Will race always be extremely divisive in the United States? If conversation is the only action taken to alleviate divisiveness, things will not improve. Quite frankly, they will worsen. Proactive and intentional measures must take place on an individual level in order to heal the racial divide within our country. Talk isn’t helping. Why? No one is listening. Inclusion measures aren’t helping. Why? We have preconceived notions based on appearance. What needs to take place in order for change to happen? Two actions, so simple in word yet so difficult to achieve: a genuine willingness to listen and a strong desire to stop judging. We must listen. We must learn. We must love.
Having an open mind to truly understand and listen to someone who has a different thought process is challenging, especially when a discussion is emotionally charged. Race is certainly one of those topics, fused with deeply embedded notions about how we perceive society, ourselves and the world at large.
How we have learned about race directly impacts our desire to discuss race in a calm, collected manner. As we grow, our social circles provide us with ideas about others. Our parents, grandparents, religion, friends and neighborhoods teach us how we should view the world from a very young age, making unhealthy, inaccurate thought processes incredibly difficult to break. After 18 years of being told that a particular race fights, is lazy, lacks intelligence or [INSERT OTHER NEGATIVE STEREOTYPE HERE], how easy is it to listen to attributes that are the total opposite? Changing your belief is not simple. Only when you are willing to listen, truly listen, are you able to broaden your horizons and experiences. Keeping an open mind helps move beyond limiting beliefs to create possibilities for new relationships — even with those who are different than yourself.
Additionally, no one should be judged based only on their appearance. Not easy when we have certain stereotypes in mind. But remember, we can never know a person by drawing conclusions without evidence or substance. Judging is unfortunately part of everyone’s lives, whether they are judged or doing the judging. “Never judge a book by it’s cover” may be an old cliché, but it’s very true.
Here’s a great (real life) example:. A young white lady was driving slowly in a black neighborhood around 10:00pm. She stops periodically. A white police officer starts following her and after about two minutes the officer pulls her over. He asks her why she was driving so slow in that neighborhood so late at night, questioning if she was there to buy drugs. The young lady, puzzled by his questions, told him she was looking for a good friend’s house that she had never been to before. Now, why did the white police officer pull her over and ask her that question? He judged her by how she looked. A young white lady driving slowly in a black neighborhood late at night? She must be there to buy drugs. There would be no other reason, right? Black neighborhoods are “bad”, white neighborhoods are “nice” and accordingly, this young white lady couldn’t possibly be in association. This maintains a racial divide, all based on ignorant stereotyping.
Racial divisiveness doesn’t have to be so prevalent in the United States. We are more racially diverse than ever but there is not much movement to improve our relationships.
There is nothing to lose by listening to others or and stopping our judgmental behaviors; and a world to gain by experiencing those who are different.
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