Embracing differences

Danielle Zukowski

Intergroup events are on the rise on campus and across the U.S. to create a sense of unity across communities. When striving toward inclusivity, groups aim to band together despite differences. In attempts to create a connection, we may try to find similarities in those who deviate from our own backgrounds.

We may realize the mutuality of many feelings, experiences, and biological aspects that combine in definition of what it is to be human. Recognition of similarities can be a beneficial place to start cultivating familiarity, however, it is important to not simply set aside differences.

Often, I believe, that allies can fall into the trap of erasure by dismissing differences. Our similarities are likely to take a landslide over our differences. Our humanity may be enough to blind us to the differences that create a life when facing diversity, but despite differences being relatively small, they still remain significant.

Although, it is essential to begin with humanization to reach a level of connectivity, we sometimes become too convinced that we are the same as others. For example, in learning about religion, it is natural to make comparisons to one’s own religion, however, it becomes discriminatory when one assumes a deity from another religion is simply that of your own. This concept of erasure can actually cause intrusiveness as opposed to alliance.

Embracing the value of differences is important so that we do not assume what others lives are like. Although, we can sympathize or imagine, we can not empathize. We are different and it is important to remember this as we interact with other groups. Participation should not aim to replace the voices of members of the group, but instead learn about their beliefs, values, and experiences.
In order for full acceptance of diversity, differences should be vocalized first hand and consumed by the ears of those who desire to learn.

When participating in dialogue or service for differing groups than one’s own, students and others should be both mindful and respectful. Through becoming educated and building awareness, we are learning to politely become involved within another group.
Interaction should not be approached with ideas of heroism or rescue. Corruption of intentions in inter-involvement reduces the value of the interaction in the first place. For this reason, it’s important to remove assumptions of knowledge about a group as opposed to removing differences.Taking a step back and beginning with observation may remedy the issue of becoming overpowering.
As many become involved in trying to support groups at Standing Rock and other sociopolitical issues outside of our own groups, it is important to remain at the supporting level. Outside participants are often welcome and embraced to unite against injustices, however alliance does not remove privileges. One must remember differences and embrace those differences.

An ally should not participate in erasure–the exact thing they aim to fight against. Instead, an ally should respect the group by simply being there for them. No matter the group or event, it is important to remember you are participating as a guest.