Tonight, we attended a milestone birthday party honoring a very special person. She is a prominent member of several communities my family is involved with–school, work, parenting, and our children’s extracurricular activities. During her few words of thanks and acknowledgement, she talked of the village of people who surround her and the realization that she needs this village. I had always looked on her as a pillar of strength that I hope to emulate, so her words meant a great deal to me.
On the extremely short ride home and the subsequent hours afterwards, I kept thinking of what she had said. Since she was a person I greatly admire and deem as wise and worth heeding, I wanted to write something about the bits of wisdom I heard from her tonight.
In a different conversation with a different friend whom I also greatly admire and deem wise, we talked about diversity, inequality, and inclusion. We talked about the effects of not belonging, or at least feeling like one does not belong. The feeling of social ostracism has a way of affecting a person, for better and for worse. No, duh. Personally, it has spurred me towards more radical points-of-view, ideas that can be thought of as angry, militant, uncompromising. I am very much aware of this radicalization that is happening within my mindset. It doesn’t help that I had been given such labels when I wasn’t particularly, consciously, and purposefully radical and militant. But now I wonder, since I’ve been given these labels already, why not dive in? I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.
These two conversations have led me to contemplate on the nature of belonging. The first thought that came to my mind is how necessary the feeling of belonging is. Since most of our time and effort as adults are spent at the workplace, a healthy, thriving sense of belonging both within one’s profession and one’s place of work is very important.
In a sense, the notions of racism and privilege serve to mark who belongs and who doesn’t. We, as a civilized society, have successfully driven overt racism underground and made it unacceptable, so we must now contend with racism (and other discriminatory ideas and practices) of the more subtle, more sophisticated sort. Oftentimes the sophistication is actually unintentional ignorance. Sometimes, it’s willful ignorance. Regardless of intentions, the perpetuation of inequity is still exacerbated by ignorance, period.
And since even those of us who consider ourselves to be allies and champions for equity are also prone to the ignorance-laden occasional misstep, how can we continue to call and think of ourselves as belonging to the village of freedom fighters?
Good question. The answer: every little bit helps.
The party favor I took home tonight included a very nice glass bottle. It was inscribed with some timeless words from people who have done what they could in the name of freedom and justice.
Do your little bit of good where you are. It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. ~Desmond Tutu
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank
Part of the problem has always been recognizing bigotry when we see it. Spotting it is harder now than it was before. Spotting it within ourselves is the hardest task of all. Taking the necessary steps to spot them are incredible bits of good that are needed to overwhelm the world.
Fighting for equity, social justice, and inclusion is fighting for belonging. Fight on.