Waking up this morning was simply another day for me. I woke up in a house with running water, food to eat, and I was safe in the knowledge that the most fearful part of my day would be changing diapers. As I comforted my twins, both are quite ill, this morning my mind does as it is often wont to do, wanders. My thoughts over the past few days have ranged from anger, disappointment, hopefulness, and much more. I have watched my social media pages abound with friends who are terrified of what may happen to them in the incoming Presidential Administration.
I have also watched first hand as friends and family belittle and dismiss those fears as "whining" about losing an election. Worse I have seen media figures and pundits alike attempt to explain how Donald Trump won the election, with some on either side of the political spectrum casually disparaging or outright insulting anyone who disagrees with them. My background from a former life is as an Intelligence Analyst, so my brain has been literally on fire as I try to make sense of all that happens and I am still attempting to gather data.
I am a white male and thus often feel as though I am an outsider in my homeland. I have felt this way for most of my life, never quite fitting in with the norm since I can remember. I am bombarded daily with various snippets of sound or images that leave me feeling even more lost within myself. Images such as a banner on a news site claiming "White men are responsible for 90 of reported rapes" or a commentary from a non-white individual about how "White people are all racists and want to oppress others." I recognize these as hyperbolic generalizations used to grab one's attention to the actual questions asked by the commentators.
It can be hard to see that because of factors that I had no choice over how I to bear some responsibility for the actions of others who look similar to me. I will not say that I do not have racist thoughts or sometimes make judgments based on factors that are rooted in a visible or perceived difference from me. Even among people who look like me, I feel as though I don't belong so what does that mean?
Do I deserve to feel the guilt and shame cast upon me by people who bear the same skin color as I do, even though I don't feel like a part of most of them? A term I have found very useful in attempting to understand myself and how I fit into the world that doesn't ever quite seem to fit me is cognitive dissonance. This cognitive dissonance is what appears to place me at odds with the world around me and other individuals in it.
Human beings are social animals, and it is here that the basis of our shared responsibilities to each other begin. Oppression of one group humanity will have secondary and tertiary effects upon the larger population as it ripples outward. So racial injustice or social inequalities to what we as human beings need to thrive and prosper affects all of us eventually. One of the strongest impulses of humanity is to secure resources designed to ensure the survival of our progeny, biologically we reproduce and then strive to acquire what they need to grow and do the same.
Thus it is the social constructs that we create to share on a larger scale than simply a single family unit, that we find our greatest source of conflict as human beings. This drive for resources impels us to act in our most primitive natures as selfish or at least in obvious self-interest above others around us. Human society as it grew into larger and larger groups saw the need for a common foundation for sharing resources and roles within the community.
As these societies grew and expanded into a size large enough to have to go further and further afield for securing what it needed to survive. Human beings came into contact with other humans who were the same biologically yet seems very different; barriers such as language, cultural norms, and other structures made understanding and acceptance nigh impossible. This led to the actualization our impulse to fear anything that is different or unknown as a threat to our survival thus provoking an aggressive response.
There is a biological root to our divisive nature yet we fail often to see that ultimately we are all biologically the same. Even socially there are commonalities to be found such as the need for protection of children. So why does racism occur? How does it negatively affect society as a whole especially the group that is the oppressor? It can be distilled into a simple concept that conflict without benefit to the whole of society, drains needed resources and energies that could be used to better all into entrenching and attempting to over come barriers that are created by that conflict.
This process can be applied to just about any human conflict and you will see a similar result. Conflict over resources or the power to secure and maintain those resources at the expense of an other group hurts the whole of society due to wasted resources and efforts better applied elsewhere. So how does this deal with our current social anxiety within the United States due to the election of Donald Trump? This event and my explanation of how to understand the base issues gives us a plan to go forward.
Do not allow yourselves to be divided into tribal or sub-groupings, understand that what effects others will eventually affect you. Seek knowledge of differing points of view especially those in oppositions to yours. Critically assess those differences with an understanding of your own biases. Confront and overcome those biases and do not accept them from others either. What we can accomplish as a species is nothing short of amazing when we get beyond those barriers that we have created for each other. This is what I will fight for daily and what I shall teach my children.