Navigating the wrong kind of different

Photo by Maria Thalassinou on Unsplash

We are told, aren’t we, to celebrate diversity. Diverse and different. People who look different, think different, love different. Celebrate, exchange views, learn, live, grow.

But how much do we really value difference? Difference which challenges our perceptions. Difference that makes us stop in our tracks and re-evaluate. Difference that doesn’t conform.

What do we do when the difference we are confronted with, forces us to learn uncomfortable truths about ourselves. We like to tell ourselves that the problem is ‘other people’, the problem is their intolerances, your intolerances, because it can help us to avoid confronting our own.

There are differences that are acceptable and differences that are easier to challenge. If my difference impacts your rights, it can become a struggle. An existential struggle at times. We welcome difference. We welcome diversity, until it becomes too different. Too challenging.

Your difference is conditional on my perceptions. We can be different, but only in so far as it leaves me to feel morally superior. So that we don’t upset the status quo, whatever that looks like. The problem is the other people who don’t ‘get it’, it’s never me. It’s always a lesson for other people.

I am a racist. I am a homophobe. I am transphobic. I am a misandrist. I have capacity for prejudice. It’s not something I want to say and I say it with shame. But unless I acknowledge and endeavour to learn about the prejudices I have, I cannot change them. I cannot say ‘I have this right and I can tell you how to do this’, because it is a constant journey.

Difference doesn’t mean only acknowledging the easy things. It isn’t easy to say I need to learn, appreciate and understand people who are different. It isn’t easy to hold up my hands and say, this is MY work to do, to confront and learn about difference, it’s not YOUR job. But it’s a truth.

Because I can only change myself and my own perceptions. And there’s a lot of changing that needs to be done.



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