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February 08, 2017

Maintaining Unity in the Face of Diversity

Lesko

I think we can all agree it’s been a challenging 3 months. The political environment. The division. Heightened emotions. An unclear pathway of how to stand up for women's rights while preserving community. We at Oiselle have struggled with how to navigate an intense political climate as a pro-women company, as individuals and as an organization. 

A few weeks ago, I received a message from a Volée teammate, Marie, questioning Oiselle's messaging on political issues. Her compelling email concluded: “I guess what I really want to know is, is there a place on the Volée for a woman like me? A woman who is compassionate, bubbly, vehemently loves and supports others, and absolutely cherishes unity, but whose religious and political beliefs may be different than yours?”

There was truth and heat in her writing. I had to pay attention. One of Sally’s mantras for us at the Nest is, “choose discomfort over resentment.” Marie had honored that with her email. I reached out to her for a phone call, and last week we were able to connect. 

It was so great to talk! About politics, team, running, mom-ing, teaching, and life. And as we hung up I felt not only profoundly grateful for Marie and the Volée, but so much more hopeful for the future. Because despite our differences we found important connections and shared the run love. And I wanted to hang out with her in person. So I asked her to think about writing us a blog. 

Marie got back to me right away with her run-inspired blog, “…of course, I went for a run to sort everything out in my head (in Kaleidoscope Spandos, because, seriously, is there anything more energetic than those?)” 

I hope you appreciate Marie’s wisdom as much as I do. We will continue to speak out on the issues important to us. We hope you do also. And we are asking you, our community, to engage with us as we strive to build the run community while honoring differences. It's not easy. But it's worth it. 


There is no question about it—we are living in turbulent times. Passions are inflamed, marches and political demonstrations are ubiquitous across the country, and biases and opinions on a vast array of issues are being challenged constantly. It would be hard to recall a time in recent memory in which politics have so pervasively and vehemently dominated human interaction as they have in the past few months. 

Much of this fervor is good. It evokes a sense of purpose, of concern for our country and fellow citizens, of personal sacrifice and community involvement. But in that pursuit of passion, as we eagerly outline our goals and agendas for what we hope to accomplish, it is easy to lose sight of an essential element that is fundamental to the progress of any society, and without which our efforts are rendered meaningless: the humanity of others, particularly those with whom we disagree.  

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As a relatively new Volée, I came to realize during the most recent election cycle that I differed rather notably from the political views of many of my teammates. Now, I am loath to engage in political discussions over social media, as I feel that someone always ends up misrepresented, so admittedly, this awareness was probably pretty one-sided. I didn’t speak for or against any issue or any candidate, and I avoided commentary on others’ sites who did. After the election, when the dust had cleared, some of my friends were celebrating profusely, while others were left in stunned silence. I was somewhere in between (which, to be fair, was pretty consistent with my feelings all throughout the presidential race in general), watching the scene as it unfolded. Many understandably felt called to action, whether in support or opposition of the new administration, and as their passions swelled and their voices grew louder, the messages at times became rather convoluted. It became hard to differentiate between the rejection of an idea and the condemnation of its bearer. 

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Unquestionably, I have fought against the tendency to confuse the idea with the bearer in my own life as well when I have felt passionately about an issue. It is so simple to take a reductionist view of those with whom we disagree. If we reduce them to a label, a name, or a single viewpoint, it is easier for us to dismiss them and to cling to the security and righteousness of our beliefs. I have, on numerous occasions, found myself mentally labeling someone dismissively, ostensibly due to my frustration with our disagreement but inwardly due to my desire to want to avoid the ways in which her viewpoints challenge my own. If there’s something wrong with the person, then her idea couldn’t possibly have any validity to it. It’s an easy out.

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But in our commitment to one another, as with anything worth pursuing, there should be no such easy out. This is where it gets complicated. There is so much to each one of us—childhood experiences, various educational and career backgrounds, differing religious and moral beliefs—and so few, if any, of us fit into one specific label or category. We are too diverse as individuals to allow for such categorization, much less so as an entire group. We simply cannot be reduced to one viewpoint, one label, one mindset.

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This, to me, is what must be at the forefront of any discussion about politics: the complexity and humanity of the people involved. When we speak of those with whom we disagree, we’re speaking of our fellow teammates, our favorite barista, our child’s daycare teacher, our hairstylist, all of whom have lived such different lives from our own. Remembering this prevents us from allowing ourselves to adopt an “us vs. them” mentality, which is the killer of unity. Such a mindset makes it easier for us to then shut out those with whom we disagree, but it also leaves us in a culturally and intellectually homogenized world, and we lose the benefit of the diversity of belief surrounding us. We grow stagnant rather than elastic, and we allow ourselves to be constantly reinforced by the solitary voice encasing us rather than being stretched and challenged by the voices opposing us. 

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Indeed, focusing on the humanity of those with whom we disagree also helps us concentrate our feelings on a specific issue rather than on those who bear a particular stance on that issue, and we are perhaps gently reminded to speak with a little more understanding. After all, if we are truly passionate about promoting an idea, then our goal should be to persuade rather than to silence or attack. Only the former will be fruitful; the latter creates division and disunity, and ultimately stymies progress.  

As Volée, and as a run community, we are part of an incredible tribe of women. Collectively, we are bold, strong-willed, dynamic, physical, and vocal. We have either established our voices or are learning to find them on a variety of issues and in many different contexts. It is my hope that we will do so, as best we can, by being bold in our beliefs but compassionate in our relationships and by separating the idea from its bearer. In this way, perhaps we can find a way to maintain unity in the face of such incredible diversity.

- Marie Conner

Comments

Jen | February 8, 2017 at 5:05pm

Wise words Marie, and well

Wise words Marie, and well said. Thanks for writing this.

Krissy | February 8, 2017 at 6:35pm

Beautiful

Thank you, Marie. You make me proud to call myself Volée - after all, what's the fun in teh world if we are all the same? Stay brave, stay strong <3

Jasmine Warner | February 9, 2017 at 6:29am

LOVE

I LOVE everything about this post. I love the call to refuse an "us vs them" mentality. I love the call to seeing people as more than one label. I love the call to purposefully cherish the ways in which others' viewpoints challenge our own. We definitely need more of this in our country, and the world.

Julia | February 9, 2017 at 6:23pm

Accounting for privilege and making space for intersectionality?

I have sent an email directly to the Nest and sincerely hope that it will be read.

Michaela L Copenhaver | February 10, 2017 at 9:16am

On respecting humanity

Thank goodness Judge Aaron Persky respected the humanity of Brock Turner in giving him a light sentencing. Judge Persky: "And, also, I have considered the character letters that have been provided by Mr. Turner’s friends, family, which indicate a period of, essentially, good behavior". "Obviously, a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him." (via https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/14/stanford-sexual-assault-read-sentence-judge-aaron-persky) Thank goodness the jurors in the Emmett Till case considered the humanity of Bryant and Milam—as they said, prison couldn't possibly be an appropriate punishment for two murderers. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmett_Till#Trial) Sorry, but if your moral decisions have an impact that harms the lives of others, I think that takes concern for your humanity out of the equation. Sure, if this is an issue of supply-side versus Keynesian economics, I'm not going to fault you for disagreeing with me. But if you're supporting a candidate who sexually assaults women, who devalues the life of human beings and who displays openly racist policy, I am no longer concerned with your humanity. And, no, it is not my responsibility to education you. You want to understand the issues? Follow POC on Twitter (try https://twitter.com/absurdistwords). Get some books at your library. Google it. I will not protect your sensitivity over the bodies of my fellow humans.

Faith | February 14, 2017 at 7:08am

On being judgemental

I am fairly certain Marie is not encouraging tolerance for the people and situations you are referencing. The point of the article is that people have differing opinions and points of view and instead of instantly attacking them for those differences, it would make for a better world to stop, listen, and have a constructive conversation without passing judgement (and maybe even show some compassion for those with whom you don't see eye to eye). Your response is actually a perfect example of what she is asking we DON'T do - draw snap conclusions and judge because you feel differently. And again - we are not talking about having tolerance for the scenarios you listed above. Also, if it isn't your responsibility to educate as you have stated, the above history lesson and snide comments weren't really necessary.

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