Listening 101

Because some people don’t.


When I was tossed into the diversity blender, I was given a somewhat complicated mix. I wasn’t given the most complicated identity, but, of course, I still struggle with it sometimes. In my state, the demographic of two or more races is fifth on the population scale. Being a biracial teenager who presents as white and having a completely Cuban mother who also presents as white, can certainly cause me to raise a few questions. 


I look at the news often, a rarity for someone of my age in my school. I see the diverse, suppressed minorities and majorities being treated terribly, and I wonder what my role will be when I come to the threshold of adulthood. I most likely won’t face the racist comments. I won’t have to wonder if I will be killed or injured or maimed or tortured for having a shade darker of skin than people deemed “white.” If I was subjected to any one of those things, a question wouldn’t be raised as to if it was racially motivated, which, of course, it probably wouldn’t be. 


People often in the mindset of superiority will think different ways for different reasons and, in fact, it truly doesn’t matter why- only that they do think it. 


Except it does matter. The why, and the how, matter. 


Someone who identifies as something other than white can’t simply walk up to a person and say “Hey idiot, don’t be a white supremacist.” You do that and someone will get punched in the face. So why even try to get them to understand? Is it worth it for me? A teenage girl with a biracial origin story and a white face? 


For me, the answer is yes. The fact that those in our world feel they must demonize others to justify their actions is wrong. The fact that persons of color are underrepresented and disregarded for being as such, is wrong. Just under a year ago, the NY Times posted an article highlighting the new diversity requirement. It seems odd how there needs to be a requirement, shouldn’t it be a given?


But society prevents me from speaking about the wrong things. So how do I get those people, the white supremacists, the people who think they are superior in every racial (or any other) aspect, to listen? 


You can’t blatantly state a person’s incorrectness. That leads to an immediate dismissive response and an argument. As I’ve had to tell myself several times, you can’t attack a person for their beliefs, verbally or otherwise, no matter how incorrect they are. What you have to do is listen. 


As a 17-year-old girl, I’ve been taught to listen, taught to pay attention, to those in higher positions than me. It’s now a value that has been hard to observe in the news or real life because when people talk, they scream and when people don’t talk, they don’t listen either. Of course, I’m speaking generally, but shouldn’t that be inconsequential? When it comes to race, sexual orientation, gender, anything partisan really, shouldn’t we have the decency to listen? 


I try to. Even if the person next to me is a complete idiot. Who cares? To them, I probably am too. All that means is I have the power to change their mind, and to change mine.