You look at me and see differences
I lovingly look back at you and see similarities
We live in a very diverse world. According to James D. Fearon, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, there are more than 800 ethnic groups occupying our planet. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines an ethnic group as “a social group or category of the population that, in a larger society, is set apart and bound together by common ties of race, language, nationality, or culture.” There is, however, a marked difference between what is considered an ethnic group versus a racial group.
In the United States, the term race generally refers to a group of people who have in common some visible physical traits, such as skin color, hair texture, facial features, and eye formation”.15 In other parts of the world, race has been categorized according to geographical considerations. Using the geographical categorization model, we have an African race, a European race, an Australian race, and an Asian race. The term race has many definitions, typically based upon linguistic, cultural, religious, and nationalistic differences, and other differences as may be defined by the investigator.
Suffice it to say that it has been a very difficult task for scientists and scholars to isolate and define what constitutes a racial group. Noting the insignificance in the genetic makeup between human beings, today’s modern researchers have determined that the concept of race has no biological validity. Scholars now believe that race is primarily a social and cultural phenomenon.16 Their conclusion appears to be one in which they argue that the similarities between peoples are overwhelmingly more distinct than the differences.
The biggest problem with the efforts of researchers and scholars to classify and categorize races is that the process ultimately resulted in a set of beliefs that the visible physical differences of the various races are indicators that each race possesses distinct, inherent, and unalterable qualities. It was this mindset that eventually led to an ideology that the races are unequal. Further, it resulted in the establishment of laws and social institutions that penalized the races that were determined to be at the bottom of the totem pole. Many years after these categorizations were made, we still struggle with the aftermath. These subjective and self-serving observations have become so deep-rooted in our socio-economic, political, and cultural lives that we have become somewhat acclimated to the negative impact they have on our everyday lives.
Racism is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits, abilities, and character and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. In the United States, there is a relatively large segment of the population that subscribes to the theory that the white race is the superior one. I don't believe that the majority of Americans accept this as a truism. Nonetheless, it is without question problematic when a significant sector of a society sees itself as superior. Somehow, we must break the mentality of racial superiority.
When you consider the origin of mankind, there are two major yet supposedly antithetical beliefs-Darwinism (evolution) versus creationism. Whether you subscribe to one belief or the other, the bottom line is that we are all connected to the planet upon which we now reside. We are a product of Mother Earth. There are early eight billion of us occupying this planet. We are all connected to the planet and therefore connected to one another. We are nurtured by this planet. It is our home, the place where we rest when we are tired. It is also the place to which we return upon death. We all till the earth in search of sustenance. No matter what race or ethnicity you happen to be, we all procreate in the same manner. We all eat, digest and sustain ourselves with the fruits, plants, and meats of the planet. It is the nature of all Homo Sapiens to love and care for our offspring. We all feel pain, physically and emotionally. We all convey our thoughts through language. We all dream and aspire. I don't have enough paper or time to enumerate all of our similarities. However, the list of dissimilarities pales in comparison,
That your eyes are blue and mine are brown is irrelevant. It matters not whether your hair is straight and mine is curly. I could care less what color your skin is or the shape of your eyes or nose. I may not speak your language, but I love you in all languages. Whether you are Asian, European, African, American or Australian – you are my kindred. The point I am trying so desperately hard to make is that humanity is one big family with God as our father. As with any family, there are bound to be disagreements, quarrels, disputes, and occasionally issues that are handled by way of violence. Storge love (as described previously) is a love that typically emerges in most familial settings. It is rare to see violent behavior occur when Storge love is present. Storge love is a bond of affection that develops between family members and is a product of the closeness of those involved. Yet, throughout history, we have seen and read of situations involving violence between members of a family. When such violence occurs, the family members unite in an effort to put an end to the violence. Love pulls them together and enables the family to promote peace within. In order to promote peace in the human family, we need to do the same. We must recognize the importance of love and promulgate the notion that we are all children of God.
We are one great big family of eight billion people who struggle in our day to day interactions. We have so much difficulty identifying with or tolerating someone who differs from ourselves. We conjure up a plethora of reasons aimed at maintaining a safe distance between us. We get hung up on cultural differences and allow those differences to build unscalable walls between us. We need to embrace our differences. Take the time to get a better understanding of your neighbor who happens to possess cultural characteristics that are unlike yours. Don’t allow these racial, cultural, and ethnic differences to continue to burden the world we are bound to share.
According to the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist religious leader, humanity cannot survive without love, compassion, and tolerance. Hyman Bookbinder, famous lobbyist for Jewish causes, admonished Americans in 1966 of impending racial problems resulting in significant deterioration of our cities unless we can find ways to resolve the antagonism between black and white Americans. Dr. Billy Graham, when asked on a network news program what he believed was the number one problem in America quickly indicated that the racial division and strife in our country is a problem badly needing resolution.
Dr. Graham, the current Dalai Lama, and Hyman Bookbinder, in my opinion, are all absolutely correct in their assessments. The ugliness of racism is constantly rearing its deformed head and creating a huge burden upon our nation and our world, a burden that is being downplayed by those who wield power. Eventually, we will reap the dire consequences of the hatred, animosity, and fear we have sown over the course of time. We have time, but the clock is running short. We need to learn to love one another.
Rodney Glen King, victim of police brutality by the Los Angeles Police Department in March of 1991, asked the resonating question, “Why can’t we just learn to get along?” It seems like a simple enough question, doesn’t it? I’m not sure Rodney realized how profound his question really is. Given my time and space restrictions, I don’t believe I can adequately address this question. However, in keeping with the nature of the human animal, I’ll do what comes naturally – that is, try to present a condensed, simple, yet meaningful answer. The volume of thoughts flowing through my mind tells me this not going to be an easy goal to meet.
I think we all agree that it is the nature of most people to look out for “number one”. There’s really nothing wrong with that. Self-preservation is as instinctive as breathing. It’s a reflex. The problem begins when the need for self-preservation is no longer a reflex and is supplanted by the rationalization that people who differ from us automatically represent a threat to us. We then develop all sorts of schemes to eliminate or minimize this threat. We conjure up reasons to hate others. We invent intricate ways to destroy that threat to our security.
We can’t get along because we focus on our differences. Catholics despise protestants. Whites detest blacks. Blacks distrust whites. Arabs and Jews have been embattled for centuries. We spend far too much time and energy looking at our kinsman trying desperately hard to find the minute, insignificant differences in one another and then using these differences to assail each other. The most impactful thing we can do to change the world and improve human relationships is to change our beliefs about the nature of life, people, and reality to something more positive and begin to act accordingly.
To answer Rodney's question, we won't learn to get along until we learn how to love and to express that love from the deepest regions of our soul. How should we love? A remarkably good piece of advice on loving can be found in Hebrews 13:1-3, NIV, which tells us, "keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering."
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that love is the key to helping us get beyond the petty differences that we have allowed to interfere with our daily dealings with one another. Love facilitates compassion, empathy, peace, devotion, and tolerance – something the world most desperately needs now. When we love, we share our fortunes with others who are less fortunate. When we love, we are far less likely to harm our brethren. When we love, we become selfless beings, setting aside our selfish nature and working for the betterment of all mankind. When we love, we respect the sanctity of life and would never callously take the life of another. When we love, we are at peace with the universe and in touch with the Creator.