It Is Exactly the Same, Only Completely Different

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It Is Exactly the Same, Only Completely Different

Posted by Vice President for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Kenya Hobbs

Love vs. Hate

A professor once told a story about a conversation he had as a youth with his cousin. The closing phrase of the story has always stayed with me, because as the cousin was trying to explain a situation, he ended by stating, “Well it is exactly the same, only completely different.” 

As I reflect on the last year of this pandemic, I feel like everything is exactly the same, only completely different. Some of us are governed by mask mandates, while others are not. Some of us are still wearing masks and receiving vaccinations and booster shots, while others are protesting these measures. Unfortunately, people continue to die. 

On a personal note, I recently lost a family member to COVID-19. He was perfectly healthy and vibrant with no preexisting conditions, until he contracted the virus, ironically, while attending a funeral several weeks ago. Now, a month later, our family must bury him. He was unvaccinated. 

His death has caused me to ponder the fact that this virus does not care about anyone’s political affiliation, race, beliefs or age. Liberals, conservatives, religious and nonreligious have all died. People are just people. So, the next time you engage in dialogue with someone about the pandemic, politics or other social issues, try to remember that you are simply talking to a person first and not an ideology. Granted, they may believe and feel differently than you do, but they are people just like you.

I stress this because, as a nation, we have allowed differing ideologies to divide us into factions along socially constructed lines. We are now more willing than ever to eviscerate anyone that is not part of our in-group. In diversity circles, we frequently discuss in-group and out-group bias. Those in our in-group are individuals with whom we have more in common and view more favorably than an out-group member. This might make us more prone to interact with and voluntarily engage those that we reasonably assume share similar thoughts and perspectives. If everybody is doing this, then we find ourselves looking at mirror images that only reflect our views.

Have you ever walked into a house of mirrors at an amusement park or carnival? At first, it starts out uneventful. However, the further into the maze you go, you encounter mirrors that distort your image or perspective. Though your eyes do not change, everything in the environment around you does, and it can be jolting. Some people enjoy seeing things from a different vantage point, while others are repulsed.

Once visitors exit the house of mirrors, they usually talk and laugh about the images they saw of themselves and others while walking through the environment. I have yet to identify a single person that has been offended by the mirrors’ distortions and unflattering reflections. Everyone understands that the environment is designed to produce alternate realities and fabrications of the truth.

My point? We have all been reared in a house of mirrors of sorts. Not all the ideas, philosophies and values that have been presented as truth are accurate reflections of reality. We must be willing to broaden our perspective, reexamine our values, question long-held beliefs and accept that our interpretations are subjective and may be distorted. That way, we will be more open-minded, tolerant and better practitioners of diversity.

As we wrap up this year, let us each ask ourselves, what distortions have I embraced as real? Are there any unflattering behaviors, communications or ideas that I have personally internalized, verbalized or recognized in me that need to change?  

In times like these, we need to think about how we can be better to and for each other. After all, the energy that it takes to show love or hate is exactly the same, only completely different.

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