I happened to be listening to G98 on the radio this weekend, and I caught an interview with Jully Black – the Canadian R&B singer.
The topic was the Canada Reads and how it got “heated” between Jully Black and Jeanne Beker in the final episode. They played it on the radio, and I have since watched it a few times.
You can watch it here.
Here is what I see when I watch the clip:
- Two women who are passionate about their opinions and positions
- Two women who express this passion in the delivery of their thoughts
- Jully Black takes the issue and makes it broader – from personal healing to being more aware of what is happening around us as Canadians and moving towards action
And then it gets interesting.
Because Jeanne asks Jully why she is attacking her.
Jully Black is making some incredibly important statements about issues she is obviously passionate about. She is talking about privilege and awareness and real action. Not just healing. She started her response with “There’s healing and there is action – it’s important to have a book that is going to have Canada open their eyes to what is happening [on] today.” Nice.
As a Black woman, the importance of action is likely something she feels intimately because of lived experience. And… keep in mind that in this conversation she is talking about Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
The heat we saw was passion. And it seems this got uncomfortable for Jeanne, who then made it personal.
I could write about so many things, but this is the moment I want you to notice: The moment where discomfort can undermine the bigger picture.
Jully wasn’t making it personal. She was animated and loud and passionate and on point. These are important issues that are bigger than individual healing because they are systemic. Personally, I think they deserve that level of passion – and more. We need to wake up. We need to acknowledge what is really going on, demand change and ACT.
Jeanne taking it personally took us out of the conversation and the important issues that were put on the table by Jully. It shifted our focus away from the issues being raised.
That is how discomfort works.
Saying ‘why are you attacking me?’ turned the focus away from the issues and onto Jeanne’s feelings. Sometimes the result is we then spend time on those feelings, effectively dropping the issue. (Of course it also depends who is having those feelings).
It also turned attention onto Jully, making her the cause of the discomfort, rather than the issues being the cause. See that?
July’s answer was powerful. She refused to be responsible for Jeanne’s feelings.
Very good. (And of note: this requires energy. Often this is a challenging place to be as a racialized person when someone non-racialized is uncomfortable.)
Sadly, the deflection was still effective.
Instead of the attention resting with the issues, we are now talking about the exchange between Jeanne and Jully.
Hopefully, this post can help broaden the conversation.