I was born into this culture. Into this setting and all my surroundings surrounding me. I'm a product and a processor. I cannot change where I'm from. I can deny who I am but that doesn't seem to help much. I can wish to be someone else, but then what of those who do identify as I do? What of the white male who cannot relate to the portrayals of ignorance, belligerence, and excessive hatred on a daily level?
It is true that I am often uncomfortable with who I am because of who I seem to represent to so many in this world. Still I cannot paste a new identity on who I am. I cannot become someone that I am not. I can love others and try and speak for others, but I have learned that it is much more powerful to learn to empower others to speak for themselves. We can all only relate our own experiences to those around us. Even the second- and third-degree stories we share our filtered through our own lived experiences. To say that you know the feeling of sexual assault because you witnessed the effects it had on your cousin is to lie to yourself and your listeners. You may have a more complete picture, however you cannot fully understand the impact unless you have lived it yourself. Even then, everyone's individual experience is different for a number of different factors, including environmental, emotional, mental, physical, cultural, level of ability, etc.
So, although it pains me to have to paint on others, I have to speak my truth. Please do not tell me that there is no such thing as an individual truth; that is just a misinterpretation of reality. I am not above reproach, however I have had a long time to think critically about not only my views and opinions, but those of others as well. I am confident that I do not have it all together. To put it another way, I am confident that my points of view and perspectives are fickle and fluttering. Nevertheless, I am tired of being (sometimes) slowly shoved into a box.
I recognize that the boxing is nothing new for minorities and many people who do not look like me or think like me. I know that I am not the only one who gets filtered into a container that doesn't fit my way of life. There are generations of groups of people who have spent lifetimes and even given their lives in attempts to break even one side of their societal box. I believe that as this world continues to diversify, as it is only doing more and more, we will all have to increasingly learn how to make room for the unique, the abnormal, and the unfamiliar. Most, if not all, people have had moments where they were assumed to think, act, or be a certain way based upon broad generalization. This feeling can be hurtful, and I'll admit that sometimes I have often been the painter of these broad strokes. However, I am asking that when the words I say, the comments that I make, or the jokes that I allow to fill the silence are interpreted as walls being built around who you are as fellow human being, please gracefully offer me correction.
I can be ignorant, I can be hurtful, and I can be insensitive. However, if I am not taught in a manner that doesn't widen my wounds, I may never learn. Meanwhile, I will try to remember that discipline is painful today, but the scars that it produces prevent deeper wounds in the future. World, let's practice grace, mercy and forgiveness, all the while not forgetting to be open to teaching as well. Love is in the air if you will just pollinate it in season.