Often times, issues of race, gender equality, and sexual orientation are pushed under the grand rug of human conversation avoidance. Quite frankly, it’s high time to do some mental excavation and unearth what we were previously too apprehensive to conquer.
Look around next time you are in class when there isn’t a lot going on (this will inevitably occur). Examen your classmates like you are the eight year old you excitedly watching the animal channel with a feature on the ecosystem of the African Savanna. This won’t be too difficult as a classroom setting can very easily transition to The Lord of the Flies . Now, take note of where different people congregate. What do you observe about their mannerisms, their clothes, their race? Do any patterns arise? They definitely do, and if you disagree, look harder. Often times people have the subconscious tendency to socialize with those that are similar to them in terms of race, class, orientation, and culture. While this isn’t necessarily a negative thing, it limits the exchange of ideas, hinders social progress on a grander scale, and perpetuates preconceived prejudices and stereotypes about “The Other”. Your classroom may appear diverse, and technically if it encases an eclectic group of humans it meets this requirement, but the real question maintains; is it integrated?
I bet my entire beloved childhood rock collection that there is an apparent division between two or more groups of students within the room. Even at an international school that boasts equality and unity,we see such issues arise. And before you get mad, know that branching out and mingling with other types of people is an incredibly hard thing to do, especially during Middle and High School, when social pressures are more aggressive than ever. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be. When it comes down to it, despite some being oaks, maples or aspens by nature, they are all trees. Just as all of us come from many different backgrounds with a different spice to add to the spice rack, we are all human and endure everything that being one requires. As people, society expects us to be a certain way based off of our race, class, orientation, religion and gender. All Whitepeople are wealthy, All black people are poor, Women must be subservient and size two, Real men must show no emotion, Immigrants are stupid, Gay people are sassy.
We are constantly bombarded with these false, one dimensional interpretations of how we are supposed to be. As if humans are not at all the complex creatures that they are. It’s dehumanizing to place labels on a person, it removes a face and a unique perspective chop full of experiences and thoughts and reduces it to a clean cut quotient. Since when has anything in known history ever been so black and white? So uniform? But time and time again, pigeon holing people has maintained status as a societal norm, and that needs to change. You have no right to judge another based on such criteria, as everyone has obtained entirely different experiences and therefor has a unique perspective of the world.Instead of trying to control the uncontrollable when seeking to create order out of chaos, we should instead try to understand chaos, as it is our reality and a pretty spectacular one at that.
This recognizing of different perspectives and learning not to fear or look down upon others needs to happen at a young age so when kids become adult-lings, they are equipped with the skills needed to understand people and develop a broader understanding of humanity. Even so, it is never too late to exercise this practice.. It is important to strive for a global mindset, and with that comes an understanding of the struggles of others and realizing that despite surface differences there are connections to be made with all walks of life. By breaking the unspoken barriers, you make friends that you would have never otherwise made while gaining insight into the other side of the story.
So now, hopefully you are more aware of the divisions that are prevalent in your everyday life and that they exist, amongst other things, as a culmination of largely false societal impressions. This is the first and most important step. Now off you go, return to your life and pay attention in that class! Step out of your comfort zone (try to avoid pits of boiling lava) listen keenly, and have a conversation with that Oak and that Aspen.