I was inspired today to write this post based on experiences a friend had when engaging with strangers on social media. I think the timing is important given the current political climate globally, but particularly within the US. Additionally what with it being PRIDE month worldwide, it’s an extra especially relevant discussion on equality & differences in that regard as well!
There is no denying that we live in a very strange, uncertain time as a society. For all that we strive to move forward in equality, environmental advancements, social economics, etc etc etc. we are also facing some frightening setbacks. It’s important that as human beings we continue to engage one another in meaningful, constructive conversation about how we can improve together. Maintaining a dialogue about hot-button topics like financial social programs, education systems, racism, sexuality, gender, etc,. will ensure a better and brighter future for our entire global network.
Maybe the benefit in building a welcoming, fair, equal environment here will ensure that our move into the cosmos breeds lasting relationships with ~*~other life~**~~ Who knows! The world is our oyster, let’s not shuck it and chuck it ya know?
If you follow me at all, you’ll see my art often carries a message of embracing our differences and promoting equality. As an artist, I feel it’s important to use my creative voice to make a difference in the world even in a small way. I strive to make artwork with a visual language that is inclusive, empowering and celebratory for all people. I make art that satisfies my own soul, and in doing so hopefully can touch others in the same way. Many of my pieces focus on themes in support of women and also focus on LGBTQ subjects. I want to provide a safe space and voice to others who may be struggling; I want you to know that you’ve got an ally, friend, and empathetic ear. Each piece has its own way of saying: “It’s okay to be different, offbeat, and a little weird. You do YOU and love your life!”
I’ll begin my post now – included first are the snippets of conversation that inspired my writing today:
A very sensitive subject was brought up by a 3rd party on a social media status . The question was meant to educate and inspire thoughtful discussion in particular on the disparity between Black and White races (focusing domestically here in the US):
Original Post status by 3rd party:
“…Let’s get into real talk here. There might be some turbulence but hopefully at least [one] person learns something.
Do you feel that Black Americans have greater struggle than White Americans?”
A dear friend of mine thoughtfully replied (as she does always with EVERYONE!) and shared some wonderful, relevant and well-written articles in reply to a commenter who claimed to be “color blind.” (Articles can be found here, here, here, here and here and I encourage you to read them.) This disrespectful commenter could have engaged in the articles with an open mind, and provided a respectful reply but instead the following conversation ensued:
Reply by friend:
A person of color tries to explain to you as a white (passing) person on how your complacency is problematic, and instead of listening or being open to hear, you say “Yawn”?
No [I’m] saying yawn to you
Reply by friend:
…I’m a person of colour.
I’m a person. Good Day
We need to discuss this problematic way of thinking. It may have humble, well-intended origins, however it is anything but that.
I suppose it feels a touch weird for me to word my thoughts on this, being that I am in fact a caucasian female, however I am doing my utmost to word this as eloquently and empathetically to avoid being lumped into internet stereotypes. I want to discuss this in such a way that it isn’t going to come off as “OMGGGGGG here comes *yet another* white girl defending x y z and being a SJW or blah blah.” I mean every word of this post to be compassionate, heartfelt, respectful and genuine.
A lot of well-intentioned people say things like “I am an equal human rights supporter. Literally I just love everyone so much that I don’t see our racial differences!” or “Who cares what your gender is? I just love you for who you are. Gender isn’t important.” While you may have a heart of gold and mean what you say to come across kindly, it’s actually an irresponsible way of speaking. Why? It’s dismissive. That’s right. I said it! You’re being dismissive and it’s not appropriate.
In the past I, too, have mistakenly spoken a similar phrase such as “I don’t see race or gender,” but truly just for lack of thinking up any better verbiage. Although I may have chosen words poorly, I never intended them to be taken in the “suburban white liberal place of privilege” definition they’ve evolved to be. I simply meant that I’ll personally never identify someone first by “my xyz friend” but rather by name and then everything else secondary. I find I am a person that does not select my partners or friends based on gender, race, culture, etc but rather about who they are as a person emotionally, mentally, etc. I can do all of that while still respecting peoples’ inherent uniqueness culturally, sexually or ethnically as their individual identities.
I have always been a person that wants to immerse myself in my friends’ worlds in so far as then I can better understand them as a person. I want to know of their heritage, learn their tradition, meet their families, appreciate their beliefs, etc. so that I can connect to them better as the amazing individuals that they are. It all comes from a place of great soulful affection & reverence. I will absolutely want to learn these things to provide a respectful, thoughtful, loving situation where I can support them and any causes that are important and near & dear to them. I understand we are all unique, different and that is what I love about having a circle of friends where we are all from around the world. We can create and foster an accepting, open-minded learning environment and a socially & culturally conscious community.
For me, the relationship with a person does not go based on these things, but rather on their personalities. They are my friends or lovers with beautiful souls! Each one of the people I meet are as beautiful and as unique as individuals within their own cultures, races, ethnicities, religion etc etc. I look for a person as a total package not just as an appearance up front. They’re not JUST their aesthetic appearance, but in fact a complete, unique person of many facets; I appreciate individuality to the umpteenth degree !
I acknowledge that I was fortunate to be raised in a household that taught my brother and I about caring for others as human equals, being respectful of other lifestyles, & embracing the differences that make us all so unique. My mother and father wanted to bring up children who would be kind, caring, empathetic and passionate about the plight of others in this world.
Our parents always taught us that while we were given certain things, others may may not have the same inherent opportunity or be afforded a certain chance for things without difficulties. My brother and I were always encouraged to make friends of all kinds of political, religious, ethnic, cultural, economic and education backgrounds! We were never taught that “whiteness” is the default, but that our world is full of many types of people! We learned about the trials and issues of many cultures in our own country and around the world. We were taught history of world cultures and social issues of our own domestic US areas. Our parents demonstrated that we should view and accept ALL of the people around us as beautiful unique humans with many, many origins.
I spent a large portion of my childhood in a neighborhood where basically white folks were the minority! Our first elementary school was predominantly central/south american, island heritage (Haiti, Dominican, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Cuba, etc etc etc.) and black heritage. We had friends from all over the place! I was even amongst the top in my elementary school class in higher grades for learning bilingual spanish/english class. I wanted do whatever possible to become closer to my friends, and be able to speak with them easily.
When I was just about in 6th or 7th grade, our parents moved us out of that town, and into an area predominantly full of white kids (and many of whom were upper middle class from the fancier side of town.
In the early days at my new school, I recall that I had a really bizarre experience. A random fellow white girl approached me since it was made known I was the new kid. She asked me where I was from, and my answer was short and sweet as I was very socially anxious. From my one or two word reply, this girl automatically assumed a slew of racist things: “Oh you’re from THAT town? So you MUST be hispanic then right? ” “Huh? Wait what why would you assume that, and even if I were why is that a bad thing?” “Well first off, everyone there is literally only Spanish or something. Plus, like, you’re a really fast talker and have kind of a bad attitude. And then also like, you look different.” Appearance wise I was a very geeky pale caucasian kid, and definitely couldn’t understand what “look” she was implying. I had no idea what in the world any of the rest of it meant or where she got this judgmental viewpoint from. None of it made sense, it was ripe with stereotypes! I was really, really upset by it honestly.
I couldn’t wrap my head around this strange “new” way of thinking. I didn’t understand why everyone was also telling me NOT to be friends with the “different kids” at the “other lunch table.” Why was different a bad thing? What was so terrible about someone else having another language, religion, culture, etc? This intolerance for people who were of differnt ethnic, religious or socioeconomic backgrounds was something I couldn’t comprehend. Frankly, I had a way harder time making friends with the white kids in the school from that point on. I almost immediately made closer friends to those of other ethnic backgrounds instead of the majority of kids who were white. The flippant way in which so many kids implemented judgmental communication and allowed racism to work its way into their young adult social culture astounded me. (I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s not like everyone in the town was a bigot! Plenty of other folks were welcoming, embracing, open minded, etc. I did also have kind friends of my own similar ethnic backgrounds of caucasian appearance and cultures. I merely mean that the subtlety of casual racism was foreign to me, and really hard to digest from those who spewed it…and it was mainly, from the white kids.)
I see differences and embrace them wholeheartedly, because a world of “sameness” does nothing for anyone. I’ve always been the kind to stand up for someone’s rights, beliefs, and uniqueness even if I’ve not even known them one bit!! I support my friends as they have supported me through my trials, too. It’s a beautiful melding of cultural learning and acceptance and embracing our differences and sharing with one another. I enjoy every minute of learning and loving!
My mother had most certainly taught us how we are to be allies for those who need an ear and a voice when no one else will listen. She said that each of us deserves respect and a fair shot at a good life! Mom always said it was important to stand up to others when we witnessed situations of injustice of any kind, but to always approach people in a respectful manner. Yes, that meant even if they offending part is disrespecting us, you do not ever stoop to their level of petty. At the same time, you need to know when defense needed to be stepped up, and to never allow someone to take away what makes you “YOU!” Stand up for another’s rights as well as you would your own!
I am always grateful for these lessons that our parents both taught us.
There is no doubt in my mind that these strong influences have shaped me into the compassionate human that I am today. I have always been one to not only embrace the differences between myself, family and friends, but at the same time demonstrate we’re equal human beings in my eyes. I will NEVER refuse an opportunity to stand up for the people in my life that I love, care for and respect. I extend that same courtesy to my fellow humans even if they’re strangers! There’s no reason that in our differences we cannot also be equal humans afforded the same rights and opportunities.
We all deserve an opportunity for a happy, healthy life however it is that we see to doing that. I embrace all of my fellow world citizens and I will never rest my case for equality in EVERY way until the world gets its shit together I have too much love for my fellow planet dwellers to do anything different!
May your days be blessed with compassion, empathy, love and success in achieving your dreams. Happy Pride, everyone.