A famous man says, “There are very few African-American men in this country [the USA] who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me. There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who have not had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had the chance to get off. That happens often.”

What’s his point? What is he trying to say?

There are different experiences between all sorts of people. Men and women, rich men and poor men, black men and white men, old men and young men, men of this religion and that religion, men of this ancestry and that ancestry, men of this country and that country, men with medical conditions and men without, men who had this sort of childhood and that sort, etc.

But of what value is it to define yourself by those differences? Of what value is it to set yourself apart from others? Of what value is it to say only certain people can relate to your experiences or your suffering? Do you think they entitle you to something special?

We cannot end racism, sexism, classism, ageism, whatever, by looking for the differences we experience and clinging to them as if they define us and set us apart from others. This will only divide us and perpetuate the problems. (This is the problem with things like affirmative action and feminism and dedicating months to celebrating the history of some special group. They perpetuate the divisions they claim to want to close by putting differences on a pedestal as if they’re something to be celebrated for their own sake.)

This isn’t to say that differences don’t exist, that we don’t experience difference sorts of hardships. Of course we do. But these differences are completely meaningless. (For that matter, it is self-righteous snobbery, and self-torture, to believe it’s any easier to be someone else.)

We all love, we all laugh, we all cry, blah blah blah, cue heartfelt piano music. When you truly care about your neighbor, you don’t look for your differences.


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