A New Narrative (Part I)
Our humanity is composed of a myriad of stories that are experienced on this journey of life composed of political and social systems, cultural norms, religious practices, philosophical ideals, and other realities that make us a rich mosaic of infinite possibilities. Yet, instead of lifting our difference as blessings that make our humanity flourish, we look upon this diversity as a mode for hostility, rage, and fear which is mostly manifested in unjust educational policies, unjust immigration laws, and ridiculous political rhetoric that spews venomous ideologies aimed at undermining the beauty of our humanity.
We label people by race, religion, nationality, skin color, eye color, height, weight, income bracket, level of education, accent, sex, occupation, and just about every other means of description possible. What I find interesting is that when we describe other people, our description usually involves a number of the words I just mentioned, and yet when you ask someone to describe themself in person, (face to face) you are unlikely to hear words from a completely different set of adjectives. We live in a society where differences are reinforced by systemic forces of racism, ethnocentricism, sexism, and classism. A society where the repugnance of "the other" is intensified both for those who have power and for those who are powerless. We are living in a time that is characterized by overt and intentional hate. This hatred can be found in a variety of forms but it has one common denominator----we apparently find much joy in elevating our differences so that we can remain divided, instead of valuing our differences as an integral reality that enhances who we are as individuals and as a society. As a consequence, we are hating, despising, plotting against, and acting in an oppressive mentality.
We as human beings have made wholesome cultural, ethnic and racial diversity a source of deadly conflict. In greed for wealth and power, land and its fruits, one ethnic group oppresses another, excluding it from the things that rightfully belong to it, suppressing cultural distinctiveness, plundering material goods, sometimes even threatening and obliterating its very existence. These patterns of cross-cultural encounter permeate in educational systems, church or religious structures and political processes. Humankind is a divided species, people are always arguing about something and nations rarely find themselves in a situation where they have positive relations with all the other nations. Emphasis on human diversity divides people into categories and divides them as such, before people of differing origin talk to each other, they are already divided, and it is difficult to overcome this. At the end of the day we are all human beings, and perhaps it is time we all realized this and really thought about what it means.
Human beings are all beautiful, intelligent, passionate, loving and most importantly, we are all equal and we are all the same underneath the surface. Look around you, everywhere you look, your eyes are filled with the images of the wondrous achievement of humanity. These achievements have all been made in a divided world, one where indivduals or small groups work for their own benefit. Imagine what is possible if we all worked together. The potential of humanity is unlimited and by dividing ourselves, we are distancing ourselves from the possibility of fulfilling this potential.
Now, how can we foster and cultivate a humanity that value the richness of difference as a means to understanding the viability of our commonality? The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated that:“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” Similarly a few thousand years before, Confucius stated: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”
As I travel through many cities and states around this country working with various organizations and faith communities, I am often asked if I get tired of doing this work—of this thing come have called “diversity and inclusion.” My response is a balanced one. “Yes and no,” I say. The travel and being away from my family are always difficult. And some of the people I encounter in my travels or in my work and ministry just don’t seem willing or able to embrace the reality of a more diverse world and enriched humanity. Many can’t seem to give up old twentieth century scripts that don’t work so well in the twenty-first century. People like that can at times make the work tiresome. On the other hand, I do not get tired. I am energized and sustained by a life calling that became clear to me in a crucible of cruelty. It is from that crucible that I get my sustenance and passion for this work. So, let's begin to write this New Narrative together!