Lately, I’ve been listening in on a lot of conversations about race. As a white guy in my thirties, I feel like the least qualified person in the world to discuss these issues myself. After all, I have all of the privileges.
But I recently had a conversation about marriage that might as well have been about race.
During our first year of marriage, my wife and I had to work through the fact that I always think I am right. In truth, everyone always think they are right. Who would purposely hold to beliefs that they know to be false? So the problem wasn’t that I was self-assured. The problem was that my confidence in my viewpoint left no room for conversation.
Whenever I would state an opinion, I would present it as fact. My wife, who is possessed of a gentle spirit and rather averse to confrontation, would not openly disagree with my opinion, even if she would internally. It was never worth the argument. Until it was.
I don’t remember what the final straw was, but eventually she told me that my actions were keeping her from speaking her mind. Now, I never told my wife that she couldn’t speak her mind. In fact, I would ask for her opinion often. But if I had already stated my opinion on a matter, she didn’t feel comfortable sharing hers.
And so I’ve tried to tone it down. I preface my statements with the fact that I could be wrong or that what I think is just an opinion. I try really hard to bring her thoughts and feelings into the conversation, even (especially) when she is keeping them quiet. Our marriage is much stronger because of it. Our communication has moved into new levels of trust.
So as a white guy in my thirties encountering discussions of race, I feel like I’m back in the first year of my marriage. My opinions are not facts. My privileges do not make me right. I need to intentionally quiet myself and engage people of color in dialogue, even (especially) when those conversations seem hard.