There is so much of the world I don’t understand. There is so much to learn, so many perspectives which are foreign to me.
I am currently taking a course through Coursera, one of several educational companies which offer free online courses on a variety of subjects. The information I have been learning has been interesting but far more interesting to me are the online discussions with fellow students from around the world. It is so enlightening to be continuously reminded of the many perspectives which exist outside of the North American perspective. It is a wonderful exercise to have to explicitly state that mine is the perspective of one living in rural United States. It is helpful to be forced to acknowledge the very limited lens through which I see the world.
It is helpful, also, to read blogs such as this one http://thecoloredfountain.net/2013/12/31/a-year-in-review-2013/ which is about the various ways the feminist movement has ignored the voices of women of color. My position of privilege means I am often blissfully unaware of new forms of discrimination. Some of my ignorance is due to the area of the country in which I live. For example, I didn’t know what twerking was until the Miley Cyrus controversy, but I do know how to two step. I probably could have done just fine not knowing about twerking but there are other issues about which I need to learn in order to spot discrimination when I see it and make informed decisions about how I treat others and where I lend my support politically and economically. It is sometimes difficult to hear perspectives such as those in the afore mentioned blog. It is easy to become defensive. But I am often amazed, when I am able to set aside defensiveness, at the underlying hurt, wisdom and understanding which I can hear.
It has become popular these days to dismiss “political correctness” as unnecessary, unimportant, playing politics, or being disingenuine. It is important to remember “political correctness” came about in order to avoid alienating or hurting people. Real people. With real experiences. Just because they are not my experiences does not make them unimportant. Attempting to lift up as heroes those who eschew political correctness sometimes lifts up ingnorance and privilege as heroic and dismisses those standing up for their rights as whining. Straight talk is valuable, sure. But it is important to be discerning enough to recognize when straight talk comes from a place of wisdom, compassion, and understanding and when it is simply ignorant vulgarity.
I hope I will continue to have opportunities to interact with those who see the world from a different perspective so that I will be more likely to spew forth the former rather than the latter.