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The Antelope

Facing ourselves

Mary Spencer
Mary Spencer
Antelope Staff

“When we are forced to explain our beliefs to other people, we are simultaneously explaining those same beliefs to ourselves.” – Mary Spencer

Whether consciously or not, we are all more comfortable with those who are like us.  These similarities can be found through race, gender and religion, as well as many other signifiers.  Undeniably, there is great joy and comfort that can be found in spending time with people who have similar beliefs, goals and ideas about society.  There is no need for explanation or background information on your ideas.

This is an easy way to live.

It gets hard, however, when we come into contact with other people and have to explain ourselves.  When speaking to a group of people who understand you and agree with you, it is easy to state your beliefs, whether it’s something inconsequential as your favorite actor or something as influential as a deeply held racial bias.  

When we are forced to explain our beliefs to other people, we are simultaneously explaining those same beliefs to ourselves.  We have to question whether this belief is good or bad.  Does this actually make sense when I look at it?  Is this my idea or was this idea fed to me?

This is difficult work.

We run away from this work.  There is darkness in all of us and it frequently goes unplumbed when we don’t turn inward to look our deepest, darkest self square in the face.  

This past summer, I was at a community gathering focusing on the recent shootings of Black Americans by the police.  A 70-year-old woman walked up to the portable loudspeaker and told of a time that she came face-to-face with her own racial bias.  She was riding a bus from to her small Midwestern hometown to New York City and, at one point, was the only white person on the bus.  With tears in her eyes, she recounted the moment that she realized she was fearful of her fellow passengers merely because of the color of her skin.  

“I don’t know where those thoughts came from,” she said.  “I was raised by good people who never once spoke against people of a different skin color.  Since that day, I have worked every day of my life to never have those feelings again.”

The internal self this woman came in contact with all those years ago was ugly.  It was racist.  It was judgmental.  But, because she was aware of that within her, she was able to rise above and overcome.  

We all have this darker self within us.  It might look differently than this woman’s and it might hold different biases.  But we all miss out on the betterment of ourselves that this woman has experienced when we choose to close ourselves off, to only accept people who talk like us and look like us and pray like us. In this divisive political climate, it is much more enjoyable to pick our acquaintances based on their beliefs because if we don’t have to defend our ideas, we don’t have to face the fact that our ideas aren’t great.  

“The Other” has been a term bandied about by many these days, but it can be a misleading term.  It is often used to describe people who aren’t white, who aren’t Christian, who aren’t male.  

But, the sociological definition of the word means something or someone who is distinctly different than you.  For a black female, this means that a white male is the Other.  For a Muslim, a Christian or Buddhist or atheist becomes the Other.  

If we keep creating these boxes for others, soon we will be sitting in a box all alone, with our own minds as a sounding-board for your ideas.  
Instead of finding reasons that we are different than other people, we should be working at finding our similarities.  These ties that can bind us together could be anything from a favorite band to a shared goal for world peace.  By searching out the connections instead of the separations, we can unite our world.  

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