Hey, WP! Glad you could make it back! Today we’re going to do some exercises focusing on HEARING. White people have notoriously feeble auditory senses when in the vicinity of people of color; and often, because of inattention, we miss POC’s speech entirely. But you can improve! Here are a few suggestions:
- Listen carefully the first time around, and don’t ask a person of color to repeat what they just said because you weren’t paying attention. You should feel embarrassed and apologetic if you have missed what anyone said, of course; but if I had a nickel for every time this has happened for a White person when a person of color was speaking… well, I wouldn’t be poor, you know.
- Write down and look up words, names, places, historical references you did not understand when you heard them in conversation with a person of color. Especially if your school did not offer the rudiments of non-White history to you (and most American ones don’t), and you didn’t take more than four years of Spanish. No kidding. Educate yourself, ’cause there’s a ton of stuff you still don’t know – and definitely do NOT interrupt a POC who is speaking to ask them to explain a reference you did not understand. This is what Wikipedia and Google is for, folks. Use it to find out about everything from Audre Lorde’s mom’s roots in Carriacou, to Egyptian art and Ethiopian music, to modern Dominican authors’ books, to MLK’s visit to Ghana, to Ho Chi Minh’s time in New York City, to the World Cup championship, to Mary McLeod Bethune, to Malcolm X in Omaha, and beyond.
- Practice staying silent, even when you want to insert a supportive argument, or add something so relevant about your own experience onto the story that a person of color is telling you. Instead of speaking, nod, and wait for more. Be attentive, and keep your mind focused on what this person is saying to you. You would be surprised how many times simple silence will elicit honest and interesting conversation and facts that you were not aware of. (Check out some thoughts on this by Greta Christina if you are interested in more background to this idea!)
Have fun, and don’t forget to practice both SEEING and HEARING exercises every day, for best effect!