One of the biggest hurdles Urban Alliances faces in advancing opportunities for those we serve is how often those individuals are looked at as the someone who we have nothing in common with. We all know this is far from the truth, but despite our efforts, it is too common to see the differences instead of the similarities. I would even venture to say this goes beyond just our space and into most of the spaces out there. The truth is we all have more in common than many would like to admit, in fact. The belief that we are different is at the root of many of the injustices happening in this country today.
One of the most constant things that happens at Urban Alliance is seeing things and people who do not fit within the larger societal stereotypes, and often it is easy to assume the individual is the anomaly. Yet maybe, the stereotype is the anomaly, maybe the broad brush was brought out too quickly in an effort to advance a certain view, or maybe it was simpler to use the broad brush in order to uphold our particular view of the world. In this country we have a long history of racial oppression, criminalization of substance use, and mass incarceration. Our ability to name what is at the root of much of the gross injustices in this country is the path forward.
I love the fact individual people and stories can break these systemic stereotypes. It doesn’t take much, for me it was singular stories around substance use, incarceration, and race that told me that what I had believed was the convenient line to believe. If single stories, and the people who are brave enough to tell them are a key to shifting the narrative, we should work to create space to have those conversations.
Proximity is just that, space to learn, space to grow, space to understand. Through those spaces we can begin to see what is shared, what is common, and together we can begin to build a world where each individual is in control of their own narrative.