Our contemporary world seems saturated with complex black and white issues, especially our conversations about Black Lives Matter and other race-related challenges. Yet, our world is also filled with gray, make that many shades of gray. Many of us are wrestling with complex questions concerning race, policing, even whether and when to wear a mask during the pandemic. Lauren Jordan reflects on her increasing awareness of the black, white, and grey in our lives. 

Lauren Jordan is the Development Director at Genesis Center—an adult education and work force development agency—in Providence. She lives with her husband and son in Providence.  

I am not a “gray area” person. It is either right or wrong. I am either for or against it. I am never undecided or unsure. If you have wronged me, you are dead to me. And the Sicilian in me is willing to die on that hill. I do not waiver. I do not change course. And I am awful at compromise. 

This is not my best quality. And this has been especially hard the past few months. COVID. Black Lives Matter. Police brutality and protests. Mask wearing.

I am unwavering in my views on all of these issues. And I am always right. At least, I think so.

I have always had a strong sense of right and wrong. Even as a kid, I was always speaking up, asking why and demanding justice. I have always had little patience for people who don’t do the “right thing”. I can remember one year in my tiny Catholic school in Boston, the teacher had given the class an empty cork board to decorate our last months before eighth grade graduation. The boys had decided to put up posters of female actresses they liked from Teen Beat Magazine and covered the whole space. I asked them to give us girls half the board for our posters and they refused. I can still remember my anger and the heated debate that followed. In high school and college, these debates took place in the classroom and were centered on immigration, racism, and sexism. I never backed down and I never conceded defeat. 

But at 40, I am working on trying to see the gray area more often. I am working on listening and trying hard not to judge or react. I am trying to understand the “other side”. I am working on releasing my grudges and I am practicing my patience with others. I am admitting that I am not always right.

But I still have things that I consider no “gray area” issues. I will not waiver in my support of equity and justice. I will not allow anyone to hurt my family or cause trauma or disrespect. And I will never stay silent on human and civil rights issues. 

It is a humbling experience to examine your own shortcomings in middle age, especially during a pandemic, and it is not easy. It has taken a lot of self-reflection and self-awareness. And frankly, it is exhausting.