By Tim Hjersted
Aug 30, 2016
One of the things I've been reflecting on a lot lately is the importance of holding simultaneous realities in our hearts and awareness at the same time. When it comes to ending the violence and divisions of racism, nationalism, and other historical conflicts, I see many messages that put the emphasis on our underlying unity, and I see many messages that put emphasis on the differences and inequality of our society. In essence, that second message is that the justice and injustice in our society is not equally shared among all people in the world. What I do not see that often is a message that puts emphasis on both sides at once.
Basically, one-half of the message stresses our unity, how we are all one human family, and how race is a social construct. But the other half stresses that, although the concept of race is an illusion created and maintained by our society, the legacy of that illusion still perpetuates injustice, inequality, and exploitation in our politics, economics, and cultural relationships.
We're all one family, but some parts of our family are exploited and abused more than others because of this legacy of racism and sexism and the like. We're all one (and that's what we need to realize) but we also need to realize that our oppressions are different and our efforts to create a better world require us to see those differences so that we can address those specific problems.
These are the two realities that need to be held at the same time.
The idea that 'none of us are free until all of us are free' is a statement of unity and solidarity. It's the idea that I cannot be free until you are free, and you cannot be free until I'm free. That the two are the same.
I resonate with that idea because I feel like it also contains the knowledge that the problems you face are not the problems I may face (difference), but that solving your problems is solving my problem. That your happiness is my happiness (unity).
Too often, because our society is so used to dualistic thinking, if something is one way, it cannot also be another way. That if we're all one, we aren't also separate. Or that if we're all separated by race, sex, class, religion, etc, we can't also be one.
I see problems arise when we ignore one side and only see the other.
And right now in our society, I think both sides need to be emphasized. We need to see our unity, but we also need to see our differences.
It may also mean correcting a misunderstanding about unity. Unity doesn't mean sameness. It doesn't mean we should ignore or try not to see our differences. Unity is about oneness existing within difference.
It's about seeing our diversity and differences and celebrating the differences that we cherish. We can celebrate some of the labels we have. There is pride in celebrating our heritage and culture.
But we've also got to keep an eye on the differences which divide and create injustice - patriarchy, colonialism, white supremacy, and nationalism are 4 social diseases that have to be addressed.
For me, when I see that we're all family, it is easy to see the differences in my family and the injustice that afflicts some more than others.