There is so much more that we do not see than we see. I mean the sighted and not the blind. I mean that the sighted can be the blindest of all.
The very process of education is a focusing exercise, learning what to see and what not to see. Among what many of us are taught not to see, especially if we are not members of the targeted groups, are the micro and macro aggressions known as gender and racial discrimination. They can seem minor if they are not happening to you, which is precisely why I want to share this short exercise in gaining consciousness of what is happening around you. After all, what is wrong with calling a woman "nasty" and why is it getting such a significant response? What if it is not a true quality of hers, but a way to silence her and shame her?
Many of us have no choice but to be the recipients of discrimination. Even Americans have become accustomed to stepping over bodies asleep in a public doorway without a second thought. I recently asked my female students, who are from all over thev world, how many of them have been sexually accosted on a metro. All hands in the room went up instantly and many explained how they had been taught to ignore these experiences as part of the “normal life” of a woman.
Are these experiences normal and should they be? For those women and men of conscience who choose differently, here is a simple path to follow to undo cultural blindness. It is a disease that can be cured. It can be replaced with understanding and empathy, which connects all genders and all ethnicities as part of the human race. Aren't we, after all, designed to evolve? We do not need caves to live in and violence to persuade. We need each other.
Here are the steps as simple as I can make them:
We are taught to see and not see, as I explain in detail in my recent book Signt Unseen: Gender and Race through Blind Eyes. The first step in confronting change is what I like to simply call "Noticing." See with Beginners Eyes what we are "educated" not to see, for example, the violence and suffering that we are taught to ignore or accept as normal life. Allow yourself notice.
In safe situations, talk about it and find others like yourself who are beginning to see. Tell someone, as in that childhood desire “to tell.” You need not be alone if you tell.
That very act of noticing and telling connects you to others through the human forcé of empathy. We need not be divided into made up categories like gender and race, socially constructed by the powerful to keep the rest of us divided. Dividing is for conquering and we need neither to be turned against each other or to live inside made up ideas like race and gender. We are all members of the human race. Is it possible to live together knowing each other rather than projecting the worst onto others?