In the last post, I talked about how we’ve traditionally let ourselves think that education provides us with all the answers. More realistically, it serves as a basis for asking better questions in the context of real-life encounters, and especially in relationship. Let’s dive a bit deeper into this important reality.
Stereotyping, overgeneralizing, and incomplete classifying occurs when there is observation but lack of relationship. It’s quite easy to come to inaccurate conclusions when reading a study, a book, or observing someone in passing. We see a behavior or attitude and assume it’s “what they all do.” White people are blind to their privelege and bias, and don’t know their own culture. Black individuals are direct and forthright. Asians are quiet and smart. The differently abled have so many needs. LGBTQ+ want to be able to publicly show their love. Each of these characteristics or realities have been garnered from something I’ve read, observed, or experienced in a specific setting. But the most important thing to remember about each of these statements is their incomplete nature. Each statement is a snapshot – one study, with a very narrow focus, an observation from a limited perspective, or experience gained from a specific context. This stereotyping, incomplete classifying and generalizing has long been a source of wounding in our society – brought about by the lack of proximity and relationship.
It’s very easy to dehumanize when there is no proximity or relationship. When I observe, read, and/or briefly encounter someone, my mind is wired to begin categorizing the details. This is a survival mechanism to help the brain react to important stimuli, and let the minutia be archived. With our brains always categorizing, it’s important to remember that relationship is the balancing factor. It isn’t until we’ve formed relationship with the person behind the details that we can begin to move past the dehumanization of seeing only details. In relationship, we begin “pinning” those details onto a realization of the whole person; persons who are surprisingly universal in happiness, sadness, hurt, fear, joy, and desire.
This dehumanization by overgeneralization is where our reconciliation efforts need to begin. Let’s soak up our education and devour our reading resources that point to the problems. Let’s use these tools to help us recognize sensitive areas. But let’s recognize that our education only points us in a better direction. Dehumanization ceases and reconciliation is built with the realization of our integration with the well-being of others, my well-being wrapped up in yours.
Reconciliation begins with an admission of the places we have fallen into uniformed bias, the places we have categorized instead of recognized the whole person behind the details. The beginnings of reconciliation occur when we look at how our simple observations have led us to believe we know more about a person than reality exposes. Reconciliation occurs when we become open to seeing how our understanding has been limited by lack of relationship.
Photo Credit: WOCIn Tech, https://nappy.co/WOCInTech
We are aware of the magnitude of this subject matter and the inadequate brevity of this post. For more, please reference our podcasts, our 1Community groups, or feel free to email us at Uniquelythesame@mission1race.org.
We also wish to address our inability to consider issues of sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse in our discussions on developing understanding and oneness. If you are in an abusive situation of any kind, we encourage you to seek professional and other help; and to realize that this content does not necessarily apply to your circumstances.