Let's Talk About It
As my job as a dramaturg for Trinity Repertory Company's production of "Appropriate" is wrapping up, I was given several opportunities to engage in a dialogue about my experience. Last Friday, I participated in the "Lunch and Learn" for "Appropriate" at the theater. The event invited subscribers of Trinity Rep to sit down with specific individuals (including me) who worked on the production. I was able to give people insight into the production, as well as reflect on my own views and emotions through the fruitful conversation. Later that same day, I facilitated a post-show conversation that involved a panel of teenagers from the community. This "Teen Talkback" gave our younger generation the opportunity to voice their views and emotions about topics brought up in the play. The final conversation I was asked to moderate was a special post-show conversation focusing on "Reframing Our Cultural Narrative". I honestly put a great amount of pressure on this specific conversation due to the fact that the theater was giving me a stipend for moderating.
As the conversation unfolded I personally felt more comfortable and in control. I really got the hang of moderating conversations and found I enjoyed listening/guiding just as much as I enjoy talking. After the talkback was over, I was approached by an older man. He expressed that he "thought that the term 'white privilege' makes people uncomfortable" and suggested that 'we' use a different word because he "doesn't like to be called a racist". Those words almost forced me to engage in a 45 min talk with this man. I felt obligated to educate and reason with him despite his extremely condescending tone, hypocritical behavior and overall ignorance. We were surrounded by about 7 other adults who allowed me to continuously engage in the conversation and all gave me a great amount of support. At one point the man even put his hand on me, but I stood my ground, kept my composure and stood-up for what is right.
That was the hardest conversation I've had in my life. Talking to someone who was so ignorant and unwilling to change was excruciatingly exhausting, yet it felt so right. When we disengaged, adrenaline was coursing through my entire body and I felt like I wanted to vomit, cry and laugh all at the same time. I like to believe that feeling was the feeling of all of my ancestors and all of the people who have been oppressed 'talking' with me. We all NEED to recognize the problems people of color face, the problems women face, and our society's problems, reconcile with them and then do better and make a change.
I believe the first step to change begins with a conversation.