“Boys can be strong too.”
It’s what our young elementary aged daughter said as we reflected on her girls’ hockey team playing against a boys’ team. She has gotten the message that girls, women, should not and must not be limited by societal norms…but boys, men, should not be also.
She also knows that she could marry whomever she wants, but she likes boys. (She dreams of wearing a wedding dress….)
And she was very upset to learn that someone, anyone, would think that any of her classmates at her dual-immersion Spanish language school are less-smart, or less-capable just because of the color of their skin or what country their parents or ancestors came from.
“But (girl’s name) is really smart at math!”
I can expose my children to diversity, but I have been told – to various degrees – that any efforts of teaching my daughter, my children, about diversity/equality, whatever you want to name it, is pointless.
Pointless, because when I get the message “white, cis-gender, economically secure people need to do their own work”, but then as soon as we start doing our own work, our efforts are immediately suspect. That we are unable to get it, because, after all, we are protected by privilege. I get it. Why do we deserve any trust in doing anything right? But also, how are we supposed to change, be part of the solution, if we are not allowed to do our work?
I barely understand my own life, let alone someone else’s. So in order to embrace diversity, my strategy is to treat others as I would want to be treated. To focus on listening to the experiences of others, to hear their voices, to make spaces for different voices, to bring people to the table. This goes beyond just being around people who are different than me…but also reading their first-hand accounts, honoring their informed knowledge and opinions, and doing my best to incorporate their unique gifts into my life.
The only expert on autism, is the person who lives it everyday. The only person who has authority to speak on the ways society needs to do better at making space for those who are transgender, is the one who is transgender. The only one who can speak about being worried about driving black through a suburban mid-western town, is the one at the wheel.
So I ask questions. I watch. I listen. I risk looking stupid, being stupid. Because I am.
It’s like attempting to learn a new kind of math, with a mind that just can’t follow the numbers. I’m not ever going to fully get it – but is that the point?
I am in no way able to be someone else. I’m me. I barely get me…or my children…let alone be able to get you. But perhaps, I can be more aware of what you are going through. And then, hopefully, I can make changes in my own life that will honor your life, better.
I’m not perfect, can’t be perfect, but have to start somewhere.
So, if you don’t want to answer my questions, don’t want to sit at the same table as me, or let me know how I am screwing up – don’t.
But that isn’t going to stop me.
It isn’t pointless to want a world in which women are no longer conditioned to minimize themselves, where individuals have to hide their genders to fulfill their vocations, where students don’t graduate from high school because of undiagonsed learning issues, and where color of one’s skin and hair no-longer is an indicator of a person’s abilities.
I can only make small changes. But those changes, I hope, will add up in some way. No miracles, no revolutions. But maybe, at least not status quo.
Perhaps my children will be able to make bigger changes…or cause less destruction.
Either way, I’m trying. I’m engaged in the process of learning. On the journey.