I live with 3 really close friends who are instantly judged based on their appearance, and have wild stereotypes made about them every day of their lives. Let me introduce you to them.
Basil has Egyptian heritage, is tall, loud, ginger and can drink like a fish! He enjoys long distance running.
People are intimidated by his size, and often don't approach because they hold assumptions that he's going to be aggressive.
Caesar is his best mate. He's English, black, has thin grey hair, is unassuming, gay, and super lean despite eating anything that's put in front of him.
People often comment on his weight, and assume he must have something wrong with him. Same with his sexual preferences. People find it awkward and don't really want to talk about it (at least not directly in his company). Some people avoid him for this reason because they think he going to try his luck with any and every other male he comes across.
Finally meet the lady of the group, Mini. She's Mexican, feisty and has a huge presence despite being physically small.
People assume she must hate the British winters (she doesn't) and because she talks a lot they assume she's going to be instantly friendly with everyone, but she's actually pretty shy.
When people see this group out together they stare. They look odd and like they shouldn't be mates. They find it unusual, uncommon and instantly start to question the relationship.
"And they all get on ok?"
"I had an Egyptian friend once - he was so stubborn!"
"Oh your best friend is gay? Don't you find that strange?"
But despite the difference in their gender, age, colour, size, backgrounds and sexuality the 3 of them accept each other fully.
Sure they had to learn to live together, but quickly established boundaries and norms. They simply recognise each other as 3 different individuals from the same species and get on with life.
Here they are.
You probably figured out I was talking about my dogs, so what's the point of this story?
People instantly want to put Basil, Caesar and Mini into categories based on what they know or have experienced, however limited. They stereotype. They assume. They have strong opinions. They judge.
It's innate for us to constantly seek patterns. We get comfort from being able to say this = that, for example white = good or maybe even black = bad.
We also gain comfort from creating a gap between 2 groups such as 'them' and 'us'. Rich / poor. Racist / Antiracist. The truth is the gap isn't really there and the majority of people sit somewhere in the middle.
Us, the human race, still have lots to learn about accepting others from different backgrounds. Maybe we could be more dog like in our approach to this? (Don't worry I'm not going to suggest any sniffing!)
Can we start with curiosity before making judgements? Can we adopt a default position of willingness to quickly become part of a mixed group of others? Can we see beyond the outer layers we are wrapped in?
Imagine a world in which we reduce our crazy expectations, unjustified fear, and refusal to accept each other as equals.
To be able to move towards connection, company, friendship and ultimately the willingness to give and receive love, between anyone and everyone - this is the world I want to be part of. My tail is wagging at the thought of it!
Thank you Basil, Caesar and Mini for opening my eyes in a new way, and providing inspiration.
Where does your inspiration to be more accepting of diversity come from?