The Importance of Discomfort

By. K from PIP

I am very proud of the second episode of this podcast, Racism is Baked in the Cake. I remember being proud because I didn’t melt down after all the technical drama of the first episode and that I soldiered on to do another. I also thought the title was better than the first episode, as was the sound quality. And by the third episode I even had a theme song – progress. I was my own little black gay engine that could! Forgive me I digress, but the point is – I was happy with the episode and it spurred me to continue on with my little project. 

However, since then I have thought of areas that I could have fleshed out better. While I believe I did a decent job of explaining our nation’s struggle with race, I quickly realized there was a word more important than race I did not mention – and that discomfort. We as people hate to be uncomfortable. Nothing causes more discomfort for Americans than talking about race and learning they are standing on a system built on race, and dare I say, perhaps have benefited from that racial foundation. Therefore, it is ignored, pushed aside, and shoved into the background until there is an explosion of sorts, such as the death of George Floyd. 

All good things come out of discomfort. Potentially getting that job promotion, but only by asking for it first because others may not your supervisor may not fully realize your talent and abilities. Those conversations are usually uncomfortable (at first). A difficult and uncomfortable discussion in a marriage that results in a long-awaited resolution. Of course, divorce is sometimes necessary (I kid, I kid). Cheers to all the long and successful marriages! 

For America, on the subject of race, all participants – that would be us citizens, have to commit to a level of discomfort to make this situation better. We have to be willing to swim in the discomfort and knowledge that we have a society built on a racist foundation and that took 400 years to build and will probably take just as long to dismantle. 

But as Americans we are taught to reject discomfort. Historically speaking, in the ways we live our lives, it is first and foremost our needs, our comfort, shaping our world view only on what we’ve explicitly seen firsthand, how we feel, what we want. We are not terribly interested in the “other.” By the way, another crisis – the coronavirus – puts into focus how this American fixation on the self is to our collective detriment. It is exactly these things that preclude us from solving the problems of our times. Americans will need to be willing to step out of all of that to even begin to scratch the surface of our racial problems. 

With this podcast, I hope to inform and sometimes make you uncomfortable, as respectfully as possible. Think of it as asking someone to sleep on a hardwood floor without a pillow, but I never throw you outside to sleep on concrete. You will survive the conversation, or the blog post – I promise. I may even make you laugh. 

There is quite a bit happening in our world.  Perhaps, in these times, there are things that should cause us discomfort and instead of running or rushing to anger, we should attempt to lean into it. We all may be surprised by the results. 

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