Your Learning Hurts

I’m in yet another diversity training.

It could be today or yesterday or three years ago or probably two years hence. The timing doesn’t matter, the details don’t matter. The experience is the same.

It’s a good training. The facilitators are thoughtful and probing; the material is challenging. But one thing is the same.

Other people’s learning hurts. I keep coming back again and again to Kate Rushin’s The Bridge Poem, feeling like my back is breaking under the weight of white people’s learning.

Every anecdote, every question, every look of bewilderment is a tiny microaggressive knife stuck in, cut by cut, wrought on my body and soul, already sore from ancestral trauma. And that’s just after I get into the room. That’s not counting the news I’ve read, the encounters I’ve had on my commute, the experiences that have swarmed me just by virtue of opening my eyes to begin another day.

Yet I have to sit in this room and smile and be tender and gentle, while the white fragility and the defensiveness and the skepticism washes over me like a bath of the hot acid of assimilation, anything to wash away that part of me, my Blackness, that is good for our diversity but too much for their comfort. I have to sit in this room and smile and be tender and gentle while my white colleagues struggle and strain and strive to talk about literally anything else but that which is my affliction and my pride, my blessing and my curse, day in and day out.

There are parts of my physical self that I don’t have the luxury of ignoring. Again and again, I am confronted with the realities of how I move about in this world that was not made for me, never made for me. There are parts of my identity that I don’t have the luxury of acknowledging because they get swallowed in my attempt to stay ahead of my racial life. It is a privilege I have and I use liberally, just to get through the next day. And yet my heart aches for my fam who walk in their intersectional identities, by choice or not, and slog through that matrix of domination and oppression Patricia Hill Collins named for us.

I want to explore other aspects of who I am. And I want to rage over the way the world treats my Blackness. I want to be the angry Black woman. I want to be more. Sometimes, I want to be less. But by my own choosing.

I’m just tired of sitting in this room and smiling and being tender and gentle. I want to be done with all that.

I want y’all to learn without killing me. Do you think you can manage that?