As a male with olive skin, brown eyes, and black hair, people can’t exactly tell what my race is just by looking at me.
As a result, people often assume that I share the race of those I am with.
For example, if I am out with my uncle, who is Caucasian, people assume I am his son and will talk to us as father and son. However, if I am with my Puerto Rican and Dominican friends, people assume I am Hispanic or Latin American and will speak to me in Spanish.
Lastly, if I am at the local gym playing basketball, people assume I am either Black or mixed-race (Black and White).
Some of you may be wondering to yourself, “What the heck is he if he’s not White, Black, mixed-race, or Latino?” I’ll save you the guessing game and tell you that I am Moroccan. But to those who don’t know me and have not interacted with many Moroccans in their lifetime, I am racially ambiguous.
As a result of my racial ambiguity and peoples’ tendency to assume that I share the race of those I am with, I am privy to interactions that most “outsiders” are not.
Those who believe I share their race talk openly around me, which gives me great insight into different racial groups’ unfiltered opinions and beliefs.
With the knowledge and perspective that I have gained from a lifetime of unfiltered interactions and experiences with people of a wide variety of racial and cultural backgrounds, I hope to offer some perspective on how we may be able to bridge the divide that currently exists within our country.
America is Divided
According to a recent Gallup poll, a record 77% of Americans believe our country is divided.
There are many factors that have contributed to this result. The killing of unarmed African American boys and men by police, NFL players kneeling in protest during the National Anthem, the Charlottesville attack, as well as Donald Trump’s election, policies, and hate-filled rhetoric are just a few of the more divisive topics of discussion in our society today.
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Bridging the Divide
The United States is one of the more diverse countries in the world. As a result, differences in opinions and beliefs are inevitable. Just because we have differing views, however, doesn’t mean that we have to be divided.
In order to bridge the divide that currently exists in our country we must:
1. Find Common Ground –
If we can find common ground (i.e., shared interests, beliefs, experiences, etc.) a relationship can be developed. If a relationship exists, we will respect one another. And if we respect one another, we will have developed a foundation for which we can agree to disagree and maybe even learn from one another.
2. Develop Frustration Tolerance –
Much of the divide that currently exists in our country is a product of low frustration tolerance. We live in an age where people get frustrated and upset whenever someone disagrees with them. Although this is a natural human response, there is something we can do about it.
If we can learn to manage our impulse to react to statements we disagree with and respect the fact that people have differing worldviews, we may be able to start a dialogue that leads to some insight and knowledge for all parties involved.
As the old adage goes, if you want to be heard, you must first learn to listen. And if you’re going to listen, you have to learn to manage the emotions that come with having difficult conversations.
3. Identify Goals –
Is your goal to vent your frustrations, enlighten someone with a differing view, or learn from someone who holds a different perspective?
If we enter a conversation without first identifying what we would like to accomplish in that conversation, we run the risk of not only falling short of attaining our goals but potentially doing more harm and contributing to further divide.
Taking a moment to step back and identify what you would like to accomplish in an interaction can help you better manage your emotions, which in turn improves your chances of attaining your goals, whatever they may be.
4. Is Your Approach Working? –
Once a goal is identified, we must reflect on whether or not our approach is working. If you find that you’re consistently falling short of attaining your goal, it may be time to consider a new strategy.
As Albert Einstein once noted, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
5. Continue the Conversation –
As is the case with any difficult topic of discussions, like the “sex talk” or the “drug talk,” you can’t just have the conversation once and expect things to work themselves out. You must continue the conversation when opportunities present themselves instead of attempting to settle everything in one sitting.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
As an individual that has taken the time to engage with and learn from a wide variety of people from a wide variety of backgrounds, I can honestly say that we are more alike than we are different. At the end of the day, we all just want to either improve or sustain our current standing. Ironically, the only way to improve our current standing as a country is to find common ground and build on it.
The question is, will we take the time to challenge our preconceived notions of others and their opinions, or will we fall victim to our ignorant biases and emotions and ruin the opportunity we have to learn and grow together?