Unrestrained anger and the expression thereof is the greatest threat to impactful messaging in the quest for equality, writes RYAN VREDE.
I never want to tell black people who’ve felt undermined, discriminated against, oppressed or subhuman how to express themselves. Indeed, I’ve been angry about race-related things in the past and unleashed messages powered by waves of emotion and with little regard for how that message will land with the groups responsible for that oppression.
Inevitably the intention was undermined by the delivery, which resulted in no learning. In fact, it often made the people I was trying to educate more angry and deepened their ignorance.
As I’ve grown my emotional intelligence, I’ve come to learn that in order for my message to be interpreted as intended, I have to strike the balance between sharing my experience/s in powerful, undiluted and meaningful ways, while also giving the message every chance of achieving its intended goal/s, among those being broadening understanding of a lived experience, challenging ignorance, deconstructing false narratives, exposing lies and … and … and.
Again, how people tell their story is theirs to own. And, admittedly, there is every chance that those stories will land on consciously deaf ears and closed minds, irrespective of how carefully curated they are.
But, in order for us to move forward towards the goal of equality, it is important that the dialogue stays open, and in this regard there is a responsibility on black cricketing personalities to speak their truth in ways that amplify the chance of meaningful, systemic change coming from those stories. Because what is the point of telling your story if it’s not intended to be a catalyst for change?
The reality is that black cricketers (and black people generally) have far more white comrades in their quest for equality than they do hate-filled opposition. Using the comments section as a reliable sample is ill-advised. Those on the fringe are a relatively small group who voice their disgust, mistrust and opposition to and for the movement for equality in these forums.
It’s been my experience that the vast majority of white people have listened to the experiences that have been shared by those affected by racism or racial prejudice, and allowed those experiences to educate and inform their behaviour. This isn’t only an anecdotal experience but a deeply personal one.
Following my piece sharing my experience of racism in club cricket, I got a text from a close friend, a white man in his mid-40s I’ve known since childhood. Despite him having an upper-middle class upbringing and his early socialisation being almost entirely with other white people, not once have I ever thought he has a racist bone in his body. But the text was insightful. It read: ‘My heart breaks over the racism and prejudice that you have experienced and that is sadly still alive in our world and country. I want to listen and learn. I want to help. I want to be part of the solution. I want to show true love. Please show me and teach me. I would like to talk about this with you. I’m sorry! I love you my friend!’
I suspect that even though he is and has never been a racist, my story illuminated blindspots for him. It convicted his heart and began the process of transforming his mind. That was the goal. I would never have achieved that if I delivered a scathing rebuke of whiteness in its entirety.
I’d like to think that the text I got articulates the thoughts and feelings of the majority of whites. Maybe I’m naive, but I’m happy to be so because it reflects an inner belief that people are inherently good. They are open to being educated and certainly open to change.
Given this, it is our responsibility as blacks to extend them this grace and opportunity for change by telling our stories with the requisite care, mindful that while we don’t need affirmation and validation of our lives and stories, we do need allies in our cause.
And there are plenty. We’re in this together.