There isn’t anything wrong with finding a place you belong in. Where it goes wrong is when you identify your place as better than another’s.
Throughout history it has always been difficult, if not down right dangerous, to be identified as different, even when that difference is something the individual has no control over. From skin color to body differences (including body shape and size as well as ability) to gender, people have been harmed and killed for being identified as different in ways they have no control over. But why is this? Why do humans seem to have so much trouble accepting differences?
Part of the problem is the way we learn to define ourselves. We do so by finding ways we are like others we want to be with and identifying ways we are different from those we do not want to be with. We all do this! It is human nature, and there isn’t anything wrong with finding a place you belong in. Where it goes wrong is when you identify your place as better than another person’s place. When we start to judge others as less than ourselves – because we don’t agree with how they look, how they act, whom they love, or even how they believe – we create divides.
The more we mark someone as “bad” because they are different, the more we can justify our treatment of them. Sometimes people are so caught up in the idea that anyone who is different from them is bad, they become fearful. They think the person, just by virtue of being different, is going to take something away from them or harm them.
You see those behaviors play out in the belief that immigrants are going to take our homes away from us, or at very least take our money. You also see it in the fear of anyone who practices a different belief system. There is great suspicion around those who think differently. This fear can grow until it creates a sense that anyone who is different is a threat. A protectionist attitude arises and people fight to keep the others away. In this process much harm can be done.
Hating another simply because they are different is not a value I support. We all have differences and it is possible for humans to build on the value of diversity – accepting that not everyone is the same and accepting that not everyone believes the same thing. Our one shared criteria could be that we accept the differences of others. This is a value I hold, which is why over the next couple of weeks I am going to post a series of blogs on what it means to be different in the US and why we need to learn to embrace diversity, not hate or fear it.