You’ve probably seen articles or videos lately about introverts. Possibly you have friends you never would have suspected who’ve made references to being introverted. “Really?! You? But we met at a party where you were wearing hot pants!” Okay, maybe your friends don’t go to those kinds of parties, but many people who I’ve always thought of as extroverted are now coming out, as it were, as introverts.
At first, I was excited to see and learn more about this. I live with someone who fits every characteristic on the misunderstood introvert list, including dating an extrovert, and I thought it might be helpful for me to better empathize with him.
However, the more I’ve read, the greater my skepticism. I’ve been trying to figure out why this introvert stuff bothers me so much. It’s not because I think people are lying about their personalities matching the 23 Signs you’re Secretly an Introvert list on Huffington Post. It reminds me of horoscopes. I wonder what the science is behind this and who is making money doing the introvert speaking circuit?
And because any time labels divide the complexity of human expression, perspective and experience into two kinds of people (the poor ambiverts always get left out), I suspect they are far too simplistic and most likely based on dominant cultural norms. How could the categories of introvert or extrovert alone possibly apply cross-culturally, given the extent to which our gendered, racialized, class, language, disability, etc. experiences are so different?
Clearly the label of extrovert is based on white, hetero-patriarchal, Christo-normative culture. Although they don’t put it quite that way, the articles about introverts usually mention the pressure they feel by not fitting with dominant cultural norms. But that’s part of the problem. They don’t put it that way. And in so doing, take culture, privilege and power out of the picture.
I could let all of this go if it really were just some new pop culture phenomenon that made people feel better about themselves and helped us recognize and respect our many differences. However, another dynamic I’m seeing as a result of the introversion conversion, is privilege protection.
For as long as I’ve been facilitating conversations about race, I’ve had people saying they were shy, and that’s why they wouldn’t engage in the discussions. This holds weight to a point, and that point is when white people in particular use shy, and now the introvert label, as an excuse to disengage from race conversations.
Examples of privilege protection I’ve seen increasing lately:
- “Introverts” only talking with other people they know agree with them that racism isn’t really a problem. This reinforces their beliefs and keeps them insulated from those whose experiences and perspectives would prove otherwise.
- White “Introverts” not saying anything in front of the large group while people of color do the heavy lifting in conversations about stereotypes and white privilege.
- White “Introverts” looking at their phones during small group discussions when everyone else in the room is engaged in conversations about race.
- “Introverts” not sharing their vulnerabilities with coworkers, especially in situations where someone has just told them a story about the deep pain racism caused in their lives. The introvert is quiet and the first person wonders if they’ve revealed too much, if their story will later be used against them as they so often have.
- White “Introverts” refusing to attend training on cultural competency because they say workshops where they have to talk with others don’t fit their learning style.
Rather than introversion, much of this behavior actually lies in the fear of making mistakes, especially in public. In the fear that if we make mistakes people will assume we are racist and therefore irredeemably bad people. So in trying to protect ourselves from embarrassment or having to question our biases, we instead stay safe behind a convenient label.
The impact of this is we don’t let in new learning about ourselves that might reveal the ways we’ve colluded with systems of oppression, and therefore learn to change those behaviors. We don’t engage in conversations that can lead to deeper understanding of differences and significant change. By saying, respect my difference as an introvert, a person has a great excuse not to be involved in social change movements.
This doesn’t mean everyone who identifies as an introvert is practicing privilege protection, I know quite a few activists who identify with this label. But I’ll maintain my skepticism as long as I see the label introvert being used for overly simplistic groupings of people and the popularity of this idea providing a convenient way to maintain those same dominant cultural norms they want you to know don’t apply to them.Read More
The killing of Michael Brown and response from the community and police in Ferguson, Missouri, has shown us once again how far we have to go to address racism in the 21st century. We hope this pivotal moment will motivate people to have courageous conversations that result in taking action in our lives, workplaces, and institutions. Here are a few resources we’ve pulled together for you to reflect on and share with others.
Ferguson in Context
- Seattle Times article about books on race and the police
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness–book by Michelle Alexander
- This is Why We’re Mad about the Shooting of Mike Brown
- Gallup Review: Black and White Attitudes Towards the Police
- The Ferguson Syllabus–Sociological Context
Resources for Educators
- Teaching About Ferguson–Teaching for Change article
- Current Events Classroom–ADL Lesson Plans
- Do’s and Don’t’s for Teaching about Ferguson–The Root article
Arts and Inspiration
- Don’t Shoot–Powerful photo taken at Howard University
- Be Free–song by J. Cole
- Black Rage–song by Lauren Hill
- If they Gunned me Down–Black activism on Tumblr and Twitter
- Jon Stewart’s response to Fox News coverage of Ferguson
What Can I Do?
- Donate to the Michael Brown Memorial Fund
- 5 Ways You can Help
- 12 Things White People can do Now because Ferguson
- 10 Ways you can Help the People of Ferguson, Missouri
Please share other resources you’ve come across in the comments.
In Hope and Solidarity,
Ilsa and CapriceRead More
By Caprice D. Hollins, Psy D and Ilsa Govan
A question we regularly grapple with at Cultures Connecting is what does it mean to live out our values and practice cultural competence? On a daily basis we come face to face with our own socialization around race, gender, class, religion, and multiple other factors that make up our identities. We also work within systems that privilege some at the expense of others. This shows up in our relationship with each other.
It is painful when we realize we’ve been behaving in ways that contribute to the problems we are working to change, especially when the people who we’ve offended or those who offend us are those we care about the most. This makes it all the more challenging to engage in a conversation, for fear of harming the relationship in some way.
We know that attacking creates enemies and avoiding the conversation leads to inauthentic relationships where eventually two people who once cared about one another grow apart. To nurture our relationship, we sometimes find ourselves having to engage in courageous conversations in spite of our fears, knowing the risk is much greater when we don’t. Here are some things that we try to keep in mind that you may find helpful.
When bringing up a concern to the other, we do our best to…
Plenary Address for The Arc’s National Conference
Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
I’d first like to acknowledge we are on the land of the tribes that make up the Puget Sound Salish people. One of those tribes is the Duwamish, of which Chief Seattle was a member. His name might be familiar to you. However, you may not see the Duwamish tribe listed on maps of the area, because they are still fighting for federal recognition and are at a critical moment in this struggle. If you are interested in supporting this community, please go to duwamishtribe.org and make a contribution to their legal defense fund. As people who are understanding and embracing diversity, I appreciate you letting me take a moment to call for your support. That’s what happens when you ask an activist to give a keynote.
“No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.” –Frederick Douglass
Listening to Joy DeGruy discuss her book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome:America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healinga few years ago got me thinking about the psychological impact on white people of slavery, genocide and other forms of institutionally sanctioned oppression.My thinking on this topic was pushed further when developing a workshop with Delbert Richardson and reflecting on America’s Unspoken Truths. Through readings, workshops, and conversations with others committed to social justice work, I’ve come to recognize there is also a very damaging “master syndrome”.