Anyone who says, "There are two kinds of people in this world" should be shot. And when I say shot, I mean shot with those little paper hornets fashioned by middle school boys. There is of course, not just two kinds of people in the world, and neither is there static existence on a continuum.
Challenging the Binary
A dynamic continuum might be a good way to define our kind. We live as a color-wheel of sorts. Each color fades imperceptibly into another, a continuous sequence in which adjacent colors are not noticeably different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct. Yellow and blue find their distinct positions on the continuum yet progressively become into one another as green in the space between them.
How we identify ourselves on the wheel is a mixture of genetic chemistry and cultural construction. Entrenched social forces cut deep ruts in the politics of distinctions that push us to identify by contrast. You are either this or that. Identifying as this often means working to disassociate and deny that. This self-identification can be a difficult and painful process that often goes unrecognized even in those of us who have conformed to the traditional cultural pathways. Traditional constructions of maleness often mean disavowing and denigrating femaleness, pushing away what is feminine in order to construct machismo. The ultimate insult for a young boy is to be feminized. Our middle and high schools are often the most dangerous places for our kind to explore the dynamic continuum of our identity.
I am proud of my daughter who works with groups like GLSEN www.glsen.org to transform the culture of schools and provide safe spaces for students to find their place on the color wheel. I applaud my city for it's work to provide healthcare and support for the trans-gender community (The first transgender wellness center in Ohio www.mozaicohio.org).
Non-conforming, non-binary, transgendered persons simply recognize and seek to live out the reality of our dynamic continuum. The spaces between the ruts are valid, honorable spaces that need our cultural support especially in divided times.
The is not only two kinds of people.
Being critically aware of my whiteness is not a new thing for me. Keeping this 'reality' active, recognizing this construction and its work on my entire frame of reference is something that I try to maintain. I often fail. It does take a certain amount of effort when it is so much easier to follow the path of least resistance and move through life without 'worry'. In a culture of growing diversity it is all too easy to grow fearful and separatist; all too easy to remain ignorant and cling to safe spaces (and faces). I do try to read a variety of perspectives in an effort to overcome my whiteness and be more reflective about my footsteps in the social and political world. I haven't done a very good job of surrounding myself with the kinds of friends that would assist me in improving my awareness. Most of my friends are white dudes.
Most of my real-life experiences with other-than-white-people has been as a public middle school teacher. Over the past 20 years (15 in my current district) my classroom has become less and less white and more and more colorful, much more culturally diverse. Its more than just looking out on a diversity of faces, but interacting with and becoming a part of a diverse community of learners where I learn and grow as much as my students.
Dissolving, it seems to me, is about becoming-with. Dissolving is an effort to resist standing apart by diving into the solvent with the desire to lose dividing distinctions and gain a more integrated perspective that honors and welcomes all.
I could say more.
What are your thoughts on "Dissolving"?