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Marjorie > Blog > Advice > Racism and Politeness

Racism and Politeness

Racism and politeness.

When speaking about trauma or racial injustice there’s often an expectation that the person tells their stories in a “polite” way in order to soothe the discomfort of the listener. As the bearer of our stories, this politeness is drilled into us early on and we can find ourselves doing it sometimes without being fully aware.

We cannot tell people who continue to suffer from systemic abuse that they ought be nicer. It’s a form of muting and highly problematic.

When a listener is more concerned about a polite delivery than the trauma you’re sharing, the listener does not care about you or your story.

When someone brings up an issue that causes discomfort, rather than interrogating the person who raises the problem, focus on interrogating the problem itself and why their attempt at open and honest discourse creates internal conflict for you.

The avoidance, denial, disdain or discomfort of highlighting issues affecting an individual’s personal existence or our society at large does not erase the existence of those problems and the suffering, oppression and death of many.

If you are unwilling to participate in these difficult and necessary conversations, you don’t have to. You also don’t get to dictate when and how people do it.

Don’t you dare listen to anyone who asks you to be polite or transactional about your trauma, your pain, your injustice like it’s some distant, small memory. No one has ever been successful at galvanizing change and healing through silence. Speak up! Give it a voice!

Marjorie Jean, LCSW-C, LICSW

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