My niece and I have been discussing racism and prejudice- our discussion prompted by one at her monthly book club meeting. It’s ironic that Gary and I had a similar discussion after attending the Longhorn World Championships. Gary and I have been to a number of group gatherings- cat shows, dog shows, horse shows, rodeos, car shows, truck shows, motorcycle races, car races, marathons, art shows, photography shows, etc. We have also belonged to several groups during our years together. We were talking on the way home about how each group has its own distinct way of talking, dressing, and acting.
While I won’t get into a lengthy discussion of racism this morning, I will say that it is natural for us to cling to “our own kind” and to seek out those in society with similar interests and values. We spout lots of rhetoric about independence and personal strength and individuality, but most of us jump at the chance to belong to a group that doesn’t think we are crazy because we believe in ___ or collect ___ or like to dress up like___. The danger lies in believing that our group, for whatever reason, is superior in some way to the other groups.
Gary and I enjoyed looking at the longhorns yesterday, but we knew by the conversations around us that we were just visitors in an alien world. The members of the group spoke casually to each in terms that I needed time to process. They joked about things that had no meaning to me. And one phone conversation I overheard involved genetic equations that would never have occurred to me!
It is that way with every group. I have long thought it amusing that grown men who have serious jobs and responsibilities will dress up in funny hats and robes and recite the slogans and creeds of ancient groups without any embarrassment. As long as the rest of the group is doing the same thing, anything can become the norm.
Ah…there is the slippery slope. How do we balance our individuality with the “pack mentality” of a group? How do we make sure we are in the right group? How do we align ourselves with a group and yet speak up if and when they are wrong?
Things to ponder this fine fall day…