Over the course of this presidential race, our country has been faced with some pretty heavy issues. From the rise of refugees fleeing Syria, to the overwhelming number of American citizens being shot and killed by law enforcement; we have suddenly come face-to-face with topics that are often complicated and extremely hard to address. Talk of race and religion has now been thrust into our everyday lives. We see people talking about #blacklivesmatter on our social media. We see politicians arguing against allowing Muslims into our country. We no longer have any excuse to be unaware of these topics.
The question is— how do we go about addressing them?
As someone who comes from a primarily white Protestant background, talking about race and religion was a concept that used to be extremely foreign to me. For most of my life, I was completely unaware of any points of view other than those asserted in my fairly homogeneous community. Though my perspective is completely valid, I was missing the compassion and understanding that only comes from recognizing the perspectives of others. This type of understanding is key to having a healthier and more productive dialogue on these complicated issues.
Before we can even begin to speak on topics like the refugee crisis or Black Lives Matter, we must first make a conscious effort to understand the person on the other side. It’s important to know that though your opinions matter, you lack a basic knowledge of what it’s like to be the person on the other side. Simply recognizing that fact can be very powerful. When we come to understand others, we become a little kinder. We are more able to ask constructive questions. We are equipped to contribute to useful discussion rather than one side fighting the other.
At a time when our country is more divided than ever, understanding and compassion can change everything.