By: Grace Corbin
I am sitting here trying to figure out what to write for this blog post, because I have too many topics I want to/could write about and I can’t make up my mind. For goodness’ sakes, I should just pick one, right? Unfortunately, I’m very indecisive. For starters, this was a regular week (if you could ever call spending a week in a foreign country regular) of classes, going to Zumba, hanging out with each other and people we have met in Namibia, and finishing the reading and homework we have been procrastinating on until the night before. A pretty regular week.
Well, during this “regular week” of classes, I found myself reflecting on divisions between people quite often. Learning and discussing about apartheid and race all of the time has me bogged down about how people perceive differences to be bad. And I continue to ask questions, because, as my classmates in Namibia have learned, I love to ask questions. Questions I ask do not have an easy answer, but I will discuss them anyway because they are important. These are some of the questions I have been dwelling on. What causes divisions? Why do we focus on our differences? Why can’t we see that everyone has similarities, but we are not the same, and that our differences are beautiful anyway?
One thing I’ve noticed is that we like to put things into boxes or categories. White, black; red, blue; good, bad, etc. Apartheid put people into boxes, for example. During apartheid, people were forcibly put into different areas based on the perceived color of their skin. White Europeans got away with separating people of different skin colors into sectioned off places of the world, hoarding what they could, and leaving the leftovers for people of color. People were put in one of three categories: black, colored, or white. But, as we know, there are not only three skin colors. Putting people into racial categories allowed people of white skin color to say that they are better. Apartheid legally enforced divisions, but skin color is not just black, white or colored. The world is much more fluid than some people perceive it to be or try to make it.
There are many things in this world which are not black and white (I would argue that most things are not), but sometimes it seems like the world is insisting that things are black and white. Class, gender, religion, ethnicity, are some examples of labels that are imposed on people either by themselves or others; labels that are treated as if you can only be one or the other, but that is many times not the case. Things are much more fluid. An example of fluidity in religion is a woman we met this last week for classes who is a traditional healer and a Christian. For those of you who do not know, a traditional healer is someone who is a doctor and pastor to a sick person. Traditional healers call on their ancestors for help to cure the sick person. The woman we met with, Lesego Edith Movshosi, is, what I consider, a strong Christian woman whose love for Jesus radiates through her. She relied on Jesus to help her call her ancestors who would then show how to find a solution for her patients’ problems. She also believes prayer is an integral part of healing for her patients. This beautiful way in which she unites two religions together shows that there is no need to compartmentalize ideals or beliefs into boxes. Why do we put things like religion into boxes? Why do we put things in boxes when they only separate us further?
My attempt at an answer is this: it’s easier. Associating with people who look, speak, act just like you is easier than truly getting to know someone who doesn’t have the same characteristics, or beliefs as you. I think of a story Annie told after she came back from her urban home stay. She was walking around with her host family at a mall, and they found people looking at them. Her host family told her that it’s weird for a white girl to be walking around with black people. In many places here, I have felt that segregation between race is still very present. Segregation by differences is easier for people.
Now, how do we overcome that? My answer comes from my experience in yoga class. Yoga, for those of you who do not know, is not only the act of stretching your body in crazy ways, but also, and mostly, a spiritual practice. Yoga is about unity of your body, the Earth, and the Divine. Isn’t that beautiful? I believe the goal of yoga is to realize that we are not separate bodies, but energy connected to the whole universe. We are all one: one with each other, one with the universe, one with the Divine. Even if you do not agree with that statement, I hope you appreciate the beauty of it. How can differences separate us if we are all one?
You might be thinking, ‘that’s nice, Grace, but come on, that won’t happen.’ But I’m allowed to dream, aren’t I? Even if it’s hard to see ourselves all as one, I know that I find glimpses of unity in everyday life at the CGEE house. We’ve had many nights here spent laughing and laughing at each other, without a care in the world. We find solidarity in each other: a small group of U.S. students who look similar, but who have all walked very different paths in life, and if we can come together, maybe, just maybe, the world will find unity someday too.