I live in a segregated neighborhood.
That may seem like an odd way to describe my corner of our racially and socio-economically diverse inner-ring suburb, but the truth is I live in the midst of a lot of folks who share my values and think like me. We chose this city because we wanted fellow citizen activists (as annoying as that can be at times), as well as good schools, a walkable neighborhood, and easy access to everything a major city has to offer.
A primitive human instinct to stay safe by sticking close to your tribe, also known as Self-Segregation.
But when I wake up everyday to alarming news that makes me wonder out loud – “Who are these people? How can they believe these things?” – I know I need to “Check my Bubble.”
We all have a Social & Cultural Bubble despite access to excessive amounts of information. It’s pretty normal to live in a Bubble near people with similar values, where dissent is reduced or limited through social politeness. And, because the Internet makes it easy we don’t examine this “information diet” that filters out news that conflicts with our beliefs. In other words, we live in a Bubble.
In my Bubble everyone is appalled and horrified at Trump’s efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the election, incite violence and encourage vigilante behavior in his followers.
I was thinking about that Bubble as I watched the third presidential debate and read the analysis.
Recently I participated in a diversity workshop where provocative questions are used to initiate deep, honest conversation and breakdown biases. The workshop was held in a rural area with participants from a mix of demographics (age, gender, race, professional status.)
The workshop questions were opportunities for people to share personal information about themselves beyond their surface presentation and disrupt their implicit biases about others. The dilemma for most participants is how to answer without leaving yourself too vulnerable.
Sometimes its tough to remember that we make choices like these every day about how we present ourselves to the world. For some people the stakes are always high. Depending on the situation, deciding to share the invisible parts that make us the complex people that we really are can be dangerous and/or exhausting.
We humans make assumptions about people based on their looks that we then call a “first impression”. In about a tenth of a second we form an opinion about a person based on the color of skin, (assumed) gender, class (clothing), and work ethic (their weight). And then we add to that impression with additional information. When people are selecting information to reinforce their assumptions (positive or negative) that’s bias.
The diversity workshop was an effort to help folks see and unravel their assumptions. After last nights debate (and the last three months!), I couldn’t help thinking we need similar workshops to bring people together around politics. That would mean Trump, Stein, Johnson, and Clinton supporters openly, respectfully, sharing information in an effort to disrupt bias.
Because we cannot afford to dismiss Trump supporters or third-party supporters as Wackos.
I agree that some people hold deplorable opinions and twisted world views, but the majority don’t. As I have written in this blog before, I know people who support all four of the candidates, but I don’t always understand why.
We owe it to ourselves to try and understand what is driving people to the level of fear and disillusionment that allows them to believe in large scale plots and conspiracies, dismiss evidence, and embrace a world view disconnected from accepted reality.
We are the sum of our parts, visible and invisible. When we choose to reveal our invisible parts that’s when it gets interesting. When we struggle to understand others invisible parts, that’s when it gets real.
Clinton’s closing statement at the third presidential debate, “I’m reaching out to all Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Because we need everybody to help make our country what it should be”, reminds us that the USA is what it is because “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
I’m with Her.