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The Work of Discomfort

Something I wrote in my notebook on 1/28/21:

I have begun to more acutely observe the white people I interact with when topics of race and racism come up. Today I noticed how quickly people remove themselves from the conversation when I mentioned my participation in ARWG (the student-led anti-racist group). In our weekly LISTEN IN sessions, I notice how people often get stuck resisting the container or structure of the group and express that resistance over and over instead of doing the self-reflecting that the content is prompting. I notice the discomfort with being honest/vulnerable/‘put on the spot’/asked to share with or speak to the group. I noticed during ARWG, I was feeling nervous and awkward, and having a nagging need/desire to appear knowledgeable. (I am one of the people I have been observing). In ARWG today, my discussion group came to this thought: that discomfort is white people’s work. That right now, in order to take action within ant-racism work, white people need to get used to feeling uncomfortable. My body reacted to this while we were talking about it. I started sweating, I felt a jittery sensation in my solar plexus and a tightening in my jaw. I have resistance to discomfort too. My body wants to be comfortable. I have been privileged to expect to be comfortable most of my life. I am learning to teach my body that it’s okay to be uncomfortable, that discomfort, for me in this context, is not unsafe.

“Discomfort isn’t going anywhere. And it shouldn’t…We need to reframe discomfort as the feeling you get when you are being brave or facing a challenge.” – Brene Brown

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