I Am the Elephant: Finally realizing what I’d missed all along – and feeling like a fool

Chapter 28 of Waking Up White: and finding myself in the story of RACE by Debbie Irving

Can you recall a time when you knew there was an elephant in the room and you only discovered what it was later? Once you’ve recalled that time, make a list of the feelings you experiences. How did you feel once you got the full story and the elephant was exposed?

This really hit home to me. I think I’ve already expressed my desire to always be “the good girl” in the room – to always be the one who knew the most – to always be the helper. I have a horror of being seen as “Lady Bountiful” and consequently I often am reluctant to engage with folks of another race, or ethnic group, for fear of saying the wrong thing.

I’m thankful that much of my awareness was opened up through “Dallas Dinner Table”, a program created by a friend of mine, Tracy Brown, in the late 1990s or early 2000s. It was sponsored by the Dallas City Council, and was an effort to have mixed groups of about eight or ten participants sit down and have a dinner together, with guided conversation. There were several “rules” for the conversation, including things like “listen to understand”, and “suspend your preconceived ideas.” The conversation guides asked for people to tell their own stories, without interruption, and I was able to hear about a little of what was going on in other folks minds. No one was allowed to challenge anything anyone else said. It was both instructive, and freeing, to hear the other person and not be internally rebutting what they were saying.

I still, unfortunately, shrink from much interaction unless I’m in a structured situation, because I already know that I AM the ELEPHANT in the room, and I’m reluctant to inflict any more hurt on someone who has been struggling with hurt for years. I need to learn how to admit that I am at fault, and to be willing to hear the hard things they need to tell me. I’m trying.

If you would like to join me as I blog about my experiences with race, please read the book. It was life changing for me.

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