I want to share an experience I had not many months ago, while doing therapy in a 95-100% White part of town. ( In case you do not know, I fall under the "brown" category here in the U.S). So, it was our 3rd session and my client began by telling me that she and her boyfriend had been discussing my origins and that they had come up with Japanese, Mexican, Native American etc. I took this as a friendly exchange and quite enjoyed her curiosity. This was until she came closer to me and asked, "Are your people the ones who have been shooting and killing our people?". I asked her to repeat the question since I was not sure I had heard her correctly and of course, she asked me the same question again. Despite my reflex of shock, disbelief and fear, I managed to compose myself and explained that I was born and raised in India. I had to show this client where India was on the World map, because, of course, her school had not taught her to look beyond her state. I spoke about the religion I was raised with and this again, did not resonate because she had not heard of Hinduism.
This experience awakened me to the fact that outside the comfort of the university environment, there were still people who viewed me as "foreign" and therefore a possible threat. I was not sure if this client would return the following week and was delighted when she did. She went on to becoming one of my most regular clients and we both hugged and were nearly in tears when I left the agency.
My point is that thanks to the "Us versus Them" messages some individuals insist on spreading, the people of our country ( I am a citizen of the U.S) stand divided and categorized today, especially after the elections. This morning, I watched a Christian preacher on T.V and her messages seemed to resonate with the message of the Gita (holy book of the Hindus). I was amazed and pleasantly surprised that the one message all religions preach is that humans should do their duty with the trust that God will do the rest. THEN, she began narrating incidents about "them versus us". She talked about how others may not understand the Christian way and denounce it, and that those people may suffer later etc. etc.....That is the point at which I switched channels. Just before I switched, I heard a lot of Amens from the crowd watching her.
While it personally serves this preacher to incorporate categorization and hate in her messages, it is all humans who have to bear the brunt. At this point, it is has become a practice for us to divide ourselves into categories based on religion, Trump versus non-Trump followers, race, skin color etc. One question we seriously need to think about is - "who stands to benefit from these divisions"?
The U.S has given me and my family more than I could have asked for. We have received respect, education, a chance at honest employment and the freedom to express our individuality. This is a country where most people ask questions and not swallow information provided to them. This is where I learned that despite the existing hierarchies, I do not have to be afraid to ask questions of authority figures or think differently from them. Until this day, I have believed that this country will provide opportunity to those who work for it, irrespective of how they look.
I pray that the divisions created by the recent election are only temporary and that the messages of kindness and oneness that we ALL heard growing up, will prevail.
Sujata V, Ph.D, MFT
Always Learning..through the good AND not-so-good times!