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What are the "Ists"?

The ists are many: racist, sexist, heterosexist, classist, ableist. I could go on, and they each have their unique flavor of failure in loving human beings. But, they aren’t as different as we make them out to be. Usually, the people making them out to be different are people who are trying to rationalize their ist. Like, as a heterosexual Black woman, if I were to talk about how being gay is not the same as being Black. Well, no it isn’t the same, but there are some similarities in being a member of a marginalized group. The likely reasons I’d be making an argument like that are to assert that the discrimination I face is worse or to excuse myself from some heterosexist comment I may have said.

There are so few people, if any, who haven’t internalized some of what leads to discrimination. I’m not exempt. Neither are you. It’s uncomfortable to admit it, but admitting it is just step one. And then some of us, having admitted it, try to rationalize why it is ok, normal, reasonable. We go out of our way to resolve the confusion about being not so great at loving, especially since nearly every human wants to be loved and belong. We discredit the people we haven’t yet found a way to treat like humans. We pretend they are not, or never were, human to begin with. We do it because we’d like to believe we’re still good people, even when we know there are some groups that we haven’t quite figured out how to care about.

Some of us, having admitted that we don’t love everyone, try to figure out why and want to do something to change that. It can be done, but it takes a lot of work. We get frustrated with ourselves, embarrassed because we messed it up again, and tired. Learning to love humans is an emotionally taxing endeavor. Why, because humans are messy, flawed, confusing, vulnerable, and risky. Humans are not fantasies, figments of our idealistic imagination. What happens when we’re “ist” is that we pretend some humans are worse than others, messier, more terrible. We pretend some humans are better than others, more loveable, worthy. And at a certain point, it doesn’t even feel like we’re pretending. We’ve gotten so used to seeing some humans as better than others, and we probably spend a lot of time with other humans who believe the same thing, that we begin to believe what we’ve been pretending is true. And the world we live in works in not so subtle ways to confirm that some people are more human than others, making it easier to believe we’re not pretending. If it’s true, all the inhumane things we think, say, or do aren’t really that bad…right?

Well, this project is for people who are tired of pretending. This project is for humans who want to learn how to love other humans who are different from them, in race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability status, religion, ethnicity, nationality, language, weight, education, and the host of other ways we can be different. This project is for humans who know that they may have both some privileged identities and some marginalized ones mixed in together. I know I do. And what you do with the privileged ones matters a lot to other humans who don’t have that, because with privilege comes power. This project is for humans who want to use their privilege and power to love other humans. This project shows you how to become less “ist,” over time, with effort, with care, with love.

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