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What can I do (to get “it”)?

A few days ago there were climate strikes across the globe. Several Dragons groups did something to mark these Fridays. We did a reflective activity where students were asked to think about what a series of objects means to them. We used a plastic bag, ice, an American passport and seeds. If you see the image above, you might get a better idea of what I mean.

It was truly wonderful to see how engaged and reflective the students were and how deep their abilities to think and ask tough questions are. It is definitely one of the top three reasons I continue to do and love this work.

As with many discussions I have participated in, there is often a turning point, a moment when someone says something “charged” or makes a generalisation. I am often that person. I am a young, often angry, opinionated brown woman. It doesn’t surprise anyone when I am generally pissed off with the world, but people are often offended and get defensive when I am. Many books have been written deconstructing this phenomenon so I won’t bore you with what I think. I want to tell you something far more interesting, inspiring and hopeful.

I was not that person the other day. Another sometimes angry (I say that in the best way) young woman said something about white men not getting “it”. “It” being sexism – casual or otherwise, the feminist movement, racism – institutionalised or otherwise, micro aggressions. A lot of things. This is both a fair and unfair sentiment. I both completely agree and also know that I have countless white, male friends who totally get it. It’s just that sometimes our collective anger doesn’t have an outlet and so it generalises and lashes out and yells at the wrong person. This is something I will be working on for the rest of my life.

And this is why:

In response, John put his hand up and said, “As a white man, I am genuinely curious to know what I can do to get ‘it’.”

Oh John, you already get “it”. By being unafraid to ask this question, by being tempered and mature in your response to something you could have easily gotten defensive about, you have “got it”. Or at least, you have begun. As I said in my response to you, you are eighteen and therefore have a lifetime of learning and understanding ahead of you. I have no doubt that you will make space for the women in your life, that you will listen to them and believe them, that you will believe they deserve the exact same rights as you, that you will know when your voice is important and when it is important for you to pass the mic along, that you will refrain from manspreading and splaining, that you will tell your son it is healthy to cry and that he can wear a dress if he wants to, that you will read books written by women and never say, “you’re good … for a girl”, that you will use your privilege to do good so that your children will grow up in a more inclusive world and that you will continue everyday to ask difficult questions that have inconvenient answers and still be willing to listen.

Thank you so much for asking, John. Thank you so much for listening.