Making Space to Learn: Diversity

“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.

Posted in Deliberate Living, Diversity, Equity, Equality, Making Space, Mental Health, Parenting | Tagged , , ,

Be a Space Maker

Awhile back, I had to make a decision that was necessary, but heartbreaking – and left me with more time on my hands.  I needed to leave my professional position over a disagreement of approaches, but for me…and all who have fed my mind, body and spirit, I could not betray what I have been taught.

Fortunately, the extra time provides getting to a list of books I have been wanting to read…one of which is Parenting Forward: How to Raise Children with Justice, Mercy, and Kindness.Image

I’m an under liner.  In pencil.  I also have my own little code of using various numbers of stars and extra vertical lines in the margins, thicknesses of underlines, and when really impressive, I dog-ear the page.  There are very few pages in my copy of Parenting Forward that I haven’t illuminated.

I could write a review on each chapter, lifting up the crafted insights that could change your way of being in relationship with others, but you should read the book instead.

So here are a few points:

  1. This is a touted as a “progressive” Christian book…but as one raised Christian but not in the Evangelical/Conservative culture, much of the religious unlearning Brandt speaks to is unfamiliar to me.  However, the majority of her work is still relevant.  Her personal story of unlearning her assimilation is an important part of the thesis as it requires all readers to reflect on how American cultural and/or religious assimilation is incorporated into their life. (So even if you are not Christian or religious…you may get something out of this book.)
  2. Brandt gracefully opens up the idea we’ve been doing things wrong all along.  That by structuring society in ways that require conforming in order to survive and succeed, we are actually squeezing the life out of each other.  We have gotten so good at conforming, at convincing ourselves that this is the right thing to do, that we can’t even see when we are hurting ourselves, others and our children!  She demands, in a unoffensive way, that we wake-up and truly realize that this world doesn’t have to follow one prescription of how to think about things.
  3. As I was processing her words, I was also working on a resume of sorts and the concept of Space Maker came to mind.   Brandt asks us over and over again to make space for others…make space for others to be themselves, to learn about themselves, for us to learn about them, for them to explore the world – all without shame and with appropriate tools and guidance.  Our children need encouragement and safety nets, not a constant barrage of “do not enter” and “turn back” signs.

As Brandt highlights, I am still a work in process – and I take learning and relearning seriously.  I take big and tiny steps to allow my children to not only be themselves, but help them allow others to be themselves.  While we have our definite privileges, we also have a few of our own struggles too.  I just hope, that more often then not, I can work towards freeing my children’s creative souls than aligning them to mine, or the world’s, wishes.  And Parenting Forward, is the perfect resource to remind me how to be a Space Maker.


Posted in Deliberate Living, Parenting, Spirituality - Spiritual Journey | Tagged , , , , , ,