The word of the month so far has been unity. If we are not already united, are we divided? Oh, yeah, you bet your ass we are.
Our division has not gone unnoticed, to say the least. So tell me something new.
People on all sides, all factions know that we have to come together and are saying it out loud. Loudly. We are calling for it, and it is being demanded of us.
I’m surprised when I hear conservative people say it, and very liberal people and middle of the road people – all saying the same words.
We all seem to know that unity is required. But do we mean the same thing? I think that we might. That shocks me, but yeah, I said that.
I don’t think unity means we all have to agree on everything. I think it does mean that we have to allow some space to agree on some things and disagree on others.
I think we all agree that we need be heard…and for all to be heard, we all have to get a lot better at listening.
I think it means that we have to stop reacting with anger and hatred as our first response. This is tough, right? We have so much pent up rage and frustration. We have seen so much that is wrong, and we can’t just shut up and put up anymore. Funny how true that statement is for almost everyone.
I think unity means we don’t have to hate each other just because we disagree. Even if we are convinced that we are 100% right (maybe we are all some % right), we have other options besides hatred.
Okay, how. How do we do that?
Stop othering. See each other as human beings.
What’s othering? It’s when we see or treat someone as intrinsically different from ourselves. When we see them as more alien than alike.
Here’s an example:
I participated in music workshop on Jan. 16. One of the leaders was Rollo Dilworth, a contemporary composer, who led sessions on the role of spirituals and gospel music in the social justice movement. But when asked, he also talked about his experience as a black musician in the classical music world, and how he had been othered when white musicians asked him how he could have become a classical musician. It wasn’t a one time thing, he said. It happened frequently. Some white people just saw him as so different that they couldn’t imagine how he could have accomplished it. They didn’t even think that he went to university, completed his studies, that he could become proficient in something besides “black” music.
I mean, ridiculous, right? I just don’t understand how some people could be so ignorant and oblivious to think that way…..and if I stop right there, I am also othering. Aren’t there areas where I am that ignorant and oblivious? Yeah, probably. Not intentionally, but yeah. I mean, I’m human and I have blind spots and I’m only aware of what I’m exposed to and that doesn’t make it right, but…
Othering won’t fix the problems. It’s too easy to dismiss others. Too easy to put the aliens in a mental cage, build a wall and call them the enemy.
This is hard. I would rather sit on my self-righteous liberal tuffet and call anyone who disagrees with me an idiot. I would almost rather not see them as humans. I would rather dismiss them and their opinions as just wrong, rather than see that they are the results of their own dreams, hopes, fears, training and biases. Yeah, brainwashing maybe, I’ll let that slide in.
Even those who disagree with me – even those who are 99.99% wrong – are humans. They aren’t aliens. If I listen to them, I just may learn how to reach them. And vice versa. And maybe our solutions will be more effective.
If we have any hope of unifying, we need to stop othering.
So let’s do the exact opposite. You know, the opposite of othering is not to get rid of all of our differences. It’s actually developing the ability to embrace them, to embrace diversity.
And I like the idea of diversity. A lot. How about you?
What does this have to do with Color Thinking, you might ask? It’s the thinking part…the asking ourselves questions that make us think differently. It’s not always comfortable.
In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!
Love and light,