Without a doubt, peanuts are one of my favorite salty snacks to enjoy. I am so very thankful I do not have peanut allergies, because I don't know what I would do if I could not eat peanuts! I have noticed something, though. Every so often when I am feasting on those delicious little nuggets of protein, I will get one that tastes potently bitter. I guess, like anything else, they can't all be good.
I usually will make a face when I unexpectedly eat a bad one. Sometimes I grab a quick drink, or even more peanuts, to try to get rid of the nasty aftertaste. One thing I don't do, is throw away the rest of the peanuts. They are not cheap, and it would be silly to throw away the entire jar or can, just because one tasted bad.
What I would not do with a can of peanuts, I see happening in the society in which I live. Only it happens in regards to people. I'm not naive; I know there are people with bad intentions and hatred in their hearts in the world - the extremists. And in another vein, I know there are people whose differences make us feel very uncomfortable and removed from our comfort zones - some disabled people. I get that, but we step onto a slippery slope when we decide we must judge entire groups of people in terms of those we don't like, or who challenge our comfort zones.
When we use one brush to paint everyone the same, we begin to step out of our roles as fellow human beings, and into the roles of judges and judged. Superior and inferior. Hater and hated. The statement: "We fear that which we do not understand" rings very true in the world today. I see it happening in terms of race and in the world where I spend a significant amount of time - helping those with disabilities.
One of the components of my job includes finding employers who will allow my students to work for them three afternoons each week. The students are paid minimum wage, but not by the employer - by money from the funds that support the training. Basically, what I am offering is a free employee. I cannot count the number of times, as soon as I mention that the students all have some type of disability - even when I say that many of them are hidden disabilities, like a math or reading learning disability - the conversation has shifted and management has made a split-second decision not to give even one student the opportunity to work with their organization. Sometimes they have had bad experiences in the past, I understand that, but at the same time I think we miss out on a lot of great opportunities when we automatically shut a group of people out of our bubbles.
Stereotyping really does come from a place of ignorance. And people who are highly educated can be just as ignorant when it comes to allowing our society to be made up of a broad range of diverse individuals. A truly inclusive society would be such a beautiful thing to be a part of, but it will only come with education.
It will only happen if those of us who are willing to accept others' differences are willing to stand up and begin to educate those who don't understand, and those who are less willing. We need to infiltrate comfort zones, and educate whenever we find ignorance. And we need to do it with love and understanding. It is not easy to change the way people think. It is not easy to persuade people to allow others inside the bubble. It is not easy to assuage the fears of the unknown, and things we do not understand. It must be done with love and compassion, because if we try to force it by bashing and criticizing others, the process will move more slowly. It is not easy.
But it's not impossible, either. Bit by bit, person by person, we can share our hearts - and encourage others to open theirs. If I won't discard an entire bag of peanuts because I don't like some, I certainly won't discard an entire group of people because of the actions of some. It's time to bust the bubbles of exclusion. Are you in?