Everybody’s Talking–But Who is Listening?

The article that most resonated with me this week was Arao and Clemens “From Safe Spaces to Brave Places”. I believe that the increasingly visible fragmentation along racial and religious lines that we see in the US and in some European countries can only be changed (not hidden) through dialogue across those lines. Dialogue involves both speaking bravely—perhaps through fear, pain, or shame– and listening bravely–with judgement suspended and open to the possibility that you will change. Without brave listening, brave speaking ends up as words dissipated into space. Neither activity is easy, but I think that it is the listening which is most often missing even in safe spaces. Too often, we are ready to listen to another person’s story without interruption and with affirming comments only as long as we are not placed in a position of needing to change the way we see ourselves. However, the most important part of listening when talking about social justice is the effort to acknowledge the ways the story may disrupt your sense of self. I believe that we can learn to do this with practice and that we can welcome our students to brave places where they can practice, too. But if we only do this in our classrooms, then we have already excluded the majority of our neighbors. What I wonder is how we can create these brave spaces in our communities and in the world. How can we incite civility and reason and invite change?