What we don’t see

There was a time in my life when I believed that everyone, at their core, was essentially Jamaican.

I probably wouldn’t have said it that way, but that’s what it boiled down to. Growing up in Jamaica, in the dominant majority culture, it was easy too think everyone had the same core beliefs and experiences, because everyone I met, and everyone who was respected, had those beliefs and experiences. So those things are just part off being human and deep down, everyone’s human, right?  So deep down everyone is like me.

The obvious problem was that for years I missed the ways that people were, deep down, not like me. It took me even longer to realize that their experience of the same world I lived in might be different from mine, even if we were right next to each other. I found myself able to rationalize away those experiences as isolated, unreal or unimportant. It turns out, that they were real. One of the major disadvantages of being a member of the majority or dominant is being blind to what others may see, and I was blind, and probably in some ways I still am.

The following headline and quote jumped out at me when I saw it.

Men are treating 2016 as as ‘normal’ election; women aren’t – Five Thirty Eight

To put this year’s gender split into a little more context: Trump’s 7-percentage-point lead among men is about how well George W. Bush did with men in 2000. If we had an average gender gap this year, we’d expect Clinton to carry women by between 5 and 10 points (given how men say they are going to vote). That kind of gap would result in a close race overall, which is exactly what the state of the economy suggests should be occurring.

Instead, Clinton is leading by about 6 or 7 percentage points nationally in the FiveThirtyEight polls-only forecast. Basically, the vote among men looks “normal”; the split among women does not. That is, the historically large gender gap this election is because women are disproportionately favoring one candidate (Clinton) — to an extent we wouldn’t expect them to in a normal election given the “fundamentals.”

It seems that women in this election overwhelmingly see something that says this isn’t just the regular battle between two less than ideal candidates. It also seems that whatever it is that women are seeing, as a group, men aren’t.

Unfortunately, this particular form of dominant culture blindness is not limited to the election. If you are a man reading this, you probably don’t think that women are saying proportionately less in meetings or classes than the men are. You probably think that their views are given equal weight as anyone else who is equally qualified. While stories and statistics say otherwise, it’s not something you’ve ever seen, so it probably doesn’t exist in your spaces.

While it is possible that your office, school, or community may be unusually woman friendly spaces, it is more likely that, as a member of the dominant group, you don’t see the ways in which those spaces aren’t women friendly. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it means you’re a human who happened to be born into the dominant culture.

What it does mean, is that when you hear a story like this one, when the non-dominant culture says something that doesn’t fit with our perception, it’s our responsibility, and our challenge to listen.

And to do something about it.

Photo Credit: paolo bosonin Flickr via Compfight cc


On loving those other people

At the time of writing this post. Mitt Romney has conceded and Obama is giving his victory speech. But as I look at CNN’s election results, it looks like the popular vote is going to go 50-50. This means that one out of every two people probably voted the opposite of the way you did, or the way that you would vote.

How many of those people do you know?

How many of those people would you call you friends?

Every four years I get really sad about how divided the United States can get, and how vitriolic we can get against the other. But I also realize that most of my close friends have pretty similar views to my own, and while I may not lean towards the vitriolic, I’m not a shining example of love either.

And at risk of sounding too much like a hippie, love is what it’s all about, particularly if you are a follower of Christ as I profess to be.

In Romans 12, the writer instructs us to not be conformed to the rest of the world, but instead to be transformed. Then he goes on to tell the following

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

It seems to me that if a mark of being transformed by Christ is the ability to love and to bless those who are persecuting you, and if Paul is writing this during a time when persecution involved hungry lions and whips, then what is a political disagreement.

It also seems to me that the “necessity” of hating one’s “enemy”, of considering those who disagree you as misinformed, stupid or malevolent is another way that we are captive to the brokenness of the world.

So here is my hope for myself and my hope for you. May we find ways in which we can love, rejoice and mourn with the approximately 50% of people who voted in a way that we consider inconceivable. Let us honor them above ourselves, bless them when they disagree with us, rejoice in their happiness and share in their grief.

Featured Image Credit:DonkeyHotey