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Double tap to zoom in and out on mobile devices. It’s getting to that third space again. People avoid third because it’s hard. It requires work, the work of actually listening and understanding, consid- ering another perspective—maybe not even changing your mind, but just understanding and considering. It’s much easier just to make a difficult topic or different belief, viewpoint, language, value, and so on wrong or bad and then create rules around niceness and civility that prohibit us or inhibit us from talking with each other. The hegemony of niceness is so bad that we can’t talk about some things even when we are clear that we want to! I once worked for an organization that had conversations about race and social justice as a key feature of its mission. We were in the process of hiring a new teacher and had really narrowed it down to one who was bilingual in Span- ish and English. Below is an intriguing conversation that ensued between me and another teacher who was new to the organization. Me: I think we should hire Mr. Y because he’s bilingual in Spanish and English, and we need that. Her: If we hire him just because he’s bilingual, we’ll be tokenizing him. Me: He would only be a token if we don’t hire anyone else who’s bilingual. Our plan is not to hire just one bilingual person. And, he’s Latino, and we’re committed to increasing racial diversity. Her: Well now you’ve made it about race so we can’t talk about it. Me: Why not? I’m here. You’re here. It’s part of our work to face such things head-on. Her: You’re right. I don’t know why I said that. I’m just more used to not talking about it. We need to be very careful about passing on our unproductive processes to children. We teach them that uncomfortable conversations are not polite, are not safe, and that pretending to be nice is better than engaging in con- flict or difference. We want them to have emotional intelligence, and then we teach them to ignore unpleasant emotions. When children disagree, we sometimes tell them just to be nice and play nice or just hug and make up. We make children say I’m sorry to someone they’ve wronged or injured even when we know a child really isn’t sorry. The sad part is that the wronged or injured child also knows the other child isn’t really sorry. One child learns that pretending to be sorry is acceptable and another child learns to hold in true emotions and accept a fake one. And so the hegemony of niceness begins and another generation has to struggle to dance with conflict. 12    C H A P T E R 1 Copyrighted Material