My relatively short daily commute unusually includes listening to my local NPR station. That 15-25 minutes or so in the morning and in the afternoon keeps me somewhat informed of what is happening around the world and I am grateful for that. I intentionally listen without any adaptations (rather than to specific NPR podcasts or the NPR One app that would let me have more control over my listening) because I know I live in an echo chamber in many ways and I need to get more than I deliberately choose to get, in the way of news, regularly.
This past week, my commute home has include hearing the Supreme Court nomination hearings. I have been deeply impressed by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s ability to respond calmly and respectfully to questions that were neither calm nor respectful. I have been angry listening to Senators ask her questions clearly designed to gain political points and not to actually determine her fitness for this role.
Unfortunately, I have also seen myself as I’ve listened. Not in the Senators asking the infuriating questions, thank goodness. But in the ones being silent as their colleagues did so. I saw myself in all the times I have not spoken up when a colleague has been attacked. I have been spineless when people of color have been rudely questioned by other white folks.
An article in Slate made my own past actions crystal clear for me.
Take my word for this one thing: If you have been subject to abuse, bullying, and intimidation, what you really don’t need to hear from people in power is that they think you are “brave,” or that you’re modeling perseverance and grace. What you really want is for someone to stand beside you and take a punch—or throw one.
I am ashamed of my fear and inaction. I am also hopeful that I am learning and will, in the future, be better able to “take a punch – or throw one” as needed. Because I am sure those moments will arise again.