We, as a people, cover up our ugliness and put our best forward to others. Our lawns, make-up, fancy clothes & accessories, plastic surgery, dentures, manicures, shining cars, picket fences, are partly a reflection of this. Everyday, we put time and effort making sure that first impressions are great. We all know though, that there is another side to us that is not all manicured. We need to improve on that side, rather than covering up the blemish. We recognize and acknowledge it, so we should be able to change it, otherwise the ugliness grows and shows up at inopportune moments and exposes our deception.
One such blemish is our need to be separate, distinct, better than others. Watching the Zimmerman case unfold, along with the dialogues that it has raised in the public domain has opened my eyes to a side of people in this country that I never acknowledged. I did not recognize it because it is veiled like the missing teeth and the rough hands. More importantly I could not see beyond the veil because I have not openly been discriminated against unlike many others who face it day in and day out. I know that being a woman I needed to work harder than my male counterparts in the workplace, and I accepted that as a challenge because I am up to it. I cannot imagine being discriminated against because of the color of my skin or the clothes I wear - discriminated against to the point where my life is in danger everyday or to the point of being feared or hated. The sad part is that many of us do not know that we are discriminating.
“I am not a racist,” we say. “I have mentored ‘these people!’ I have many ‘Black/Chinese/White/Indian/American/Muslim/Vegan/Men/Gay’ friends.”
‘These’ people as opposed to people; ‘identifiable’ friends as opposed to friends. That is the face of discrimination peeping out from behind the veil. Our discrimination is hidden behind an outward appearance of broad-mindedness. Subconsciously there is a bias and it is not based on merit but on preconceived prejudices. The more we get to know ‘these’ people and mingle with them, the more we identify with them. When the gap is bridged we no longer need words that identify people as different from ourselves.
Seeing ourselves as individuals is important for self development, and it is just as important to recognize ourselves as part of Family, Community, Country, World, Universe and beyond - important for self development. We are as limited as we make ourselves - inherently we are infinite. Opening ourselves to receiving others in, and giving others of oneself, only helps us broaden our view of the world. Information is powerful and the faster we stop depending on ‘beliefs,’ the more we blossom.
Our unique personal experiences give us unique outlooks on life. It is impossible to experience everything; impossible to know the perspectives of all people. That is not what non-bias is about. It is about accepting that there are viewpoints outside my own. These are valid and as much a reality as my own are. We need to grow out of tolerance into acceptance. We tolerate those who are ‘wrong,’ we accept those who are different. ‘Wrong’ when compared to me being ‘right;’ whereas different has no element of right or wrong. What goes into acceptance is knowledge, tolerance is about belief. Every culture, every country, has a history with some privileges, some oppressions, some good, some evil, some that enhance and others that diminish - leaving an impression on an entire people. These impressions express as our differences and deserve our acceptance.
The world is physically coming closer through developments in travel, technology and education; it is time now for us to understand and empathize with each other, so as a people we come closer together too. I feel strongly that the intermingling of cultures through friendships, partnerships and marriages is an essential part of closing the gap. We need to talk more, visit more, get to know each other more, adapt more so we can break through the barriers of bias.
Knowing oneself is important. It leads us to acknowledge that we are a part of a much bigger Universe. Self knowledge reveals that we are not only part of the Universe but that the Universe is a part of us. When we hurt, insult or even ignore others we are hurting ourselves. Bias is not a reflection on the person we are differentiating against - it is a reflection of our own ignorance. Ignorance is ugly, discrimination is about fear and cowardice. Education needs to be about knowledge, so love and acceptance replaces fear and insecurities. Knowing about every thing inanimate only tells us about the world outside, it is only when we learn about the animate that occupy this Earth can we know our inner world, the one in which we are all One. Where love is the driving force; where kindness is the first choice; where acceptance is the only way.