|United we stand...|
A lot of us prefer it this way, being divided. Particularly those part of historically-included groups. You know, male, straight, able, Christian, documented. White. So many benefits, so much access. So easy not to notice the inequities affecting those who are different.
For historically-included persons it’s comfortable to maintain human categories and social divisions, even preferred. That’s because the alternative requires leaving the bosom of ignorance and facing hard, unsettling truth. Coming to terms with society’s self-inflicted inequities is no psychological walk in the park. Examining the worst of harmful, age old cultural practices and institutionalized policies can resemble a gut punch. It’s jolting, even painful.
It’s a fact that once faced with the truth, lots of folks refuse to stomach the stench of inequity that exists. They turn away and sink back into the murky bog of ignorance.
Knowing but not knowing.
Here’s the good news: if you facedown the sobering fear and shock of truth, there’s salvation. It comes in the form of reclaiming your humanity. All it involves is getting curious. No easy task though when your universe has been tilted.
it’s also funny how something as simple as getting up close and personal with
people different from yourself can help you see their humanness. And yours. That
is, if you approach such encounters with an open mind and heart.
|So many of us see, but do not see.|
Setting aside bias, prejudice and stereotypes can be difficult, if not impossible. It’s also uncomfortable. There’s nothing like believing in a thing only to discover it is not in fact the truth.
Take poverty. Like other historically-excluded groups, poverty fosters a toxic, limiting belief system. One that dehumanizes a broad swath of our population. It generalizes, stigmatizes and therefore marginalizes people. In turn, institutions and cultural attitudes conspire to cement in place and thus perpetuate the conditions of those affected.
It took me serving as board president of Woman’s Co-op to unlearn all I had learned about what poverty is, who’s affected and what their reality is.
Co-op is a nonprofit network of women working together to improve their lives
through life management skills, education and employment opportunities. Many
members have low or no income.
|Women helping women succeed|
Until I got knee deep in the work of Woman’s Co-op, I used to make up in my mind what it meant to live in poverty. I based it all on my limited encounters with poor folks: on the street, in stores, at meetings, wherever. I also drew on warped media images, especially on TV and in movies. In retrospect they were mere snapshots – moments in time.
What it took for me to see the truth was “being” with them. Listening and withholding judgment. Eating with them without critique. Crying with without offering pity. Holding their babies as if they were my own. Laughing to share their joy. Equally important was sharing my own woes – personal secrets that polite folks like myself conveniently keep out of conversation so as to maintain membership in the coveted Middle Class Social Club.
That back and forth sharing, over time, resulted in an unleashing of a mutual authenticity that allowed me to “see” persons living with lower incomes. And the majority of them are me, just from different circumstances.
We’re at a pivotal moment in history. At no other time have so many doors of truth been more visible. It’s time for us to open those doors. All of them; not just those we’re comfortable with. Open them and step out of ignorance. Time to embrace justice. And in the process reclaim our humanity.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.