I previously commuted 52 miles to and from work each day crisscrossing a very congested metropolitan area. During my commute I would often converse with my girlfriend about my day, her day, and the excessive amount of traffic I was currently immersed within my way home. Although she cares for me and wishes that I was not currently so frustrated by my predicament (she may have even hoped that she was in a position to do something to fix the situation) she was often most concerned about not having to constantly listen to my complaints about the traffic. It was annoying, it was every day, it impacted how I responded to her (my attitude), and at the end of the day there was nothing that either of us could do about it. So I was often left feeling as if my concerns and frustrations were of no consequence, and that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. She was left wondering why I was always complaining about traffic, and why it was such a big deal. (FYI: My girlfriend grew up in a rural area of town and has spent her entire life within a 15 mile radius of her parents’ home. She even works within that same 15 mile radius.)
One day she drove while I rode shotgun to an area of town just north of my place of employment. As we followed my daily route to work, we came across much of the same traffic conditions that I had been facing each day. But this time my girlfriend’s response to the traffic was very different. She was frustrated, upset, and almost pulled over a few times to let me drive (as I had “more experience” navigating through this traffic). Now having to directly deal with my daily struggle was overwhelming and something that she would much rather hear about than experience. To which my reply was simple and direct, “EVERY DAY!!!”
The biggest issue that my girlfriend did not understand was that talking about the traffic was my coping technique. That the complaints and anger were not about her, that it wasn’t personal, but that I needed to say something to prevent me from possibly doing something. But what do you do about a situation that you can do nothing about? What do you do when the traffic is outside of your control? You plan for traffic, “EVERY DAY!!!”
I often hear the suggestion that in order to stop RACISM we should stop talking about it. That we should start to see each other as people and not colors. That constantly talking about it tends to frustrate and annoy the very people you are attempting to get to understand your perspective. That white people are tired of hearing about how they are holding black people down, or how they have privileges, or how affirmative action is not discriminating against them, and that all of those things are just excuses. That we have a black president and that if you were to simply work hard, have a positive attitude, and get an education that everything will be work itself out. That I can become anything I set my mind to if you consistently focus on your objective, a little bit “EVERY DAY!!!”.
So next week I have a job interview for a company that is 22 miles away. I have a red car, and if I fill up the gas tank, buckle up my seat belt, start the car, shift it into drive, put my foot on the accelerator, and drive defensively; than I have prepared myself to eventually make it to my destination. Although, when I estimated that I should be able to travel 22 miles at an average speed of 40 miles per hour, and should arrive at my destination in approximately 15 minutes. I failed to take into account the traffic conditions on the road that I am about to travel. So when I arrive at my destination 45 minutes late, and I miss the interview that could have actually impacted the traffic conditions on my daily commute. I will be told simple and direct, “Don’t make excuses!, You should have accounted for the TRAFFIC conditions that you know exist EVERY DAY!!!”
Silencing the conversation about traffic doesn’t stop the traffic. It doesn’t stop me from having to plan for the traffic conditions every day. My silence ensures that you don’t have to think about the traffic that I traverse each day to and from our place of employment. When we both reach our destination 10 minutes early, and politely greet each other as we enter the building and walk to our respective departments, you can remain comfortable in your assumptions that we traveled the same road with the same amount of traffic. My Silence keeps you comfortable, my silence keeps you complacent, and my silence is me failing! Failing to do something about traffic, “EVERY DAY!!!”