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A Dualistic Approach to Pluralism

A Dualistic

Last night, I attended a keynote address by a noted professor of history. This professor is an expert in African-American, Black, and African history and as an AfroLatina woman, brings personal experiences and perspectives to her teaching and to her addresses. The theme of this professor’s keynote was “What do you do with the mess we left you?” and focuses on the polarized political and racial climate we find ourselves in today. Her goal was to provide some insight of where to go and what to do if we are in fact committed to working towards a more socially just country. Besides connecting large scale systematic issues, such as environmental protection and the war against drugs, two main points stuck out to me.

The first is the concept of blowback. Blowback refers to unintended  consequences of an action – something that was not foreseen while planning and even while executing. The professor talked about the blowback on White America from the upholding of racist systems and White nationalism. I thought it was a brilliant way to show how racism hurts us all regardless of race. The second concept is the idea of accepting people back into the fold in efforts to build coalitions. Now this concept is probably more controversial and definitely harder in our state of perpetual hurt, grief, violence, and survival. In social justice work, we tend to burn people pretty harshly and refuse them into our community. This is a product of systemic violence and a self-defense mechanism for survival, but I’ve been thinking more and more about this concept. When folks (who may have voted for Trump) have an ‘aha’ moment that maybe his ideologies will not help the people of this country, are we ready to accept them back into the fold?

The short answer is no. And I do not place any blame on folks who are angry, folks who don’t want to accept others back into the fold, because it is not on the marginalized to coddle and simply be okay with those who have taken actions to oppress. But my question is… where does that leave us? 

For me, that leaves us in a place where we are trying to push others to pluralism using a dualistic approach. You are either with us or you are a piece of trash. One mistake and you are ostracized. There is no way or a very limited way to come back into the fold. Now this is dualistic thinking. This or that. With us or against us. Us versus them. With no in between. YET, we expect to push folks to a more pluralistic view with this method. To clarify, pluralism is a state of cognitive thinking where we can accept multiple worldviews and perspectives simultaneously. At least, that is my goal. For someone with privileged identities to recognize and validate the existence on my experiences and how their own experiences impact that on an individual and systemic level. And I do not think a dualistic approach will help us in this fight. I think we need to model a pluralistic approach and deconstruct the us versus them mentality.

I honestly feel stuck because I am either supporting folks I can about or taking care of myself. It is exhausting to even begin to think about accepting people back into the fold. To recognize the blowback of racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, and ableism and have empathy for people who might not have the capacity for empathy back. That’s hard. I recognize this is not healthy or safe for many people and I fully support that marginalized folks need to do what they have to do to survive. However, in order to truly progress, we must form strong coalitions which includes those folks who need to be welcomed back.


10 thoughts on “A Dualistic Approach to Pluralism

  1. “In order to truly progress, we must form strong coalitions which includes those folks who need to be welcomed back.”
    I agree with you there. I don’t agree with the us vs. them mentality, which is quickly catching on today. When people are ostracized, especially those who are willing to change or accept other views but need more information or validation, we run the risk of forming more opponents and isolating ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Zezee | May 6, 2017, 9:46 AM
  2. I feel like we are becoming a country where there is no nuanced, non-dualistic thinking. Everything is dualistic, which leaves no room for complexity or areas for finding common ground. It’s one reason our political system is so broken. Politicians used to be able to work across the aisle and compromise, be civil and at least try to work together. In reference to your post, I agree, individuals need to do what’s best for their mental health and survival, but long term we need to be able to work together for change. Some people who I know and love who voted for Trump did so out of a number of reasons, and they are not bad people – I feel like they just aren’t aware of their own privilege and how his presidency hurts so many people. I feel like there has to be room to talk with and work with people of different beliefs or our nation won’t survive.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Laila@BigReadingLife | May 6, 2017, 12:00 PM
    • Yeah, and I wonder how can I use empathy to help build empathy in those folks. Like the people I know who voted for Trump definitely did so out of privilege and have little to no empathy for those impacted. I do have trouble trying to push a greater understanding on the systemic impact of different communities.

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by Brendon | May 7, 2017, 9:39 AM
  3. Yeah, this is hard because I absolutely want people fighting on my side but not if they still aren’t interested in confronting underlying causes and are still out for self. I don’t think we should exclude people from the fight either, but, man, we have a long way to go for mutual understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Akilah | May 6, 2017, 3:21 PM
    • Can’t stop nodding my head on this one. I definitely am where you are… do I really want certain values in my coalition? The real answer is no. So that means I am not working toward a truly inclusive community. And most days I am okay with that. But what will it take to actually move forward?


      Posted by Brendon | May 7, 2017, 9:38 AM
      • Right. There’s a big picture, but intersectionality reminds us that there’s are also lots of little pictures and the big picture people always sweep us “little picture” people under the rug. But the thing is the little pictures are part of the big picture and we’ll keep fighting the exact same fights unless we address the little pictures. So. Yeah.

        Liked by 1 person

        Posted by Akilah | May 7, 2017, 6:11 PM
  4. What a powerful discussion!. And I do agree with what your said on the “Us versus them” argument. I see it happening everywhere now and when something trivial or very serious is being discussed. “Your definitely right though about “we must form strong coalitions which includes those folks who need to be welcomed back”. I hope things will change, but I know it will take a lot of time and work.


    Posted by Life of a Female Bibliophile | May 8, 2017, 7:16 PM


  1. Pingback: Polarization | Reading and Gaming for Justice - July 20, 2017

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