bed to curb late night (or early morning) overuse of said devices? Well, it can be a good idea even for people old enough to know better and especially for those who are old enough to know better but don’t. This is something I urge you and General Kelly to consider since leaving you with your own device at all hours could get us blown up.

There’s really no good news in the above and I’m not even going to try to eek any out.

Instead, I want to let you know about some soul searching and ego checking I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks. Several times recently I’ve had people I care about gently give me feedback that they really don’t need my “helpful” input. My family tells me as much all the time. Somehow, though, it didn’t really register until my pastor, who, as I’ve told you, is Black, and a much older white woman at church each independently put me in my place and telegraphed that it felt to them as though I was being condescending. At first I bristled, but after it happened twice with my Pastor, I realized I have a disrespectful habit of misjudging what some people need from me. Another twist on this I’ve blundered into with my Pastor is in trying to be empathetic, I’ve talked past her and contradicted her. I thought I was reflecting back what she was saying, but really, I was reflecting back my assumptions about her situation and not hearing her. Obviously we all miss with each other sometimes and engagement means risking such misses but as much as I hate to admit it, I’m seeing I’m more likely to miss with certain people and reflexively assume Black women and much older women (not necessarily men) need “help” from me when they don’t. I think the good news here is that they both were kind enough to give me feedback and that something is breaking open and I am starting to hear it and hopefully correct this pernicious form of “othering.”

May we be safe to assert our selves.
May we be grateful to be corrected and happy when it’s done kindly.
May we engage in healthy give and take.
May our lives unfold and intersect with mercy and grace.

Tracy Simpson

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