Take a Moment to Listen: Imagine you're surrounded by people who don't look like you

Do you hear my voice? Are you truly listening or waiting to respond? Do you want to appreciate my experience, or just use it to validate your next sentence?

These are the questions that echo in my head every time I get cornered in a bar, at a house party, or anywhere their dominance allows them to feel comfortable enough to bring it up: “I mean, do you really believe racism and privilege exists!?”

Followed by the justification that somehow because we don’t live in the South, there couldn’t be those same prejudices. Somehow I am supposed to consider myself “lucky." However, they never seem to recognize that their own experience prevents them from seeing what I do. When you sit in the seat of privilege, how could you ever understand the perspective of the less fortunate?

We speak to be heard, and that’s what’s missing. Spokane doesn’t have 100,000 African Americans, we don’t have the same representation as other major cities in the region, let alone the West Coast. How loud must we yell for you to stop?! Stop talking, stop invalidating, stop comparing, just take a moment to listen. Listen to the stories and lives of the people of color around your city, and within your friend group.

Can you imagine a place where over 80 percent of the population doesn’t look like you, talk like you or share your same overarching experience?!

You may have felt it once or twice, or even for those few months that you lived on the East Coast. But imagine that’s how it is every day, every hour, every location for miles and miles. This is our reality.

We are taking a risk standing up, we are taking a risk sharing our experience, we are taking a risk to help you better understand. So listen — listen to every word with curiosity. And when we are finally finished speaking, pause, and wait for the opportunity to continue listening. The greatest problem with communication is that we don’t listen to understand; we listen to reply. If we can change this narrative, we can guarantee a greater tomorrow. ♦

Ryker is an artist manager and founder of directINFLUX, an independent management firm based in Spokane. As a passionate advocate for artists, Ryker and her team strive to inform, educate, and guide each act through their creative journeys.

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