The (White) Elephant In The Room

This is not going to be comfortable.

Let’s get the unpleasantness and formality out of the way up front. I would prefer to be transparent whenever possible. I’ve set this as my own true north on this blog. It is important to me that I write from a place of authenticity.

We don’t grow or improve from a place of comfort. So some odd feelings are not necessarily bad. I will assume that we are both adults. We eat our vegetables, allow needles to pierce our skin for bloodwork or shots, and generally set our jaws at the sort of things that we have to do as grown-ups.

You don’t have to like it – you just have to do it.

So I – a cisgender male, straight, white, Christian-raised, United States Air Force veteran and red-blooded American would like to talk about the (white) elephant in the room.

Diversity, inclusion, and how that will bring about the fall of Western civilization.

(Except it won’t.)

I’m tipping my hand. I think that diversity and inclusion is good for everyone – even the people who have most benefited from the status quo. But I will make a commitment to you now and repeat it at the end of this post. I am willing to listen to any exchange of ideas that allows for dissent and disagreement while still respecting the alternative.

You don’t have to agree with my perspective. And, in fact, I’m really writing to those of you who don’t agree with me. Because it’s not important that I talk to people who share my world view.

I need to talk to (and listen to) those people who don’t share my perspective on this big rock. Things won’t get better if I only am interested in voices which echo my own. I love this nation too much to let things continue as they are.

So I hope that you, my dear readers, might be willing to help me talk to someone with a different opinion.

I can see how it would be easy to feel like the movement towards diversity and inclusion threatens my place in society. If other people want more, than it stands to reason that I will have less. That is how an economy works.

But why should freedom be a zero-sum game? Is it necessary for me to succeed only at another’s failure? I don’t think that what America represents. I don’t think the very deliberately enshrined American ideals related to equality require a loser.

I am not threatened by anyone in the list below expecting (and demanding!) equality in our American society.

  • People of color
  • LGB individuals
  • People of other genders
  • People of other-than-Christian faiths – or no faith
  • People of different abilities (physical, mental, or social)
  • People of other philosophical or political beliefs
  • People of other national origins
  • People who are different than me in just about any fundamental way

I will make some biases clear. I am a military veteran. I am humbled by the demonstrated sense of duty of those who have gone before me (and, for that matter, those who have served since in ways that I was never called upon to deliver). I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies who threaten its protections. Those enemies might be foreign – or domestic.

I am comfortably certain that those who threaten violence against opposing perspectives – like the white supremacists who spurred violence in Charlottesville this past weekend – fall into that camp. Enemies of the Constitution. And thereby, enemies of our great nation. But I am not convinced that all enemies are created equal. I hold out a vestige of hope that there are those on the other side of this divide who believe they are operating from a place of defense. Of survival. Of righteousness.

I think (sadly) that there will always be those willing to profit from the hate or fear around them. Sadly, we have some bottom-feeders in our humanity. But I hold out hope that those words do not describe everyone on the other side of our current conflict. It is those members of the other side of the fight – those who act from a place of good intent in their defense of their own way of life and belief in their culture – to whom I hope I am reaching.

I make this pledge once again. If we hold different beliefs, I will listen to you. I would like to talk to you – in any way that makes sense.

If you are reading this but know someone who I hope that I am reaching, please pass this along. It is an offer, with no risk at all to those with opposing beliefs. Words can’t hurt us, can they?

I will listen to you. I want to understand your perspective. And by talking, I hope to build a connection between two people with seemingly incompatible beliefs. Because I think that our American ideals are stronger than any hate-centric perspective. I believe that diversity and inclusion has room for everyone underneath its banner – not just those with whom we comfortably identify. I believe that there is room under the banner of diversity and inclusion for all. Even us cisgender male, straight, white, Christian-raised, military veteran, red-blooded American folk.

By working together we will build a stronger America. And I think that a stronger America operating with a fundamental demonstration of equality is something that we can all agree is a better thing.

[Fine print: As I shared a few months ago, I believe that magic words can change the world. I will talk to anyone who is interested in building a stronger America. I hope that you will share my faith in the value of collaboration across different perspectives. Regardless, I want to talk to YOU – those with whom I disagree. By connecting, we will truly make America great.]

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5 Comments

Filed under Essays

5 responses to “The (White) Elephant In The Room

  1. Jessica Nieman

    amazing as always! Perfectly written

  2. Appreciate your courage and transparency.

  3. Erika

    Beautifully written

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