I had an interesting revelation today thanks to my boss. My new job has opened my eyes to many things, not the least of which is how sheltered a life I was raised in. I don’t necessarily mean a life sheltered from all experience like a creeper, although there were some aspects of my childhood that made me feel like I was that kind of sheltered. I mean more that the places I’ve grown up, the schools I’ve been to, have all been very sheltered environments from real issues in the world. No matter how much I think I understand the issues of racism, homosexuality, and any other big social issue of our time, I was not brought up in social situations where these issues really existed at all. Religion was an issue, but only because 1) my mother made it an issue in every conversation we ever had, and 2) she put in Catholic school, which was not completely full of Catholics. Even so, the non-Catholic portion of the population was certainly the minority (no pun intended).
Because of this very closed view on such issues, I’ve tried to take the most tolerant stance I could think of. I’ve developed the outlook that intolerance exist because it is acknowledged. The more you acknowledge the color of one’s skin, or their religious or sexual orientation, the more of an issue it becomes. If you don’t acknowledge someone’s differences, especially when those differences can cause a negative stereotype to some people, than the issue of those differences goes away. Quite a naive outlook, I’m sure, when written out, but in my mind this was a very tolerant and equal way of thinking. My motto in these situations would be, “I don’t care what color you are, what person you like to sleep with, what god you think is in the sky. I’m going to treat you as I expect to be treated, equally, fairly, and according to my actions alone.”
Unbeknownst to me, being the inexperienced child I still am, I did not really consider how this kind of view could be seen negatively. My view has always caused me to be baffled by the idea of political correctness, especially regarding diversity in the workplace. I always felt that diversity is forced, it always has to be questioned and adjusted so there’s a little bit of everyone just in case someone might get offended if their particular *insert representative trait here* isn’t represented alongside the rest of the population. I actually couldn’t have been more wrong.
I can’t really say that my boss’s view has changed my own, simply because I haven’t had the time to see if it will impact me for the long term. Her view was simply this: For people of color (not just black people, but all non-Caucasians), women, homosexuals, etc., it is an issue no matter what they do. For someone like me, a basic Caucasian, it is easy to ignore or shoo away the issue because for me it isn’t an issue at all. To ignore another’s differences may put them on an equal plane in your mind, but from their perspective it is disrespectful to ignore the obvious. You don’t have to make it an issue, but you also don’t want to dismiss those attributes as if they don’t exist at all. It is not as if they want to make it an issue or force you to think about it, but when it is such an issue in their daily lives, you don’t want to act like it isn’t that big of a deal, especially when some of these people have grown up struggling to simply be accepted for what they are.
I never considered how making differences an non-issue could be misconstrued in this way. I have great respect for my boss, so to say something I thought was so tolerant and have it upset her in this kind of way bothered me quite a bit. Again, I can’t say I’m going to change my whole outlook because of this discussion I had with her, but it certainly will help me change the way I address the issue in front of others. I still think that, in the future, dismissing our differences as nothing to worry about would be ideal. I mean no disrespect to history and the struggles people have had to go through to get stubborn idiots to treat them as equals, as they deserve to be treated. I do believe, however, that when things like sex, sexual orientation, color, religion, etc. are not focused on, either in a positive or negative light, then the world will become a more peaceful place. As I’ve tried to explain through my discussions on religion, if people would just accept that humans are all different and stop making our differences something to argue about, especially those differences which people can’t help, acceptance and tolerance would be the norm. But again, alas, human nature is prone to find something to argue about. The only thing we can do is lessen the anger and catch ourselves when we fall into judgment as best as we can.