Sometimes is not about me. Even when it seems very much like it is definitely about me. Even when I feel so intensely that there is no possible way it is about anything other than me. Even some of those times, it's just... not. Like that time I had a disagreement with a committee chair, then was promptly left off an email chain where a critical decision was made about the previously disagreed-on topic. It turned out to be a mistake made by a different person who just misspelled my email.
This kind of thing happens to most people at some point, but despite its common occurrence some folks struggle with it more than others. I saw a stark example recently while re-watching a livestream of a protest. A large crowd gathered to hold a vigil for Kevin Peterson Jr in the parking lot where he was shot by police. A block away, a group of Antifa-hating individuals also gathered. Most of the media streamers were with the vigil crowd, but one posted up with the anti-anti-fascists on the opposite corner.
The members of this other group bonded over a shared dislike of Antifa and congratulated each other on showing up to defend the neighborhood. They clearly thought they were the one and only thing preventing looting and riots. Their collective level of self-delusion would have been impressive if it weren't so sad. A hundred feet (and lightyears of ideology) away, family members and community leaders gave speeches about justice and remembrance.
A small delegation from the vigil approached the parking lot defenders, informed them a march was about to pass right by their location, and requested not to be followed. Some discussion ensued, and ultimately the counter-vigilers agreed not to follow the march if the marchers agreed not to follow them in return. The non-marchers were planning to go nowhere, but that didn't seem relevant.
Then the march began. The crowd of mourners walked to the end of the block and turned the corner, passing right by the would be defenders of the bar parking lot. Just as was foretold, the march paid them no mind. They chanted and waved signs and made their way through the neighborhood to their ultimate destination for a muscial performance and more speeches.
Meanwhile, the people in the parking lot were embroiled in discussion about all the ways in which they must be on the mind of every marcher at that very moment. Those Antifa masquerading as mourners would take a certain route specifically designed to annoy the people in the parking lot. They would definitely follow them later even though they agreed not to follow them. They would come back to break windows and spray paint stuff the moment the parking lot post appeared to be abandoned. They had the marchers all figured out. Except they didn't. None of those predictions transpired.
The reality was: nobody cared about them at all. The vigil attendees had other things on their mind and did not need to spare any thoughts for these random and unpleasant strangers congregating in a parking lot. And yet, rather than recognize the actual reason people gathered in the rain for a sullen walk through the streets, they all assumed it was somehow about them. Listening to their banter, I was surprised just how sure they were of their own relevance, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
It occurred to me maybe no one has ever told these people the world does not revolve around them. My parents definitely let me in on that little secret growing up. It also occurred to me that maybe the world has actually revolved around their wants and needs and preferences. These were all white people, so it's possible they have never not been the most important person in the room. It is possible their comfort has been elevated over other considerations. I imagine that experience would make it difficult to conceive of other possibilities.
That is essentially how the dynamic between my x-husband I developed. He had many emotional needs and I had no boundaries. I did not insist on any room for my emotional needs, so for the first ten years we were together any emotional space was held only for him. Then one day I realized that wasn't sustainable and I no longer wanted that dynamic. I wanted to be considered and I wanted to be able to have needs. But because that wasn't how our relationship had ever worked before, my x-husband could not wrap his head around what I was asking for. It was like a betrayal because I was breaking the unspoken contract of how we related to each other.
Probably that's how millions of white or wealthy Americans feel when asked to consider all the other humans typically neglected by greater society. Our systems and institutions were built to uplift light-skinned humans and oppress dark-skinned humans. Uplift male-presenting humans and oppress female-presenting humans. Uplift those who start out with more money and oppress those who begin with less money. Parts of our systems are changing. It's not about you, Karen. It’s not about you, Chad. Please step aside so we can shine some light on a few someone elses.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.