“When we don’t know someone’s truth, we project our own assumptions, prejudices and insecurities onto them.”Sarah, Jo & Team WHQ www.writershq.co.uk
I feel this quote is very appropriate after listening to Prince William’s response to Harry&Meghan’s interview – Meghan felt there were racist comments made to her and William says that the royal family aren’t racist. But also the mix of comments following the death of Sarah Everard in which women are saying they feel unsafe at night and men saying that they are overreacting. In each case it is people not wanting to hear someone else’s truth because they are projecting their own assumptions on to the situation. I know I’ve said this before but we need to be listening to each other not talking over each other. I do not believe we will ever deal with racism, sexism, gender issues, etc, etc unless we start wanting to hear someone else’s truth rather than projecting our assumptions on to them.
One of my daughter’s friends put a post on her family’s WhatApp group about feeling sad about a incident that had happened to her and a friend by a man and that it hurt her more because it was on International Women’s Day, but mum and her brother responded with their own thoughts rather than listening to how she had felt.
If I feel unsafe at night it is how I feel. It is not up to someone else to tell me I don’t feel safe. If someone feels that someone has made a racist slur against them that is how they feel and it is not up to someone else to tell them they don’t feel that way. But if we are too busy talking and not listening then we are not going to hear how someone really feels.
As a middle aged woman who was a teenager in the 70s lots of things my daughter now says are misogynistic I grew up with being told were just how it was. It would be easy for me to tell my daughter that this is just how men are but I instead I am starting to listen, and in listening I am learning.
As with all these issues that are still being brought into 2020 vision in 2021 it is listening to those who are hurt that is important, listening to those who feel disadvantage, but also listening to those who feel they are being blamed. Why did William have to say the Royal family weren’t racist? Why couldn’t he just say he was sorry that Meghan had felt hurt and ask how things could have been done differently? Why can’t men say they are sorry women don’t feel safe and then ask what they can do to change that?
Also let us start having the conversation about why some people have to jump in to defend their position rather than listening. They are having to deal with hurts and insecurities too. As Pádraig Ó Tuama of Poetry Unbound said over a situation a friend challenged him about – “Full of fear as I was, I was capable of being an agent of fear too”. Let us all admit to our fears, listen to each other and stop being an agent of fear. Start listening and then asking what we can do to help change things rather than behaving in a stance of fearfully defending our status quo.