by Bailey Russell

Bailey is a new intern at PJALS

I went to this event not really knowing what to expect. My aura was the same as the weather—glum, dark and rainy. I was enmeshed in a plethora of non-consequential things that I wasn’t treating as such. I was just feeling lost. I needed guidance. Most of all I needed healing. That’s exactly what I found that night at the workshop.

It started out much different than I expected—we were tasked to place ourselves at different sides of the room depending on how we identified with questions asked of us. Starting out with this activity really opened up everyone in the room. We began somewhat closed off. I could feel the tension as we started, because we were all different people from different backgrounds talking about something that makes us all, collectively, uncomfortable—race.

However, when asked to decipher experiences, situations and people through a black and white lens, I quickly realized, we all realized—you simply cannot. Maybe that’s the problem with our country today. Maybe that’s why we’ve seen the rise in racism, xenophobia in our country today; because too many of us attempt to categorize others, those we don’t want to understand, cannot understand, or fear to understand, as simple, as somehow quantifiable by a tiny box on a demographics sheet or an ugly untrue stereotype. We like things simpler because it’s easier. We like things easier because it makes us comfortable. And that’s what we all default to—comfort.

But attending this workshop made me reflect deeply on what it means to be uncomfortable. How far am I willing to be in that state? And what am I willing to be uncomfortable for? Lastly, as I left the workshop that night, I was finally able to answer my biggest question: What’s at stake if I refuse to be uncomfortable for others, for education, for dialogue, for community? I realized as I drove home that night that everything is at stake. Our ways of living, the America we know and pledge our allegiance to, will never be the same if we continue down the path we’re on. We’re absolutely headed down the wrong road and we can stop our direction, we have the tools. Jessica taught us that. But are we willing to take the necessary steps to stop it?