Learning to Listen
Before you read anything that I might say, I'd like you to go read a wonderful post by my colleague and friend Ryan Brazell.
Wednesday was a very difficult day for a lot of people, many of which are not able to speak publicly about this stuff. Emotions are also very hard to gauge in these online spaces we inhabit where interpretation and context is such a moving target. I've been silent until now because my first priority was to find time to sit down with Ryan and Audrey who both did (and have consistently to our great benefit as a community) use their voices of power to call out the irresponsible decisions I made and how those decisions marginalize minority and at-risk groups of people.
Intentions do matter in the context of understanding why people make poor decisions and how we can better teach others how to be mindful of these things. Intentions do not excuse behavior, but they are necessary to better understand how something like this can happen. One of my biggest concerns is that, to be quite frank, if someone like me can fuck up a situation so badly and hurt people close to me and not be aware of what I'm doing, we have a lot of work to do as a community. A lot. I don't say that to boost myself up as some sort of Super-Ally, rather I've had conversations with people quite a bit since this happened that will honestly be outraged that I would dare even apologize for the action. People who think not only should I not apologize, but that push back is necessary when images and words are taken out of context to push an agenda (paraphrasing, not my words). And here's the thing that bothers me most about this. Every single one of these people who are angry and upset about this are friends and allies who believe in the cause and want to do better and understand. Lines are being drawn in the sand and yet we're all on the same side.
We have a messaging problem.
Being caught in the middle of all this has made it very clear that we're not talking about these issues in a way that's resonating. The emotionally-charged nature of the discourse is certainly a part of it. The limitations of the tools (I believe) are certainly a part of it (see Twitter's 140 character limitation as a shining example). The sheer amount of injustice and problematic stuff to fly across our feeds is certainly a part of it. How can we as a community fix these issues? I don't have the answers and would rather you read more from smarter people who have been talking about this for a long time now.
and many more including Ryan and Audrey.
Personally I have found even this post difficult to write because of an acute awareness to how much I haven't been listening. How much others aren't listening. Hearing, but not listening. Becoming more mindful of these issues and how my actions affect them starts with me learning to listen. The #edtech community has a communication issue that is much bigger than I ever realized until this week. We will not solve this quickly or cleanly, but it starts with all of us learning to listen.