In the last post, I briefly mentioned that connection means to join, providing access and communication, including a link to supply. I then went on to describe a way in which I broke my connection to humanity and began to diminish the humanity of those around me. I ended the post with an exhortation towards maintaining connection through an awareness that though I may have legal or ethical rights, my exercise of those rights affects others. I must grow an awareness of how my life and actions constructs or dismantles barriers to connection.
As we look at the deeply rooted systemic discrimination, I’ve seen two common responses. Denial is a strong response. Simply put, when presented with the systemic lack of connection, I’ve seen a tendency to deny the problem. Sometimes denial twists statistics to begin talking about something else that seems related, but actually isn’t. Sometimes it’s shows up as discrediting the witness. Another common response I’ve seen is sheer overwhelm and dejection. “It’s so bad, where is the hope? Just shut up and hope you don’t walk on someone.” Both viewpoints put disastrous pressure on already weak connection.
So how do we build connection that actually dismantles discrimination and inequity?
Think back to the beginning of your most recent good dating relationship or quality new friendship. I’m thinking you probably didn’t start out the relationship by questioning everything they said, nor they you. In general, good intimate relationships or close friendships begin in a base respect or admiration for the other, almost a bit of awe for who and what that person brings to the world. You then begin to deepen the relationship by doing activities together and praising the other’s strengths. Slowly, this praise and connection creates a bond that can withstand some constructive criticism. What I’m describing is an attempt to honor who the other person is, and delight in what they bring to you and to the world.
Let’s take these skills and begin to use them with those to whom we’ve previously denied connection. Have we denied their experience? Where can we begin to wonder if what they are saying could be more poignant that we can yet understand? Alternatively, let’s find the places we have we thrown up our hands in utter dejection, bemoaning the state of affairs. This only further isolates those struggling under the weight the current systemic burden.
Let’s build connection by honoring the experience of the other, going out of our way to see the awe of who they are and what they have experienced (powerful, hard, and all the in between). Let’s build connection by being in proximity to and doing activities with those whose strengths we need to learn. Let praise and connection create strong bonds that can withstand constructive criticism. Join together, providing an avenue for access, communication, and connection to privelege. Grow an awareness of how your life and actions tears down or builds barriers against that connection.