Whether it’s social media, news outlets, or casual conversation, we find ourselves trapped in names and phrases that are created to depict segments of society. We are divided by age group: Millennials, Gen X, Baby boomers; by the color of our skin: black, white, occasionally brown; and even by political identity, pro-police, anti-police, alt-right, alt-left, populist, nationalist, neo-Nazi, Antifa.
Do you ever wonder the “why” of all this division, this need to create categories among the human race? I do realize that we have different life experiences, culturally we are diverse. Our views, attitudes, and opinions are broad, most often based upon our individual life and cultural diversity. Of course, our age dictates much of our perspective simply by volume of experience. But this has been true throughout time. Why, now, do we feel the need to title humans into segments?
I truly believe the only thing it accomplishes, which may also be the purpose, is to divide. If we feel the need to join or belong to the cultural club of our perceived definition, we never cross over to gain understanding or lend a listening ear or open our heart to another.
We take each of the “titles” that have been created and then we, as one group assessing another, define them. Millennials are lazy, Gen X lacks loyalty, boomers are stuck in the past…alt-right is intolerant, alt-left is angry.
But is anyone truly black or white? We really are not. I am actually a pale shade of yellow; my husband’s skin has slight red tones. I have dear friends who are chocolate brown, light brown, true yellow, and the color of cream.
We are very individually diverse, not collectively so. I will not pretend that I will ever fully understand my friends’ cultural histories or life experiences. But I want to learn from them. When I see the images from the sweet Kiowa Indian woman whom I have known for many years—from their clan celebration—I am reminded of the history, painful memories, and beauty portrayed. I will never fully understand the tales I hear from the dark brown men I have come to love…stories of being confronted suspiciously in the dark of night when they were truly doing nothing at all. Nor will I understand the vulnerability of my friends who are members of the police department who walk into danger while others flee. I have not walked in the shoes of one I know well who immigrated from Brazil…living in this country, filling out form after form, waiting more than 20 years to finally obtain her American citizenship.
But the differences in our background and understanding of life does not divide me from them; instead, the privilege of knowing each of these amazing people has truly made my life much richer than it would be otherwise. I have had my eyes opened to worlds I don’t know. I have found common interests and shared hopes. I have laughed, debated life, and shared heartbreak with all.
When we allow the titles to define us, when we ascribe to this current categorical divisiveness, we rob ourselves and those around us of our truest beauty. The weaving of our life views and the collective perspective we gain from doing so can create a united front to move us all forward, not just those within a chosen group.
There are many places I love to visit, but mountain ranges are among my favorite. If you venture near the top of any range you will often find the snow-capped tundra at the peak throughout much of the year. But when this snow melts it trickles down the rock-face to join small falls that then flow into a stream…that stream into a river. That river joins others that traverse through crevices, winding and widening until their ultimate destination as they feed into the ocean.
The power of streams and rivers will naturally move a boat downstream, but that flow will never compare to the tug of the ocean’s tide. That vastness of water that when you stand at its sands’ edge is beyond what a human eye can see… No power in this world can contain the strength of an ocean when a tidal wave arises or hurricane forms.
We are like that. Individual rivers—entities that are individually strong, capable of moving thought and attitude. But collectively we are truly unstoppable. In order to become that force we must look to what unites us instead of what divides.
Each of us is seeking to make this world better. To care and provide for our families. We all desire to love and to be loved. We want to believe in ourselves, understand our worth, and feel good about who we are. We seek purpose in our lives, something we can believe in, things we are capable of and will accomplish. We long for joy, happiness, peace, fulfillment. We all really want the same things. So again, why the division? Should we not desire the collective strength that can make a real impact? I believe we do.
But to get there, there are a couple of things we must do. Quit accepting the titles and push back against those who are insisting upon putting us into boxes. We don’t need to group and label one another; we need to get to know one another.
Remove prejudice. I’m not talking racial—although that should never exist. I’m speaking of the prejudice toward another’s attitudes and views. Replace that with an ability to hear that person’s heart, to take the time to listen to the life experience that has formed those attitudes.
Begin conversations, not arguments or platforms from which we launch our views. Start a real, give-and-take conversation—which almost never happens on social media. This is done in real life.
You may not be persuaded into sharing their life viewpoint, and they may not be persuaded to yours. But that’s ok too. Realize the old phrase “we can agree to disagree” is wisdom that should transcend time. Just because you disagree on certain specifics doesn’t mean you can’t be friends or that you won’t find common ground. You can have some of the sweetest relationships with ones you completely disagree with because you accept them exactly as they are and they accept you as well. A relationship built on grace for one another is stronger than a relationship built upon common culture and similar thinking.
I would like to put the titles away. Let age groups enjoy the company of other age groups. People from different cultures should share meals, dialogue, and life. What if political views put down their protest signs and worked together to help those who are truly hurting?
Then join together into the one title we all should embrace: humanity. Let’s be a human race that possesses the quality of being humane, with kindness and benevolence. That is one title I can truly get behind.
You’ll also like How to Teach Your Child Not to Hold Prejudices, Does Finding Your Purpose Really Matter?, Why I Won’t Be Posting #metoo, Married to the Badge: Not Your Typical Life, How Can We Be the Bridge to This Great Divide?, and Humanity Comes Alive When Disaster Strikes