“A Step into the Unknown”

Hej!1 My wide-world peace group did a listening project2 today. The questions were “How does racism affect your life?” “When does nonviolence work?” and “Who is your neighbour (from ‘love thy neighbour’ in the Bible)?”

It was a big thing for me. It was the first time I had full-out3 pursued an unconventional peace project in this group (unconventional = based on RC ideas). When I first presented the idea of it, I could see one person’s eyes light up, so I continued. I explained it something like, “These are important issues that people rarely get a chance to talk about. We can offer to listen, to give space to people to think about important things. We mostly talk to people whose ideas we know, who share our view of the world and have experiences similar to ours. This is limiting the effectiveness of our work. We need to learn a lot of new things.” I didn’t say it as succinctly as that, but over a couple of meetings I covered those points. And it made sense to people.

In preparing for the event, three of us had a lovely meeting in which we talked about what would make sense to ask people, and what we wanted to hear their thoughts about. I was able to listen and also continue to put my own thoughts forward uncompromised.

Today six of us prepared the placards with the questions. All of us were white and young adult to elderly. Before we went out, I said that in order to be able to listen to people and not just want to talk ourselves, it would be a good idea to listen to each other’s responses to the questions. We had a go-round answering “How does racism affect your life?” I talked about how it affects my relationships both with people targeted by racism and with white people and how having racism in the world makes me less happy and less hopeful. Other people shared a lot, including things I didn’t know about them. I loved listening to them, and I felt so proud of them.

Four of us took the tram to a square in a mainly working-class area where both white and global-majority people live and started listening. First I listened to a white middle-class woman who was hurrying to the tram but wanted to talk about how racism hurts black people. Then I approached three young people, maybe ten or twelve years old. They were embarrassed at first, but we talked for a long time. They had been targeted by racism and were really troubled by it.

We listened to many people, sometimes by ourselves and sometimes with two of us together. Most people wanted to talk. We also took time to talk to each other about how we were doing. I cried a little about what one of the young people had told me about the racism his mother encounters at work.

After maybe forty minutes we ate some sandwiches and shared more about how it was going.

Then three of us took the tram to a suburb where almost everyone is of the global majority. In the tram my friends got into conversations with several people. One person of the global majority said loudly that he had voted for Sverigedemokraterna, a party whose main political goal is to reduce immigration. My peace friend listened but also argued with him. I kept looking at the other people in the tram, most of whom were of the global majority. When one of them got up to get off the tram, he thanked my friend for what he’d said, heatedly explaining that “some people are so eager to become Swedes that they do strange things.”

When we got to our destination it had started raining, so we stayed at the tram stop under a roof and listened to people there.

During the day we listened and talked to about forty people: women and men, of many ages; people of the global majority and white people; children. We got to hear many things: accounts of racism from people targeted by it, white people passionately hating racism, targeted people stating that they didn’t let racism get to them,4 stories of people interrupting racism and standing up for themselves, and people unsure of their voices and thoughts but picking up confidence and sharing more and more. One of the young people told me to ask more people what to do about racism. The member of our group who was holding the placard that had the question about nonviolence on it reported that people were eager to talk about the subject and that most of them were not at all into5 violence and wanted to learn how to use nonviolence.

My peace friends are excited and want to do it again. One expressed relief at not handing out leaflets. Another asked in a surprised voice why we had not done this before. On the way home, two of us talked about sin and forgiveness. (It’s a Christian peace group.) I said, “I don’t like the idea of sin, but I do like forgiveness.” Seemingly from the bottom of his heart, my friend burst out with something like, “I’m desperate for forgiveness!” So I got to see that, too—a white person struggling with the heavy burden of oppressor material,6 desperate to be forgiven.

It was a step into the unknown to suggest a listening project with this group of non-RCers. It turned out to be7 a success!

Lotta Kronlid
Göteborg, Sweden
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion
list for leaders of wide world change

Hej means hi in Swedish.
2 A non-RC adaptation of an RC listening project, which involves several Co-Counselors going to a public place and offering to listen to passersby about some important issue, such as racism or a current war, and perhaps holding signs that invite people to share their thinking about that issue
3 “Full-out” means fully.
4 “Get to them” means bother them.
5 “Into” means positive about.
6 “Material” means distress.
7 “Turned out to be” means resulted in being.


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00