Equity through Non-Violent Communication and Social Action: An OU Interview with Relando: part 7
I envision a world where equitable and inclusive communities that are respectful and inclusive towards the needs and concerns of people from a variety of cultural backgrounds can be established and maintained as a result of conflict resolution through non-violent communication and social action.–excerpted from my Vision & Values Statement.
This is the seventh and final post of a 7 part series in which I expand on some of my responses to questions from a recent news interview I had about my experiences with working to build more inclusive communities as a student at Oakland University and beyond.
What do you hope to achieve from all your efforts? What message do you want to convey?
No one has it completely figured out, and we’ve all learned a certain amount of misinformation about people who are not like us. I consider myself to be an aspiring humanitarian in the sense that I am continually searching for ways to become more humane to those around me; to unlearn information that is harmful, so that I can make room for information that is helpful to and inclusive of myself and others.
The outcomes that I hope to achieve are inexorably linked to the foundation of the message that I seek to convey in my life and work which is that we are all connected. Dr. Martin Luther King once said that “we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Fear is at the root of all conflict. Overcoming it can be a challenging process, and giving in to it can keep us from being able to understand this message and its benefits.
Sometimes our fears and misunderstanding of others can cause us to think, feel and act (consciously or unconsciously) in ways that work against our own self-interests. The ways in which we do this can be seen in the broader culture through policies, within education or other social institutions, or even within our own personal or professional relationships acted out through our prejudices.
Fear of being hurt, losing money, status, resources or other forms of privilege can cause us to cling tightly to systems, values and beliefs that may be oppressive to others who may seem different from us. While we may think that we’re holding onto something for ourselves, in limiting the capacity of others, we lose as a society collectively.
A teacher and friend of mine once wrote that “when we become aware that who we are is tied to everyone else just like the water in the bottle is tied to the river it was collected from then it becomes clear that our acceptance and love for others is a reflection of how much we accept and love ourselves.”
I want to convey a message that demonstrates interconnectedness and interdependence; a message which demonstrates that valuing others is synonymous to valuing ourselves, and that we can rate ourselves in terms of how great we are as a society by how we treat one another, specifically the most vulnerable of us. .
Ultimately, through my efforts, I hope to make contributions toward a better and more inclusive society. Many have done it before, and many are currently working towards this end. I just consider myself to be a part of a larger continuum.
Sounds simple right? I’ve found that simple does not always mean easy. We all have different experiences, different points of views, different ways of communicating, and different ways of doing things. There have been, and will continue to be conflicts along the way, but Dr. King also said that “true peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” Working through the tension and moving closer to that place is what my work is all about.
Here’s to the ongoing pursuit.
This post concludes the series. Thanks for reading.
Grace & Peace,
From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW