So after I wrote that last blog post I still didn’t move. The people from my classed rushed by, pausing fractionally to stare at me as if they were wondering why I was not rushing in to claim a seat.
I just sat there. I took a few deep breaths, I said hello to a former student of mine (I used to teach an extra curricular activity), talked to her a bit about why I wasn’t in class. She was disgusted at my fellow classmate’s behavior same as I was.
About five minutes before class I finally got up and walked into the room, said hello to a few people and took my seat.
To say that there was an awkward tension is an understatement.
The people in class weren’t talking shit…we are all just quiet and didn’t really make eye-contact.
It was like that moment you have with a friend after a fight where, you know you want to apologize, but you don’t want to be the first one to make that move in case the situation doesn’t pan out the way you want it to.
Except I wasn’t going to apologize to anyone. I was simply waiting and counting backwards from one-hundred in my head so as not to glance up, make eye contact with the people I was really angry at and then, like a bull in front of a red flag, go charging full speed ahead.
I can get really cruel when I’m angry so most of the time I just try to keep my mouth shut.
The professor walks in, everyone says hello, and she doesn’t give us any time for discussion on last week’s “topic”. She delves right into the current book we read and I have to say – I was relieved.
Relieved because I didn’t want to talk about the argument last week. Relieved because I did want to hash out everything that happened last week and knew it would only end in me being a emotional wreck and causing damage to some people’s fragile emotional psyches. I was relieved because everyone in the room seemed to take a deep breath and move forward.
And I was disappointed because I knew that this was like every other issue in this world that makes the “majority” uncomfortable – we were going to sweep it under the rug and act like it never happened. And who knows, maybe no one else thought that it was a big deal outside of class and they let it slip from their minds…but still. There was that remembered tension.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not someone who seeks out conflict. I will do my best in every situation to avoid it and work things out rationally. I like being the peace-maker, the problem-solver, the comic relief. But who was going to do that for me now that I was the one with the problem?
So the class discussion continued and the mood lightened a little. I wasn’t about to ruin a good discussion on the current topic at hand with grievances of the past. And I guess I was rewarded for my good behavior because this sweet, gentle, intelligent young woman made mention of the issue last week in a way that had every one silent in anticipation, and then look within themselves at the real problems.
She related issues of race and culture in the current book to the race and culture issues in the last reading – the one that sparked the drama. And she said something that really stuck with me. Stuck with everyone.
She said that we are all dealing with the same issues. Just like in the last reading, the Native Americans were struggling to be heard when they weren’t a loud people to begin with. Polly Bemis, in our current book, faced the same thing- being a Chinese woman sold into slavery and brought to America immediately. She was struggling to be heard and understood when she tried to make her husband understand her fight to be free. To be independent. Her fight to be allowed to live the way she wanted. To be able to embrace who she was and live a peaceful life. She then went on to say that sometimes issues like this rise up because there is something uncomfortable within ourselves that we don’t want to look too closely at. Something that we are ashamed of, something that makes us lash out at people who think now the way we previously thought.
I have much respect for this self-proclaimed “white woman who was brought up really well off and never had to deal with racial issues before.” Honey, for being all of those things, you are also intelligent and you showed great respect to everyone involved, regardless of their stance on the subject.
Needless to say, the crowd went silent. I just sat there, looking at her, amazed that this little sprite, this woman who always speaks so softly and its like poetry floats serenely from her mouth, she understood me. She understood what I was trying to get across to the douche bags who wouldn’t listen.
I can’t be sure, as I was so humbled by her words and her kind understanding that when she met my eyes I looked down at my fingers (it was either that or get up, cross the room and cuddle the shit out of her) – but in that last moment before my eyes left hers, she gave me a little nod and a small smile. A little show of understanding.
Yes. She had heard me, and without me having to say anything, she understood the anger and the pain that I still felt.
And like magic, all that negativity, it was gone.
Sometimes it just takes one person to acknowledge your feelings to make things OK. It doesn’t erase the issue, but helps you to get past the anger and resentment so you can’t come at the problem from a different angle.
The class was quiet for a few moments, but it wasn’t awkward like before. The previously mentioned ass-hat met my gaze from across the room and smiled at me. I smiled back. Looks like he got the message too.
There’s no helping the She-Hitler. The moment didn’t phase her at all.
After the reflective moment we got back to discussing the book and then before we knew it, class was over and we were all laughing and talking about random things.
Thanks, Little Sprite. I appreciate you. It took your soft words and gentle understanding to make me realize the person I was really upset with.
I was upset with myself because I remember a time long ago when I wasn’t as open minded as I am now – and I am ashamed of the person I was no matter than it was for a brief period of time. I never said anything outwardly to anyone, but I have had a few thoughts that just were so wrong I am amazed they even came to mind. I was upset with myself for allowing others to hurt me that way – because people can only hurt me if I allow them to…and somewhere in last week’s conversation I had forgotten that.
And I was mostly upset with myself because I know that if I have any chance of helping out my community, of helping others heal and grow, of helping people embrace culture diversity along with racial diversity, I can’t be getting upset like I did over every person who has a difference of opinion. No matter how wrong or ignorant those people are.
What I need to do is take my ego out of the equation and remember to approach things rationally and slowly. Rash decisions and behaviors never got me anywhere good.
And this, my wonderful friends and readers, is why I go to school.