I know that many times I have felt like someone who was not a part of the crowd -for one, I am the daughter of white North Americans, born and raised in Bolivia, and the skin of my body is something I could not and cannot hide. This has nothing to do accusing anyone of imagined “reverse racism;” it was only that I knew I looked different, and sometimes that separated me from the people around me.
Even when we are in the middle of a crowd, it is possible for us to feel alone. I have stumbled upon that message in books, in images and art, and in my own mind. It is partly because of this that I think that the greatest fear of human beings may be feeling excluded. It seems to me that many times we put on masks that cover up who we are, masks to make us feel normal, included, and a part of the crowd. However, it was impossible for me to hide my skin -I tried, to be sure, with mud and dirt, and one of my brothers, blond as wheat, still dreams of having black hair.
The point of this article is not to talk about the unasked-for privilege given me by having white skin; instead, it is to make the point that there are things in each of is that make us different in ways that can discomfort us, things we may or not be able to hide but that are a part of our identity. And what can we do about that discomfort with our differences?
For one, I propose that those of us who are part of the Goshen College community really take to heart the idea of being inclusive towards those who are not like us, and make ourselves the sort of people who reach a hand towards those who already feel excluded. For one, let us start by personally, actively including people of color and members of the GLBTQ and international communities, who are faced every day with the possibility of being excluded. Give them role models, give them mentors, who are proud to share their differences. There are people in our community who suffer from depression -let us reach out a hand and make them feel loved.
Love is the best way to chase away exclusion, and there are a thousand ways to express it. A hello, a smile, the offer of a book, sharing a song: all these small things and more are the ones that make a difference. I know that they don’t seem like much, but things like these are what most affirm the feeling of being part of a community. The beauty of it is that they don’t take much time -three seconds to open a door, two for a greeting. I want to thank those of you who already do these things -you are appreciated. And for those who wish to chase away exclusion, you need only ask how you would want to be treated to find out how to do it.