A Story in Several Parts, Part I
Even before I hit the airwaves, which is not the same thing as hitting eardrums, I had a list. I had a list of conversations I wanted to have, whether or not there was an audience to hear them. I had a list of conversations about life experiences that I thought would benefit from curiosity, and racism was on that list.
My hypothesis was this: most of the -isms and -phobias of our lives (racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia…) are due in no small part to lack of curiosity, to a corrosive inclination to judge, to think we already know, to go first and fiercely to resistance and fear. To a cavernous, echoing absence of empathy and attention. To a profound failure to listen.
Systemic, implicit racial bias wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to start in building my radio show, but I knew I had to get there. I just wasn’t sure how — or with whom.
For more than a decade, volunteers have been hosting an extended community conversation here called “Challenging Racism.” It’s a big commitment of both time and energy, and I never quite felt my calendar and I were up to it. But my new normal neither affords the same kind of hiding places nor excuses not walking my talk, so this year I applied to participate.
Then it dawned on me: this is my conversation! I sent what I hoped was an inviting note to an unknown entity in the dark of cyberspace, asking for the opportunity to explore this topic for a possible episode. (Candidly, I was also hoping the ask would tip the scales in my favor for selection this year. There’s a waiting list, which I find reassuring, in a good-for-the-future-of-the-species kind of way.)
It took about a nano-second for a reply to arrive: Of course! Yes, by all means! When? Where? How about two of us come?
And that’s how I came to be sitting at a wobbly high top with the self-described “way older white woman” who started the initiative and a “way younger” black woman who walked into a class one Back-to-School night two years ago and seems never to have looked back. They taught me things about white privilege and micro-aggression, I outlined my Unified Theory of Curiosity. We agreed there was much to discuss.
Parts III & IV
So here’s the plan: it won’t be just one episode, but two. One before the course even starts, by way of context; one after, for reflection.
The course begins in 10 days, so we’re hustling to record the first show while I’m still a programmatic virgin. Inevitably, I’m digging back through files to find whatever research or writing I might have on the topic. More importantly, I’m sitting with my own assumptions, surfacing the questions I need and want to ask. Today’s email brought this, reminding me that the universe puts things in our paths that we see when we’re ready.
And then we’ll reconvene in the spring, after the course is all over, and see what there is to see. I’m expecting…I don’t know what. Insights, undoubtedly. Humility, I hope.