Growing up in a small town (essentially isolated) in the Midwest definitely came with a lot of life lessons.
The biggest lesson I walked away with was KNOWING a person is a person.
If you know much about small towns in the Midwest you’ll probably not be surprised when I say that lesson was learned the hard way.
That truth (a person being a person) and the strength to stand up for that no matter how shaky my voice is wasn’t exactly the way of life growing up. My stronghold on this truth didn’t develop because I learned by the example my community set.
The truth in that lesson was learned because I am a black woman.
A black woman who grew up in an isolated town where everyone around me was quick to talk, quick to judge, quick to place in a box, quick to yell at.
A black child, a young black girl, a black teenager, a black divorced single mother. A proud black woman. I’ve worn all those hats in a small white town.
It took many years. Many lessons. Many exposures to the ugly underbelly of Midwest nice. Many painful layers that needed to be pulled off. It took a lot to get where I’m at today.
However. Had I not grown up where I did, I would not be who I am today. So I’m truly grateful for that small Midwest town and all the lessons I carried out with me.
I got to see up close. I got to become best friends with. I got to be invited into homes. Of people who do not see a person as a person.
And I was so very often in that category of “not quite” a person.
A person was someone who looked and thought like them.
I began to understand year after year, lost relationship after lost relationship, that fighting for yourself – on your own – for your personhood is an uphill battle.
An uphill battle set on a mudslide with an impeding avalanche in a tornado during an earthquake that sparks a tsunami.
It was within this turmoil that I was taught another lesson.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot. Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”Dr. Seuss
I bring this all up because today I saw an article.
It’s a story I’ve been following closely – along with others like it.
Here’s where that lesson comes in. Both of them.
I actually did not personally know any transgender people until this past year. That has not prevented me from speaking out, learning, reading, and amplifying anyone I “meet” on social media (that inevitably knows better/more than I do) over the past few years.
Because I know what it’s like to fight that uphill battle.
Remember. It’s an impossible feat to argue for your personhood with someone who doesn’t even see you as a person.
I read Andraya’s story & in this particular write up the author writes “When Andraya is on the track, about to burst out of the blocks, she doesn’t hear this noise. Doesn’t feel it. She travels somewhere else. “I don’t have to think,” she says.”
When I read that line, all I felt and saw was myself.
I don’t know her pain specifically. I don’t know exactly the thoughts she is running from. But I know of her pain. And I know of the thoughts she is running from. Because that was me.
It’s funny because as people that’s a superpower we all have. It’s called empathy.
Then I read the comments made about that story.
My chest pinched. My heart pounded. I couldn’t breathe.
I scrolled for few minutes and out of the hundreds of comments I was having trouble finding one supportive or positive comment.
So I decided to write.
Only I couldn’t find the words.
But one thing was ringing in my head. Over and over and over.
“A person’s a person, no matter how small”Dr. Seuss
So I thought we’d take it back to Dr Seuss for a minute.
“A person’s a person, no matter how small”It was worth repeating
If something comes up in life that you have not personally encountered or experienced, before you jump in with what you know. Before you jump in with your closed (and personal) viewpoint. Pick up a book. Read a blog post. Google experts or advocates that relate to the topic at hand. Do some due diligence to teach yourself what you don’t know. Be comfortable with NOT knowing. Be willing to fill in the gaps for yourself. Learn HOW to learn about things you have not personally encountered or experienced.
Then. Once you’ve learned something, share it with people who are just like you. People in your close circles. Then go back and learn some more.
The cycle should never end. Because
The more you read. The more things you will know. The more that you learn. The more places you’ll go.Dr. Seuss
In relation to all the hate, disgust, and anger I read in those comments and from the words of Andraya telling of her experiences, I want to say this.
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.Dr. Seuss
What’s the answer?
Each one of us is a person.
That’s the answer.
If you find a person’s life experience angering or offensive, I need you to hear me when I say that has everything to do with you and nothing to do with them.
Do better. Be better.