The challenges of the past two years have changed the way we live, the way we work, and the way we show up for each other. They have also given us a rare chance to collectively reimagine our future. Through the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project we invite community members to reflect on their current experiences in Seattle, how they have been impacted by recent events, and their hopes for the future of our city.
What Does It Sound Like Between Us?
by Allison Masangkay
Seattle seems to have collectively perfected the awkward silence. Many have ended their 2020 community conversations about dismantling white supremacy (in all its forms) by reading books or stabbing their front yard with some variation of a “WE BELIEVE BLACK LIVES MATTER NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL LOVE IS LOVE WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS SCIENCE IS REAL WATER IS LIFE INJUSTICE ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE” sign.
If I had a dollar for every time I said “good morning” or “hello” to someone I passed on a Seattle street only to have them completely ignore me, I could probably afford to be a Tesla owner who believes my luxury car is slowing down our climate crisis. I could probably afford two of them if the same happened each time someone nearly hit me while trying to pass by from behind, i.e., didn’t care enough to say, “excuse me.”
How can I expect people in Seattle to undertake (a) the massive, collective grief of an ongoing global pandemic alongside (b) the sustained engagement in social, cultural, and political movements necessary for deeply rooted, systemic change if barely any of my neighbors can respond—or even acknowledge me—when I greet them?
Honestly, since I moved here for college in 2014, I’ve lost the energy to say hi to everyone I pass by outside (more honestly, I now reserve most of my hellos and good mornings for other brown or Black people). Being constantly met with (predominantly white) silence has become emotionally draining.
You see, I have misophonia; misophonia is generally described as having strong emotional reactions to everyday sounds, ranging from clicking pens to chewing food to barking dogs to breathing. Some classify misophonia as a type of synesthesia between sounds and emotions. I regularly get intensely angry, annoyed, sad, and/or stressed (basically, a fight-or-flight response) if I’m in a space where noises like these are repetitive or unavoidable.
Though, what often doesn’t get recognized is misophones’ (people with misophonia) various interactions—and, therefore, emotional reactions—with all sounds. In addition to the more intense reactions, misophones may have their “trigger sounds,” as we also take in all of the other wiggly air (sound) constantly around us. For me, keyboard “clicks” often make me furious, but deep keyboard “thocks” (“keyboard sounds” is a wild corner of the internet if you dare enter) leave me overjoyed. Pen clicks and sniffles instantly frustrate me, while water waves and frying pan sizzles are like sedatives. White silence makes me feel indifference, dismissal, numbness, or resentment depending on the specific context.
Rather than address the problems with white supremacy culture in Seattle via my range of misophonia sound-emotion experiences, I could directly discuss the need for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines; collective care by the government and community members to ensure that everyone has what they need to be safe, healthy, and comfortable; abolition of police, prisons, surveillance, and courts alongside transformative justice in all of our interactions and relationships—but who would listen? Who would really care? And, more pointedly, who would listen and really care enough to do something (who also has the capacity and resources to do something and isn’t already doing something)?
Enter the interlude—which is described by one of my favorite artists Kelela in her short film “Interlude” by Cieiron Magat as, “the things that we’re all thinking but that we don’t say / the things that are going on with everybody that we don’t really talk about.” Interludes are the moments in between and sometimes the sounds of the moments in between. In music, interludes are often the shorter, transitional songs that a lot of listeners wish were longer, “full-length” songs. In my everyday life, the interludes are the keyboard “thocks,” ocean waves, and fried eggs sizzling on my stovetop. Goodbye hugs, belly laughs, and my dog Prince’s yawns are interludes, too.
I believe in the power of small interactions, the magic found in everyday life’s specific details, the specificities that connect us, bridge us, indicate or highlight what’s shared or resonant across different beings’ experiences. I believe that all our individual everyday actions and interactions ultimately make equity, justice, and liberation more (or less) possible.
For those of us working towards transformation of deep-rooted societal systems, we must also transform our everyday practices. These practices, like learning how to sincerely apologize, active listening and response, direct communication, saying no, setting boundaries, or navigating generative conflict, are generally made invisible or de-emphasized in our society. Not coincidentally, the labor, skills, and knowledge that typically require these practices are largely femme/ feminized labor, racialized, devalued, and under-compensated within white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (RIP bell hooks), e.g. domestic work, child care, nursing, parenting, or emotional labor. We have to unlearn and unravel any unhealthy patterns we’ve learned and applied to our relationships. Not only our relationships with those we spend our time with, or work with, or look up to, or find the most attractive, or etc. Literally, all our relationships.
For Filipinx/a/os like myself, a core value is kapwa, roughly translated in English as “unity of the one-of-us-and-the-other,” “shared being,” “shared inner self,” “togetherness,” “feeling myself in the other,” and more. Kapwa itself has two categories: Ibang Tao (other people) and Hindi Ibang Tao (not other people). The interludes in our lives bridge between Ibang Tao and Hindi Ibang Tao, as Kapwa is a constant, omnipresent force that’s individualized while also collective. This is all to say that all the small or large things we each do genuinely impact all of us among our greater communities, earth, and ether.
The best interludes make the best albums and EPs (some of my favorite examples: “Wavy (feat. James Fauntleroy)” by SZA on Ctrl, “James Joint” by Rihanna on ANTI, “Bluff” by Kelela on Take Me Apart, “Looks Good With Trouble” by Solange on True, “Nightvision” by Daft Punk on Discovery, “Yoncé” by Beyoncé on Beyoncé, “Fruit Salad” and every track on Whack World by Tierra Whack). When we commit to doing better interpersonally and as parts of our expansive, abundant earth, we’re supporting the structures necessary for true collective liberation—which doesn’t have to look,feel, and sound the same to everybody, but should certainly not continue harm and violence for so many of us, for any of us.
Spotify playlist of interludes mentioned above:
Better interludes—where we really work to see, listen to, and support each other—will help bridge the gap between our current realities and real, transformative change on macro and micro levels. Then, I deeply hope that more of us will genuinely listen, care, and do something. I deeply hope that myself and others in Seattle can embody the nuances of change that our communities need, be sincere in our responses, and certainly, never settle on doing nothing or disengaging from the conversation because of awkward silence.