KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Demonstrations, protests, marches, riots — tough and uncomfortable conversations about what happens next in America and even in our community. For those struggling with how to unpack it all, we spoke with a local sociologist who tackles these necessary topics as her life’s work.

Angela Anderton is a sociologist and McGill Leadership Fellow at Maryville College. One of her passions is to help people become more aware of — and evolve their stance on racial justice.

“So it’s up to us to be able to say, okay, I refuse to remain standing on my soapbox. I’m open to listening and understanding,” Anderton said.

Like many of us, she has witnessed the recent civil unrest, protests and the tough conversations that have followed.

“I saw the other day, one of my constituents said that the Black Lives Matter online protest was declining, but it really isn’t. We’re just going into a space of processing the trauma. Now that the trauma is on the public stage now but the trauma is in full sociological view. We all have a responsibility to work on healing that”

Anderton said, now is the time for — those that support and those that oppose the Black Lives Matter movement – to reflect. She calls on the community to center on mindfulness.

“We can think about systemic racism and sexism trends and homophobia and their intersections and realize that all of us are fighting a hard battle, but how are we contributing to that, and that’s the sore spot. I think for everyone is that we all contribute in some way because no one is immune to bias.”

This current movement has seen more diversity than decades past… a welcome change..

“And so the white allies who are standing with us and holding our hands and saying Black Lives Matter and protesting, they are definitely in for a treat because this is the time to step back, reflect assess and then apply what has been witnessed.”

And regarding ongoing tension over the removal of controversial Confederate monuments?

“And what we find with, you know, people who aren’t ready to hear this, is that they are so dependent on that system because they believe that their job defines. They believe that their heritage not hate defines them because they don’t know what they don’t know, and they are afraid to find out. And so at the, at the end of the day it’s all about fear. It’s all about fear and and the gift of blindness from fear.”

Anderton insists this is the time to educate yourself on systemic racism by seeking out educational programming and books. She says you don’t have to jump in and put your fist in the air right away because that would be disingenuous.