Have you ever thought about who you listen to? Not just their names but who they are and what they know?
Growing up I was always outside the “in crowd”… always trying to get inside the bubble. In fact, that carried into adulthood too.
I have never been more thankful for it than now though. Because we need to realize that we all live in a bubble of some sort.
We see people who look like us. We hear people say things that reinforce our beliefs.
And we get comfortable. Comfortable enough to tell someone they’re wrong without listening to what they have to say. Comfortable enough to believe we have all the evidence to prove we’re right. Comfortable enough to think our worldview/position/opinion is the only one that matters.
And all because we don’t realize we’re in a bubble… and we’re happy in it.
What I have to say is far less important than what the people I’m going to recommend have to say.
But here it is in a nutshell for those in the back who somehow haven’t heard this yet:
Our world was built for white men. And we just accept it and listen to them because we’ve been growing up in a society that says we should.
Let’s start here… How many men do you listen to? Unless you specifically seek to only listen to them and therefore know the answer, it’s probably more than you think.
This question was presented to me in an article talking about whose books you read, whose quotes you share, whose advice you listen to. And I began thinking about who I listened to on a daily basis.
My husband is male. As are my dad and father-in-law. People I work for. Brothers. Pastors. Friends. Should I stop listening to them because I need to listen to women? No, that’s not the question.
Books? Until recently there was one in my (long) list of favorites that was female. The rest… yeah, men. Great books —Tolkien, Rothfuss, Conan Doyle, Dumas. But again, that’s not the question.
The question is… what am I missing out on? How big is my bubble, really? Because it probably doesn’t extend as far as I think it does. As a person, I am affected by the environments I’m in and the people around me. But if I look around me, who do I see? If I look at the media I surround myself with, who does that mean I am?
And I’m just going to go ahead and cut even deeper… how many people that you listen to are also white?
Our world naturally listens to white men. Again, take a look at my lists above. I wasn’t trying to do it… it just happened.
Why? Because it’s who our world was built by and for.
Can We Change This? Should We?
Yeah, I don’t even want to ask the “should we” question, but I assume that everyone looks at that and realizes half our country is female and there are more people of color in our world than we might see in our little bubble.
But I also realize that people heard the term “white men” and immediately labeled me as a crazy feminist (insert whatever other words you like here).
Hey, I get that. I listen to a lot of white men. I married one. There are some great ones. But they fit easily into this world… and not everyone does.
There are reasons for that I won’t really get into, but I will recommend reading and listening on this.
I have to admit… it’s not going to be easy. When you start listening to different people you find yourself justifying why you’re right and they’re wrong or just don’t get it. You talk yourself into being on the right side because you’ve never seen it before so it must not be true.
But that’s the whole point! Turn that around and think about that from someone else’s perspective!
There is a good chance women and people of color understand far more than you do because they live in a world made for white men, so they see what they’re “supposed” to be (according to who easily fits into our world). But they also live in their world, and they see what their world is.
Can you truly say you know what someone else’s world looks like?
Then you’d better start listening.
Why? Because you have no idea what you’re missing out on.
Small Change: Seek Out Specific People To Expand Your Bubble
Step 1. Be Aware
Start by just recognizing who you’re listening to on a daily basis. Next time you’re in a meeting at work, how closely do you listen to the non-white men in the room? Are their ideas considered as much as other people’s ideas? Do you accept what they say as easily as you accept what a white man says?
Whose books do you read? Magazine articles? News stories?
When you see/hear someone different than you, do you think of them exactly the same as if they looked and sounded like you?
Or are you truly practicing empathy and trying to understand why they think what they do before deciding how you feel about what they said?
Step 2. Actively Seek Out Other Voices
Once you can recognize this, you’ll start to feel the edge of your bubble. Because there are hundreds of millions of people in the US and billions of people in the world… and your experiences and worldview are just one of those.
Sidebar, to expand your world a bit more: do you know how many books you can read in a lifetime? At an average of a book a day for 73 years (365 * 73), an ordinary human can read 26,645 books. Wow! I thought I was doing good with my 58 books last year! Except that…
“There are more than 23,000,000 books in the Library of Congress, and a good reader might be able to read 23,000 books in a lifetime. …we are contemplating a lifetime of reading in which we might touch 1/10th of 1% of the extent of books.”
Your world just got a whole lot bigger.
So back to finding other voices… you’re going to have to go and find them. They’re not just going to show up on your doorstep.
You might get someone in your social media feed that disagrees with you… except you unfollow them, write them off as crazy, and move on with your life.
But that’s the exact opposite of what you need to do now.
Vulnerable moment: when I first started hearing more about race and what I’m responsible for as a white person, why we should listen to black activists… I fought it internally. Because it went against the nature of what I had learned. Not explicit racism (often the only thing we think of as racism), but structural and cultural. Very real things in people’s lives that I didn’t think I needed to look for. When I started looking though, I saw it and began to realize the effect it has.
Guys — it’s going to be hard. You won’t want to change your mind. And you won’t like some of the things you think about how you live your life and what you have that someone else doesn’t. You’re going to question a lot of things.
But start small. Read one book. Listen to one podcast.
Start hearing other people and start changing our world for the better by doing it.
Honestly, I’m just going to give you a list of many different things I’ve read and listened to, and you should go find it. Podcasts are on your phone and books are in the library.
- Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – yes, that’s right. Your kids (and you) can learn about all the brave women we never learned about in school.
- A Different Mirror – by Ronald Takaki
- Martin Luther King Jr. Sermons – Strength to Love, A Knock at Midnight
- Pod Save the People – the one podcast I won’t miss every single week. From their site, “Organizer and activist DeRay Mckesson explores news, culture, social justice, and politics through deep conversations with influencers and experts, and the weekly news with fellow activists Brittany Packnett and Sam Sinyangwe, and writer Clint Smith.”
- Brittany Packnett – This woman is amazing. That’s all.
- Octavia Butler – one of the best-known among the few African-American women authors in science fiction.
- Brené Brown – I read ALL of her books this summer. Absolutely no regrets. I learned so much and am a better person for it.
- Rachel Held Evans – I recommend starting with her latest, Inspired. You can find her on Twitter too.
- Our Shared Shelf – Emma Watson’s Goodreads book club as part of her work with UN Women.
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – by Austin Channing Brown
- Womanist Midrash – by Wilda C. Gafney
Now sure where to start? Want more information? Leave a comment or send me a message. I’m here to help. 🙂