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Defusing the Scariness of Diversity (2 of 4) | Real vs. Perceived Threats

Thinking back to the spider episode of Night Gallery, I’m reminded of another time that will make you laugh. On one of our last family outings before my father passed, we were all gathered around the TV channel surfing for a good movie as I recalled how terrified I was of that one particular episode. And what came on TV? You guessed it! That same episode with the giant spider!

Just recounting that story makes my skin crawl even now. I grew up hating the sight of spiders and for some reason, I can spot one from across the room.

Over the years, I’ve learned to overcome my fear of spiders and depending on how big they are, I don’t have to call my husband to rescue me from them anymore. I can handle the little ones myself, especially when I realized they’re more afraid of me than I am of them.

What does any of this have to do with Diversity, Inclusion & and Belonging, you may be wondering. Well, here are a few takeaways.

First, how we have been conditioned to think the way we do about other people is oftentimes predicated on just one intense encounter, like the Night Gallery episode I told you about. I was conditioned to be terrified of spiders until well into adulthood. What have you been conditioned to be terrified about concerning other people up until now?

Perhaps it is the fear of older people, based on images of frailty and decline that dominate the media and perhaps even in our families. Perhaps it is the image of Black men being inherently violent, based on media stories that show one predominant view of them. Perhaps it is the notion that immigrants are bad for our country, based on skewed statistics and the conditioned fear of outsiders or those who speak a different language than you. Perhaps it is of poor people who can’t get themselves off the streets or bathe regularly or hold onto jobs or housing.

All of these are common cultural stereotypes that many of us have been conditioned to believe as truth. Reflecting on our individual images of others can be a helpful first step in raising our awareness of how what we think is true, might be different under a different light or different set of circumstances or a real set of facts.

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