Thursday , January 04, 2018 - 4:00 AM
Are you willing to have a conversation with a stranger? Are you willing to talk to someone with different political, religious and/or economic views than your own? If you are willing to take this big step, are you willing to listen, really listen, to what they have to say? Are you open to learning about and understanding the experiences of strangers, which helped them arrive at their beliefs? Are you willing to consider how different identities may result in different experiences — many, if not most — based on the virtue of birth into a particular body, gender, ethnicity and economic situation?
Perhaps we must start slower. Are you willing to have a conversation with yourself? Are you willing to examine your own political, religious and economic views and how they have been constructed over time? Are you willing to really be honest with yourself about how you got to where you are today? Are you open to considering that the opportunities or obstacles you face may not be the same as those experienced by someone else? Are you willing to examine the impact on your life that your birth has given you based on your body, gender, ethnicity and economic situation?
These questions require deep thought, reflection and honesty. They are often painful to consider. Sometimes they show us the things we seek to hide deep down inside. These questions are critical in helping us understand how we operate in the world. Once we have completed that self-examination, we can consider someone else’s experiences. What would stop someone from having a life like the one you live? If you notice that someone else could not have what you have, would it be because of choices, circumstances or identities? Would it be a combination of these things? Would systems or institutions treat them differently than they have treated you?
I am reminded regularly that the experiences I have are shaped not only by my thoughts and efforts, but also by my opportunities and ability to leverage them. They are shaped by the people I encounter and their willingness to support or challenge me — for better or for worse. My experiences and outcomes are framed not only by those opportunities, but also, in many ways, by the obstacles I have experienced and my responses to them. Reflecting on these things tempers how I see, understand and work with those around me. It reminds me I also have opportunities to open and close doors for others. It causes me to pause and ask myself what I am willing to do for others.
To this end, as you attempt this self-examination, be patient with yourself and what you will begin to see and understand. Then consider how someone else might understand your experiences. The world looks different when examined through different lenses.
Finally, remember — of the limited things we each have control of, our integrity will show and tell the world the difference between who we say we are, what we say we believe in and our actions. If you are willing to do this work — if we are all willing to do this work — 2018 will look and be dramatically different than the years before it.
Adrienne G. Andrews is the assistant vice president for diversity at Weber State University. Twitter: @AdieAndrewsCDO
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