Our historical negligence towards having equitable spaces can very well be chalked up to lack of exposure. When our experience is very limited and not diverse, it’s really easy to build stories about who other people are based on what we see in the media and what we hear on a daily basis. We are always paying attention whether we are conscious of it or not and get contextual cues about who people are from our own experiences. When we do not have something or someone that counteracts a belief then we fall victim to learning that as our truth. When you think about the years and years of systemic racism that we have cycled into with limited or no exposure as to why these systems are in place the way they are, we have a hard time believing the reality of a situation may be different from our lived experience. We go about basing our truths off of shallow experience rather than factual and historical proof. Every cause has an effect, and rarely are incidences explained by coincidence.
What we forget to do many times, unless we are explicitly taught, is to critically think about what it is that we tell ourselves. What is the counterstory? And what is missing in the story that you are telling yourself? What are you missing in the story that you tell your kids? The people you interact with everyday? We do not often stop to think about it this way, but rather we go along believing ourselves and what we know to be true in our own perspective. When you do not try to intentionally and purposefully practice those critical thinking skills, you do not learn to take the perspective of people who are different from you. And you do not learn how to take the perspective of those who are even the same as you.
Without the exposure and contact, we begin to think that our narrative is the only narrative.
Thoughts from Dr. Nancy Dome and Cassandra Bennett Porter