I was recently listening to an On Being discussion between Krista Tippett and Isabel Wilkerson, the author of Caste, a book we have read in our antiracism discussion group. Wilkerson was talking about the importance of those who are not in a subordinated caste needing to use their power, influence, and expertise to make a difference, to change the narrative about race in our culture.
So, here I am, returning to ponder the issue of racial equity once again. This blog is one of the areas where I have influence. Those of you who show up to read my posts have, consciously or not, been influenced by what I have chosen to share on this platform. Perhaps, like me, you have gained some expertise in this area through my reflections.
Today, I share these ponderings. First, Tippett and Wilkerson were using the language of “species” to all humans as a group. I’ve written previously about how we all belong to “one human race.” Yet, I’m now learning how the word “race” holds unconscious bias for us because of how we’ve been enculturated.
Reading or hearing of ourselves as a species is powerful because it catches us off guard. We’re not used to that term being applied to us. We think of species of animals, not humans—yet we are animals. Using this term helps us pause and reconsider the use of our language. As another example, one of the organizations for which I edit uses the phrase “the more-than-human world” to describe those creatures who share this planet but are not of the human species.
In the On Being episode, Wilkerson talked about an incident where a man who had been in a terrible car accident knocked on a nearby door to ask for help. The woman in the house called the police instead of 911, and when they arrived, the police shot the man who needed help instead of giving aid.
No member of our species should automatically be seen as our enemy—yet we do it all the time. We have been subconsciously trained to view some members of our species as friends and others as dangers. The only way that will change is through the same kind of repetitive messaging that taught us some people are enemies.
It will take the repetitive work of all of us to change these narratives. How can you spread this word? What power, influence, and expertise do you hold? Where can you help spread this message, personally, professionally, and socially?