Other Does Not Mean Less

Hands

I keep coming back, in my mind, to the truck found just past the Austrian border full of corpses of refugees. I can’t stop thinking about those people, trying to get somewhere safer, better for them and their families. And I can’t stop thinking about the people who drove that truck, who abandoned those corpses, who caused the deaths of those people.

It seems clear to me that the people driving that truck, and all the others involved in setting up that operation, do not see these refugees as people. They see dollar signs. They see lesser organisms. They see something that does not deserve care and respect.

Not to overstate something, but I believe this is one of the greatest challenges we face in our world today.

The human ability to see other as less.

It is this ability that has resulted in students of color receiving substandard education. It is this ability that has caused students who are transgender or gay to be bullied by peers and authorities. It is this ability that has left so many men, women, and children of color dead at the hands of police. It is this ability that allows presidential candidates to speak about immigrants with such disdain and not pay any political price for it. It is this ability that means children and women are trafficked into slavery all over the world.

Seeing other as less can be seen in small ways or huge ones. But the basic belief is the same, someone who is different from me is less than me. That’s a slippery slope.

We need to look at people and in the midst of seeing the ways they are other, find the ways we are the same. We need to look at people and celebrate the ways they are other, learn from them rather than look down on them.

I firmly believe I can help my kindergartners do this. I’m certain I help my daughters do it everyday. I work hard to do it myself. But, to be painfully honest, I don’t know how to do much more than that.

I’ve gotten much better at speaking up when someone says something demeaning or hurtful about our students or their families. I don’t think I do it right though. I think I need to speak up in a way that helps make connections between the person speaking and the one spoken of. I don’t want the person to simply stop saying such things because they realize they are offensive to others. I want them to stop saying such things because they realize how wrong it is to view others as less than themselves.

We need to be able to hold a mirror up to ourselves and see each other.

Image from lostintheredwoods' flickr stream

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