I have long believed the ways to change the world are simple. Mind blowing-ly simple.
I have long resonated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. The undercurrent of simplicity and truth of which they spoke and based their lives has been a basis for my own, as well.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~ Gandhi
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King
It is difficult at times to not be drawn to the fire, and then to even catch fire ourselves because we are standing too close. In this way we are spreading the very thing we are hoping to extinguish. But fire cannot be fought with fire, and sometimes unarmed emotions in the name of passion can be destructive.
I have been told I am naive. That I speak only in platitudes and anecdotes. I have questioned my beliefs. I’ve laid awake at night and wondered if I was part of the right movement. Was I part of the problem? I wondered if I was missing something, if I was blind to the world around me.
I was raised in the south near where the KKK still meets regularly. They burn crosses and scream white power. I was told once by a friend he couldn’t come to my house because “they hang more than Christmas lights up there.” Silent segregation still exists. I get that; I’ve seen it.
I am aware discrimination, prejudices, and inequalities still exist in the world. But I will not, however, allow myself to stay problem focused and pulled into the fire.
I will not run around and get people all riled up about discrimination and prejudice. I can choose a different path. I can choose to stand with Dr. Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa, people who “fought” the fight without ever fighting at all. I can choose to stand in love and in peace. I suppose there is a place for those who rally and blow up the internet and get people riled up, signing petitions and what not, but I see more anger and ego arise from that than anything. I will not partake.
“I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.” ~ Mother Theresa
I want equality for all of us—every person on this planet. And to create that for our world, I must be that. I want us, as a society, to not limit others or ourselves with beliefs that we are being oppressed. That belief itself is slowing down the progress. We are well on our way to a more equal and inclusive society. It is happening right now.
There will be moments of blatant racism and other forms of discrimination that shock our hearts and make us want to rage and cry. But let us not be dismayed. Let us find and remember our solution, let us seek the oneness we say we are looking for. May our actions support our bigger picture outcomes.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
The oppressed will stay oppressed as long as they believe they are so.
Discrimination continues because we perpetuate it. Whether consciously or unconsciously. It’s time to look for equality, so we can truly begin to see it. Here’s a place to start:
1. Be mindful of our knee-jerk reactions and give it 20 minutes before we act.
Just this morning, I came across a slew of pictures of a woman dressing in various clothing asking if the garments themselves placed her in the category they were made to represent. For example, did a jersey, football and face paint make her a football player? The point she appeared to be making was related to the most recent concerns of public/school bathrooms and those people not identifying with the assigned sex received at birth. She was obviously in support of the laws against allowing people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify.
My initial reaction was to make some snarky comment about how easily these new laws could backfire and the unnecessary ruckus they are all causing. But I didn’t. I wanted to ask—do our five year olds really care who pees in the stall next to them or are they simply reflecting our own prejudices and fears we, as parents, have introduced to them? Not to mention I was instantly a little fired up, my snarky comments would have only made the matter worse and fed into this collective frenzy—I would have been pulled into the fire I am working to extinguish.
2. Focus on the things you do want.
It sounds simple and probably a bit more like “The Secret” than some would be willing to embrace, but it really boils down to this—thoughts are creative, everything around us from the coffee in our cup, carpet under our feet, the paint on the wall…started as someone’s thought. That thought was shared and made a reality. A collective thought/belief/focus will obviously produce the same results, a materialized reality, but at an even greater scale. What do you want to see in the world? Envision that. I want people to be able to pee when they need to pee. I want to see parents encouraging their children’s natural tendencies to be accepting, kind, and open-hearted. I’d like it to not be a big deal, because it really isn’t! It’s only a big deal because someone made it a big deal, and then other people jumped on the bandwagon.
3. Don’t assume someone or something is discriminating against you.
We find what we are looking for—one could even argue that we are creating it. For the most part, people are good and we are all just trying to live our life to the best of our ability. People walking into a situation and expecting to be discriminated against, will almost always find some reason supporting that thought/fear. If I were this type of person, I would think every furrowed brow, every difficulty rescheduling an appointment, or non-politically correct comment was directed at me because I am a lesbian…the short hair and girlfriend must have given me away.
“How dare those people discriminate against me. I’m just sick of the bigotry and closed-mindedness.” Feels heavy doesn’t it? Maybe someone has a headache. Maybe my personal trainer doesn’t make my appointment a priority anymore, because I’m inconsistent with coming and often show up late when I do. Maybe, that person truly didn’t mean to offend anyone and wasn’t aware of how negatively their comment could be perceived—asking questions instead of assuming could put this fire out right away.
It’s not always because you are a woman, black, gay, or any other minority for that matter.
4. Lighten up.
I think most people, that get classified as a minority group, go out into the world apprehensively with a small wall of fear and the us vs. them mentality always in mind. I get it, I know all to well those potentially awkward questions of, “So, what does your husband/boyfriend do?” I’ve come to answer these questions with a smile and assumption of innocence. I can’t get mad or irritated because the majority is heterosexual! And although as a society we are opening our minds, some people assume heterosexuality simply out of habit. That’s okay. They probably didn’t mean anything negative by it; they were most likely looking to connect with me. We shouldn’t be so quick to get offended. How would our perceptions and interactions with others change if we weren’t always ready for a fight?
5. Live and let live.
It blows my mind how often I see people wanting to be accepted for who they are but trying to change others. I’ve seen it and caught myself doing it. There will always be people whose beliefs and values differ from my own, and that’s okay. That’s what diversity and inclusion is all about.
I’m a gay woman, living in a small rural town with my girlfriend, her daughter, and stereotypical short hair. We grocery shop, have careers, and just last weekend we cleaned out the gutters on our house. We are thinking about getting a new fence. Do you know how much discrimination we experience? Almost none. I accredit a lot of this to the fact that we don’t segregate ourselves; we don’t have the us vs. them mentality. We just live our lives. We send desserts to the new neighbors, shovel the elderly couple’s sidewalk sometimes, and speak to the strangers walking down the street. We act like your stereotypical straight couple. We practice kindness and seek to connect with those around us. There is no pride flag hanging from our porch or rainbows on our lawn.
This is how we “fight,” or as I like to say, soften discrimination—by living our lives openly but not aggressively. There is nothing I can say or do to change the minds of those less open to diversity but maybe they will change it themselves when they have the opportunity to get to know someone as a person without the minority card in play.
Author: Dottie Hollingsworth
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Mike Licht