Tuesday, July 24, 2018
You Are Not Me
I could have answered at length. I could have explained about slavery and white privilege and all the long history of different races and ethnic groups. But I didn't. That would be a way to white-wash the truth. The simplest truth in the world is this: they are not us.
From the dawn of humanity, we've protected our own and fought off the 'others'. One would think we've learned something, but obviously not. A lot of folks think only whites are racist, but that's not true. You only have to be the minority in another racial group to find out the reality of this.
The hunk and I once worked at a fast food restaurant where we were the ONLY white employees. Most of the customers were a mixed group of black, Latino, and even Asian. The rare white tourist wandered in looking lost and uncomfortable. In our time there, the other crew people treated us with respect and courtesy, but the customers...well, that was different.
I didn't take it personally because I understood the underlying mechanism. I was not one of them. I didn't look like them. I was in their space, making them uncomfortable and wary. That is the hard, unvarnished kernel of truth.
In our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world, it is tough to integrate when underneath we still have that visceral caution. They are not us. We are not them. We look different, speak different languages, worship different gods, dress differently, eat different foods. It doesn't matter how much effort we put into understanding each other, we never will on that deep visceral level, anymore than men understand women or straights understand gays or any other number of differences out there.
So what's the solution, then?
Kindness, courtesy, and a celebration of our differences. As long as we allow them to divide us, all the talk about racial equality or gender equality or any other equality will be just that--talk. Instead of talking, maybe we should celebrate our commonalities and showcase our differences. Share those things that make us who we are.
We can't do that until we admit who we are. I am a senior citizen. White, female, protestant, heterosexual. As far as I can tell, that doesn't make me special in any way. If I have special qualities, I hope they are things like generosity, empathy, love, and comfort. Those are the things that count. That other stuff? It's just the casing I was born with. Nothing special at all.