Lately, watching the news has been so depressing. I wished we lived in a more peaceful time where we could celebrate diversity rather than fight against it, and I fear for our future. Do you think it will ever change?
I am so happy that you asked me this question. I think it’s definitely past time for society to change its conceptual ideologies about diversity and culture. For too long, people have been viewed from the basic constructs of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. Incorrect judgements and stereotypes surrounded each of these constructs, and based on that, relationships, or the ability to build relationships, was impaired or completely destroyed. Opportunities were hindered and oppression became a common theme. I believe a large part of our society fell into this pit of degradation, and out of it grew the issues that we still see today. The worst part of it is that so many people today still refuse to see the problem and, furthermore, acknowledge the fact they are a part of it.
Nothing, however, will change until we all collectively decide that enough is enough, and we are going to find a new and better way to view our fellow humans. We aren’t born with these prejudices; we are taught to be this way. This preconditioning doesn’t even necessarily take place in the home; it takes place in society.
If we really want to learn how we should treat each other, we all need to sit and watch preschoolers play. I was a preschool teacher for 17 years. In all those years, I can honestly say I never taught a preschooler who saw their classmates as anything other than friends. Watch children on a playground — they can be complete strangers, but within minutes, they are laughing and playing together. Why can’t the world be more like that?
Several years ago, I had the honor of teaching a precious little boy named Isaac. Isaac was 3, but I will tell you, he probably taught me more about how to see your fellow human than anyone else. He was the most loving and tender soul. Isaac’s mom worked a job that was quite a distance away, and sometimes traffic caused her to be a bit late. This was totally OK with me, though, because it gave me the opportunity to sit and talk with him. One day while Isaac and I were waiting for his mom to arrive, I was reading him a story while he sat in my lap. He began touching the freckles on my arm. I thought he might be trying to count them (I have quite a few) because he would touch them one at a time. So I stopped reading and asked, “Isaac, are you counting my freckles?” His response brought me to tears; it was absolutely beautiful. He said, “Mrs. Kelly, I’m brown.” I said, “Yes.” With a huge smile, that covered his entire face, he then exclaimed, “You’re brown-spotted! You’re like me!”
Another time, Isaac and I were at my desk. I had flash cards and manipulatives out, and I was attempting to review numbers with him. He wasn’t interested in the numbers at all. Instead, he was gazing into my eyes. Normally, when young children would do that, it generally meant they were looking at their reflection because I have dark brown eyes. I asked Isaac, “Do you see yourself?” He said, “Mrs. Kelly, you have eyes exactly like mine!” Isaac always chose to see what relates us, rather than what divides us.
Why should we separate, or judge, based on what our Creator made us to be? I am a Christian, and as a Christ follower, I believe that God created each one of us perfect in His image. Look at the birds. God created them in many colors, sizes and shapes. Look at the fish, and you’ll observe the beauty in their diversity. What would it be like if we went to the Georgia Aquarium, and all of the fish looked the same? Each and every tank, filled with fish that were simply reflections of each other? To be honest, I don’t think the aquarium would stay open very long. We love seeing the diversity in size, shape and color of each fish we see. Why would it be different with people? We need to view each other in that same way, that what makes us beautiful is who we are: our attributes, our history, our culture, our traditions, our heritage and our beliefs.
As Mercer University students, we all major in changing the world. To do that, we must change the way that we view and judge our fellow humans in this world. Rather than discriminate, we must take the time to learn from people who are different from us. We do the human race a disservice when we deny ourselves the opportunity to discover and grow from each other. We have the ability to change the future, simply by reaching out, cultivating new friendships, embracing and learning from each other’s experiences, developing empathy and compassion for our fellow man, and laying down the stereotypes of the past.
I believe it is past time for a change, and each one of us has to choose to become personally responsible for how we treat others. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic wand that will change the hearts and minds of all humankind, so it begins with each of us. The way that we treat others will have a domino effect, and if we choose love over judgement, compassion over anger, acceptance over intolerance and peace over dissension, maybe the world will become that place that we have always hoped it could be.
Let’s be the change in the world that we hope to one day see.
As always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success on all of your future endeavors.
Do you have a question about Mercer or coping with school in these challenging times? Each week Kelly Browning, an early childhood education/special education major and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at email@example.com or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.