I talk a lot about people, equality, and justice. Oftentimes it probably seems as though I am on the attack of those whose ways of life I abhor. This isn’t really the truth, though.
More often than not I think it’s important to start any conversation by believing that people just do the best they can. People can definitely be a product of their environment. If they are taught to fear and hate those different from them or different ways of life, they often drag that fear and hate along into adulthood like some demented, yet comforting, teddy bear. It’s a sad yet true fact of being human. Thankfully, we can all change.
Some of us expand our horizons through exploring other cultures, and we appreciate the diversity of the world’s population. For some, we have learned that for as much as we know about our own cultures, there is still much more to know. We can be as ignorant of our own cultures, especially of our own faults, as we are of those we’ve never experienced. There is something magical that happens when we open ourselves to learn about other peoples and cultures. Most generally, we learn something about ourselves and our cultures, too. It’s this learning process that helps as grow as human beings, and therefore helps our society blossom into a welcoming place for everyone, no matter our differences.
There are those who will, unfortunately, never appreciate the process by which we learn. It is to these folks I most often reach out. Perhaps it’s not my place, and maybe I speak out of turn, but I want them to find the joy in diversity many of the rest of us share. It’s a thankless activity, usually. More often than not I’m met with people telling me they feel sorry for me and “my kind”, or what’s worse, their anger.
No matter if they’re angry or pity my supposed ignorance, the constant that I find is their fear showing through. More times than not, they express fear of violence, becoming the minority, or of an unwanted change in their way of life, even when they articulate those fears via angry words. This speaks to me that change is still possible, and it’s why I work to unravel the lies these folks have been taught to believe so they won’t have to be afraid any longer. It’s not some anger coming from nowhere. It’s fear, and fear can be erased through education.
A great many of us know that enemies are often created. Sometimes powerful people, for fear of losing the control they enjoy, participate in something called “othering”—the creation of a group of people who are so different from us that we must beware of them. In some instances they go on to demonize those people making them “demonic others”. No matter the case, the ‘others’ are created by muddying the water surrounding their lives and cultures. They are formed by false stereotypes and blatant lies. Bad science has even reared its ugly head in the world of demon creation. It’s hard to break these beliefs, which have come from the mouths of “authorities,” but we have no choice—they simply must be broken if we are to live harmoniously sans societal collapse.
Frequently, those with whom I am engaged in this conversation are white males. They are those people who, even though they are projected to be the minority ethnic group, will still retain their power. Their money, as well as their social and political control, will not fade away because a few more people immigrated to the US.
However, this is seemingly their fear. Of course, they may have to share some of the clout they’ve long held, but no one—I repeat—NO ONE is trying to make them into slaves. I suppose if I was a filthy rich white man I might fear this just a little. After all, it would only serve them right, but it’s just not the agenda.
All anyone wants is a good life. People of color simply want equality and justice. They want to enjoy the same level of political representation, job equality, educational opportunities, and quality of life as every white man and woman in the US. I don’t believe that is too much to ask.
It’s difficult to reverse the lessons a grandfather passed on to his descendants, though. They take that family legacy of fear and hate to heart, and they attack people like me to defend it. It doesn’t help that men like Rush Limbaugh perpetuate hate and fear every day, but hey, that’s life.
Sometimes the response I receive leaves me in tears. Other times I break through, if even slightly, to help foster the understanding that white people need not fear different ethnicities and cultures. I’m white, and I live without fear…of that anyway. Spiders and mice still freak me out. Sorry.
No matter the hate I receive, I still want to do this. It’s my duty as a human being, I think, to help bring peace to the world. So, it’s what I’ll keep doing. I’m just thankful for the great friends I’ve had who have shown me my own shortcomings so I could correct those. Also, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to learn about and appreciate the many cultures of which I’ve learned. Life is so diverse. It’s never boring, but for all our differences, we’re all more alike than we might have ever believed.