Love, Fear, and Minorities

No Love for Minority

It has been an unusual week in many respects. For one thing, I watched the Oprah after show for the Academy Awards. This may not sound especially remarkable but I have not seen the Academy Awards in many years and remain largely unaware of the candidates for it. It is an area of life that does not much interest me.

But I was at dinner at a friend’s house when my husband went to the study to teach her husband how to tie flies. She invited me to watch the Oprah after show with her.

This woman is a heart centered individual whose loving qualities I greatly admire. She is a Christian and I avoid entangling myself with organized religion these days. But she does her sincere best to live her beliefs and expand her spiritual qualities on a daily basis, rather than being the judgmental and arrogant variety of Christian, so I thoroughly enjoy her company.

Therefore I was surprised when she burst forth with a short tirade about Ellen DeGeneres hosting the Awards show. My friend said she thought we as a society could come up with a better role model for our children than that and expressed how tired she was of having homosexual and lesbian lifestyles shoved at her.

I was not struck so much by her words as much as by the dissonance in her energy when she spoke. My friend has worked with children her entire career and truly loves them. I heard none of that love in her words, reminding me of the Corinthian passage about speaking without love being “as a sounding brass.”

What I felt was a distinct fear in her words. As the conversation continued I mildly pointed out that if she was around Ellen DeGeneres in person, she would treat her like any other human being. She paused and agreed with me. As I said, she really is a loving person.

When we watched the show I saw her soften towards DeGeneres and she commented on how pretty her eyes are. When seeing the individual, her heart did open.

That is not enough for some people, who can remain in fear based aggressiveness even when seeing an individual human being who differs from them in some way.

Fear and Minority Sensitivities

Minorities therefore receive a great deal of fearful and hateful behavior, which can make it terribly difficult both for them and for anyone trying to relate to them in a peaceful way. If one is not a member of the minority, be careful indeed!

I once was friends with a couple of Little People, as they call themselves. Dwarf in stature both had experienced great unpleasantness in their efforts to live in a world of taller people.

Jane once went to a job interview; the interviewer took her coat and hung it while greeting her pleasantly. The interview seemed to go well and when she was about to leave, he unexpectedly refused to take her coat down for her. He stood there laughing as she jumped and jumped until she managed to retrieve her coat.

Every minority takes the brunt of experiences akin to that. The resulting sensitivity can be intense, and Dick, Jane’s husband, did not handle his extreme sensitivity well. What he really wanted was to be treated like anyone else, but I found I could not safely do that with him even though I could with Jane.

When I first knew him I was always aware of his short height. As I became better acquainted with him, I would forget about it until he stood up from a seated position and I was startled into noticing his height again. After awhile even that no longer registered and I simply related to him as I would anyone else.

That is when I got into big trouble with him. I cannot tell you exactly how many ways in English one can make a casual statement that a short person can take totally wrong if they are of a mind to do so, but it seemed like an unlimited number to me.

I found the only way I could get along with Dick peacefully was to never forget for one second about his height. I had to edit every word I said around him so nothing could possibly be mistaken for a derogatory statement. It was sad because Dick wanted so much to be accepted without regard for his height but his deep wounds made it impossible for him to recognize that behavior when it actually happened.

I have encountered this with other minorities in different ways. Black roommates in college also were quick to misinterpret behavior. When I lived in the San Juan Islands, a substantial lesbian population was there and as a jeweler I have also known quite a few gay jewelers. The gay men were the least reactive to me, perhaps because I was hardly on their radar at all.

I am not enamored of the casual sexual encounters that can be part of the gay lifestyle, nor of the male bashing I often heard from some of the lesbians, but overall I am neutral with both those groups. I have made wedding rings for such couples from time to time as well as rings for mixed race couples. I also created a considerable assortment of jewelry for a couple who occasionally appeared on the Playboy channel discussing their sado-masochistic practices.

As far as I could tell, these were all just human beings doing the best they knew with their lives and often quite lovingly at that. Surprisingly enough that includes the S&M couple who thought the cornerstone of their practice was taking care of each other. This was a concept that somewhat eluded me but I could see they meant it.

Group Issues with Love and Fear

I don’t find it surprising some members of these groups become strident and militant when they decide to resist the barrage of negative judgment and ugly attitudes heaped upon them by the rest of society. Fear and hatred seems to beget more fear and hatred, so an aggressive response is a natural response, even if not an ideal one.

What sort of example does this behavior really set for our children? Perhaps militant and strident individuals standing up for their differences might reassure a child who encounters trouble over her own differences from what others want to see. That would not be such a horrible result.

At the crux of the whole matter is whether we choose to stand in heart centered love or stand in fear and hatred of our fellow man. It is not our place to judge the path others take; we simply have to attend to our own. And each of us makes the choice between love and fear on a daily basis.

My friend who invited me to watch the show has largely mastered relating with love to individuals without judgment, but the group issues apparently are a challenge still. More and more I find people work through many of their individual challenges and healings and promptly run headlong into the thornier group issues.

But the same principles apply, just ratcheted up to a new level of complexity and a new level of opportunity as well. In my next post I will explore some avenues of group healing but in the meantime I shall end with questions which concern me.

What would happen if we collectively opened our hearts in love to the minority groups? As yet it is mostly hit or miss even individually, but what profound healing could occur if we managed to learn this on the group level? How can we facilitate widespread group healing?



Copyright © Lexi Sundell 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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