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Healing Step Five – Represent

“We must build whole new decision-making tables, rather than setting token places at the colonial tables as an afterthought.”

(From “Seven Steps to Healing” by Edgar Villanueva in Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides, second edition, copyright 2021, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, Oakland, CA)

Tables?

Tiffany, I thought we were talking about relationships. What do tables have to do with anything?? I did a whole blog on this in 2020. Because I’ve already covered this information, and because, frankly, I’m sick and don’t have a whole lot of energy today, I’m going to give myself permission to re-offer the pertinent parts of that blog this week. If you’d like to read the whole thing, you can find it here. I’ll tie it to this Fifth Step of Healing at the end.

 

“I am speaking”

Social power dynamics and expectations were on full display during (the 2020 Vice Presidential) debate. The candidates both agreed to debate rules including time parameters and protocols. On the heels of a Presidential debate that frequently devolved into a three-way scream-fest, turn taking and honoring moderator Susan Page’s direction that each candidate would have (X) minutes, uninterrupted, felt particularly important.

In spite of those agreements, Vice President Pence routinely went well over his time and then interjected while Senator Harris was speaking. Ms. Page attempted to assert the boundary multiple times by interjecting, “Thank you, Mr. Vice President,” on repeat while he completely ignored her, frequently three and four times to end a single exchange.

(At one point,) the Vice President ignored the moderator’s direction to stop three times and he then went on to interrupt Sen. Harris seven times. Part way through his interruptions, Sen. Harris stated, in full “Mamala” fashion, “I’m speaking.” It did not stop him from interrupting four more times, but it became clear that the VP was using the interruptions to assert power.

Listen to what they do, not what they say

Of the four remaining interruptions in that one exchange, Pence twice interjected the word “please” in response to Sen. Harris’ calls to return to protocol. Doesn’t that sound so polite and conciliatory? “Please, let’s return to our agreed rules.” While his words seemed cordial, the interruptions themselves were a way of demanding:

  1. (That he be allowed to) continue to interrupt,
  2. to offer (a) display… of Privilege: That he gets to determine what is discussed and when, and
  3. (to engage a) little bit of gaslighting. He was not following the rules with his interruptions, while Sen. Harris, at that time, was. He attempted to make it seem as though the opposite was true.

His words were polite, but he was using them as domination weapons.

Mamala was not having it.

And there lies the gold.

As I have said so many times that you can probably guess what I am about to type… “When we don’t know who we are, we act like someone else.”  Senator (now Vice President) Kamala Harris knows who she is. She clearly has no reason to accept (now former) Vice President Pence’s distorted version of events, or even to prove that he is distorting. She knows what’s true and didn’t waste any time on any of it. She did what she came to do.

Different, not wrong

(Now-Vice President Harris) did what is normative in her culture and in her context:  She had honest emotional reactions to comments that were false, inflammatory and at times, oddly asynchronous. She wore on her face what so many people were saying out loud to their television screens. She was authentic. (She was publicly shamed for it.)

The Patriarchy does not value authenticity and it shames emotion. Many other cultures in the world, and certainly in the U.S., function differently. Many cultures value the whole body of logic, not just the linear stuff that comes from the neocortex. (For more information, click here.) Many cultures embrace the important contributions of emotional and experiential logic to decision-making.

Senator Harris “did it her way.”  She brought herself, in full, to the exchange without any regard for patriarchal norms. Sen. Harris’ gifts are an important correction to (our unhealthy norms.)

When you always do what you’ve always done

As the saying goes, “When you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always gotten.” …I’m crazy enough to believe that our best solutions will come from listening to the voices that have previously been marginalized, in their own language, their way. Meaning, in order to be successful and heal… we need to respect our own voices and to listen with equal respect to those who differ from us. It’s time to stop demanding that people fit themselves into a form and style that has soundly proven to be unsustainable.

The table is round

The table of leadership, of community and change, is round. There is room for all who can respect that there is room for all… The table is round. Bring what you bring. Respectfully and carefully consider what others bring.

Mamala-style makes room

Regardless of how you might feel or not feel about (Vice President) Kamala Harris, I encourage you to embrace her example. Let’s show up in our own way, in our own language, with our own unique perspectives and cull the wisdom from all of those who do likewise. Let’s value and respect ourselves and others, and let’s see what better directions it can lead us in from the microcosm of our internal lives to the macrocosm of our place in the world.

Representation, Villanueva-Style

I think you can easily see how this applies to interpersonal relationships. If we have done the work of self inventory by grieving the harm done in a relational rift, (step one,) if we have rehumanized the other person through genuine apology, (step two) if we have both heard and been heard, (step three,) and if we’ve then related to the other in a way that opens our eyes to an expanded view, (step four,) we can now completely reconsider the dynamics of the relationship rift together. What needs to change in order to respect the uniqueness of the other? How do we make decisions about what we do and don’t do in the relationship? How do we communicate about these issues in ways that bring the best from each of us together in one place?

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If you’ve made it this far in healing an interpersonal relationship, you might as well keep going! Let’s look next at how to re-negotiate the ways we “invest” in the relationship. If this process has gotten tangled or confusing and I can help, contact Tiffany today. Let’s figure it out.

 

 

 

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