“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
American writer, feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde reminds us in today’s quote that it is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate the differences between one another that actually divides us, not the differences itself. Why is that? What prevents some of us from first recognizing or acknowledging the differences that exist between us? Is it privilege, ignorance or just a choice? Unfortunately it could be one of the three or all of them. I think it just depends on the person. Some of us get so wrapped up in our lives, our wants, our needs that we fail to look at the whole picture and take the time to look at things from the perspective of others and their specific wants and needs. I’m not saying you have to agree with what they believe in but at least take the time to acknowledge their point of view. That is at the heart of being socially aware: the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures while understanding their social and ethical norms for behavior.
Now accepting the differences doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. When two students at my school are not seeing eye to eye on something before I have each side share their side of things I tell them this: although you may not necessarily agree with one another nor may you decide to be friends, you do have to respect one another and give the other the opportunity to explain their side of the story. There are always two sides to a story and somewhere in the middle lies the truth. Again one may not agree with what is in fact true but they need to learn to accept it at least. Acceptance means to nix judgment and find the good within any situation. Just by having differences in beliefs or opinions opens the doorway for deep and insightful conversation between two people which may in fact help them learn more about one another and reach some sort of commonality along the way. I know this has happened to me many times.
Celebrating our differences helps to foster respect and open-mindedness for other cultures while uniting and educating us at the same time. Differences only divide when we do not not take the time to educate ourselves in learning about the differing viewpoints from our own. I am currently doing this by reading such books as How to Be An Anti-Racist by Dr. Ibram Kendi and Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man by Emmanuel Ocho to further educate myself on what blacks have had to encounter and endure for over 400 years. By gaining this knowledge I also gain a better perspective on things and can make actionable steps to do my part in being a much better and stronger ally for blacks so that injustice dies and social justice thrives. I have gained a much better perspective on things now than I ever did before and I embrace our differences, not shy away from them.
Differences should never divide us but unite us. We have the chance to turn this inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences into an ability. It just takes us to be aware of this and make the choice to do the right thing for the betterment of all mankind.
What does this quote mean to you and how can you apply today’s message towards becoming more socially aware?