Have you heard it yet? Have you heard someone talking about "those people" at the shelter? Have you heard someone concerned about how "those people" are going to "our" schools, meeting in "our" churches, and living in "our" community?
I have not heard it much, but I have heard it enough! I wonder if people who talk about "those people" have ever been in a situation to be considered one of "those people." What I mean is that when I hear someone talk about "those people," there is an unmistakable sense of in-grouping and out-grouping going on. "Those people" are out while the rest of us, the "normal people," are in.
Yes, I remember when in-grouping and out-grouping was popular - back in sixth grade I believe. The preps didn’t like the jocks who beat up the geeks, who had secret fantasies that the cheerleader would go for them because they were helpful with algebra. Yes, I remember those days – with horror. I did my best to get past that as fast as I could. Why? Because all too often I was one of "those people." But even more than that, I knew somewhere deep down that it was wrong. It was not wrong because I suffered; it was wrong because it was wrong.
I wish I could say that we have all grown out of this childish cliquing of people, but we have not. Skin color, religious denomination, income, political leanings, Cowboy or Titan, "Less Filling" or "Tastes Great" and any other kind of difference seems to be a reason to in-group people based on similarities and out-group based on differences. It is like Protestantism has run amuck, desperate for anything to protest against in any and every facet of life. What is so often spoken of as benevolent and corrective is really an attempt at social cloning.
I believe the word, "diversity," has been overplayed by many as a tool to have a blank check on social experimentation, but I also think that the people who cringe at the word have an unhealthy addiction to homogeneity – things just like them. It’s like my great-great grandmother said: "If you’re not Norwegian, you’re not nothing" (Please don’t try to figure out how a guy named, Gonzalez, has a Norwegian great-great grandmother. Seriously, let it go or you’ll hurt yourself).
Did you know her bias was against those terrible Germans? Forget African-Americans and Latinos, she was bigoted against those Germans. Oh, and let’s not even say the word, "Lutheran," because we all know how horrible they are.
It sounds whack to hear a Norwegian dissin’ on a German. Some people might even ask, "what’s the difference?" And yet, even in that question there is a clue into the American zeitgeist. What does it matter if there is a difference? It is as if sameness is a commodity to be protected, preserved, and perpetuated and diversity is to be isolated, segregated, or even extinguished. Is being different really a reason to chop up communities of people into groups of clones who can backslap each other and affirm their own similarities? Is it so necessary to alienate a group of "those people" such that we can then take some comfort so as to say to ourselves, "At least I am not like them"?
Ever wonder what a soul looks like? Do you think souls have a race or a socioeconomic level? Or is there more depth to a soul than race, money, and favorite football teams? I wonder if we could only see the soul of a person what we might think of them. Perhaps everyone would be considered beautiful if we could really see people that way. I wonder if we were to look at the internal beauty of all people, would it reveal the necessity of their external differences toward creating the beautiful mosaic of human community?
Toward this end, there is none of "those people." There is only us.