At the height of the 2020 BLM protests, I commented on a thread in an Italian-American Facebook group that sparked fury. Statues of Christopher Columbus had been vandalized across the country, naturally upsetting many Italo-American communities. I expressed an understanding of the anger that Black and Indigenous people were experiencing, citing generations of deep suffering since Columbus’ arrival. What ensued was a string of reactionary comments about how Italians suffered prejudice after they immigrated; how not all people of color have it bad (so how dare I insinuate racial discrimination was baked into our culture); and other defensive, self-righteous rebukes. It seemed I was a traitor to my ethnic tribe because I expressed empathy for other ethnic groups. Ouch.
I see this experience as part of a disturbing trend in which there’s a lack of effort to hold two truths, fueling toxic vitriol that continues to seep into our society. For me (and many of us), this begs the question: How do we get past the frustrating impasse of Either/Or and instead begin to embrace a more productive Yes, And?