I’ve had many conversations over the past few months about everything going on with so many people. Friends, college classmates, high school classmates, aunts and uncles, and with my brother. Sometimes those conversations have been constructive and informative, or pointless belittling of comments at worst. When I think about the dialogues that I genuinely have not just learned from the most but perhaps learned the most about myself is with two people in particular: my parents.
I’ve written about the growth in political awareness over the years on the blog. In large part, I believe that the power and the knowledge base that I’ve been able to build up since I could even talk was because of them. They played NPR in the car and talked about politics openly in the best way they knew. We watched presidential debates, we followed protest movements, and we talked about the implications of race in every facet of our lives. For the six month experiment that was my two quarters of college before COVID, I interrogated my ideas about the world and built forth the knowledge base that allowed me to be so readily equipped to spend the last two months reading, digesting, and being in conversation with abolition and Black liberation.
The conversations that I have with my parents individually have led to various speed bumps, whether in us trying to interpret broad concepts like Cedric Robinson’s conception of “racial capitalism,” to celebrity culture, to the limits of philanthropy. Having divorced parents sort of pushes me towards having very different perspectives on how I know the types of information and points that they can digest. In many ways, it is their comments, rebuttals that allow both my parents as well as myself to have more developed visions for the type of world we want to exist. They provide a particular example or concept, and I work my best to tie it into what I’ve been learning as of late, and we have a productive discussion about all of it.
In many ways, that willingness that they express about learning from me, recognizing that they can learn from me and vice versa, is what has allowed me to be so open to learning about ideas that radically question my perspective on the globe. The way with which they interrogate and ask follow-ups about what I am thinking is the same way with which I choose to engage and push forward in my learning. I translate those same skills to the conversations that I have with my friends about these issues, albeit in more intense back and forths. If I wasn’t fortunate enough to have parents who are so willing to want to learn and grow with me, I don’t know how easy it would be for me to want to have the conversations that push me to think about the world in nuanced ways. As I’ve had these levels of discussions with my parents, I also have friends who are having a far more difficult time trying to share their opinions, which is okay. I recognize that privilege in being able to engage with my parents, that they are not working essential worker jobs currently and let me interrupt them working on something to share something I found interesting. These are all things that I never will take for granted.
The one thing I refuse to do and I refuse to ignore are the life experiences and moments that my parents are so honest in sharing with me. I am always learning about racist confrontations my parents had raising me every single week. It’s when they are willing to be open about their lives that give me a sharper perspective about what it is I’m learning to live for. I want to envision a world that even my parents could not have envisioned. That’s empowering. It gets me excited every single day to continue to engage with them and remind myself that I should do whatever I can while they’re still around to be in conversation with me.
Being Noah Tesfaye #142: Talking to My Parents
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