The Value of Relationships with People Different than Me

I was reading an article this morning concerning racism; it was titled “The Day-To-Day Racism That Many of Us Don’t See.”  (Here’s the link: http://www.ethicsdaily.com/the-day-to-day-racism-that-many-of-us-dont-see-cms-20754)  

This article reminded me of something that researchers have discovered about our brains and patterns: we can become blind to something until an “event” causes us to take off that blindfold.  For example, one car that I owned as a youth was a 1982 Escort Pony.  It was canary yellow in color.  I didn’t realize how many yellow cars were on the road until I bought that car.  Before the purchase, I wasn’t conditioned to see that color of car.  After the purchase, I became amazed at how many cars of that particular color were on the road.

As I read the article mentioned above, I realized what happened to me with that yellow car is the same thing that can happen to me in the realm of racism; I can be blind to it until something happens that causes me to take off the blindfold.  

Because of the “circles” or “sub-culture” in which I move and operate, there are actions that, to me, should not be seen as derogatory towards others because that is not my intent.  Or, there are actions which I witness which to me seem harmless while someone else, someone of a different racial background, would find that same action(s) as prejudicial or racist.

It isn’t until I come into contact and into relationship and friendship with those different than me that I will truly begin to see these things in a different light.  Oh sure, these relationships and friendships aren’t necessary to see explicit acts of racism and prejudice, but I believe they are necessary to see those which are just under the surface which to me would appear innocent (the story in the article of the exchange of money would be just such an example).

The way to have eyes opened is to have relationships with people different than me, friends who will give me the opportunity to see things through their eyes, actions which to me seem innocent, but in reality are signs of racial prejudice.

The way to forge harmony between different racial groups is not to not see color, but to see it and embrace the differences and diversity present.  In my experience, what typically happens when “no color is seen” is this: the “dominant” or “first-there” culture becomes the norm to which everyone else is to conform.

When people of different racial and culture groups join together, what is necessary is for people of all groups to be educated about each group’s ethnic background and culture with the traditions attached to them.  An understanding, acknowledgment and, most importantly, an appreciation for these differences must be attained in order for true harmony and partnership to exist.

Through relationships with people different from me, I have opportunity to embrace and appreciate those differences.  And what I have found is this: those differences make me a much more whole person because I now am able to see a fuller picture of life and my world around me.

This isn’t just true in the realm of race.  It is also true in the realm of politics, culture, etc.  I once heard it said, “If I never hear a voice different from mine, how will I ever know whether I am right or wrong about something?”

And that, I believe, is a good thing and something of great value.

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