Can’t We All Just Get Along?
02 Jun 2014
We all enjoy looking at beautiful things: a rainbow with its many colors, a garden filled with myriad flowers, a sunset descending upon ocean waters. They make us pause in awe of creation. That’s why it baffles me as to why we are not in as much awe of the beauty of humanity. Instead we see the ugliness that arises from ignorance, greed, pride and hurt—all of which prevent us from looking at each other as part of the incredible tapestry of creation.
Growing up in Uganda in the late 1970's, I remember being keenly aware that I was of a particular tribe and religion. These identities of tribe and religion were the primary ways I saw prejudice and superiority complexes play out amongst my people. It was easy to understand tribalism as it arose from the political environment of the time. My home country had been ruled for years by men who led with iron fists often aimed at those of a different tribe other than their own—a remnant of colonialism.
It took me a while to understand that even the religious differences we had arose from the politics of those who introduced our ancestors to Christianity. The lines between Catholics and Protestants were so clearly drawn that you could tell which faith someone belonged to by how they translated the name of Jesus in my language of Luganda (Yezu for Catholics and Yesu for Protestant). I look at this distinction now and want to laugh, but this was no laughing matter back then. In those days, you couldn’t even marry a fellow Christian if you were Catholic and they were Protestant. The taboo was similar for marrying outside your own ethnic group.
But to me, everyone was Ugandan. I wasn’t aware of the distinction of color until I came to America. It was here I discovered that I was Black! As we studied how color had been used to oppress people because they looked different, I realized that no matter where we are in the world, it seems that we go out of our way to see diversity as something to be feared instead of the thing of beauty and infinite creativity God meant it to be. After all, wasn’t it at one time illegal in America for people of a different race and color to marry? It was the same prejudice I had seen in Uganda, except there, it had not been written into law.
I’m grateful for the opportunity my sisters and I were given to use music, dance and drama in order to learn about the different cultures of our native land. This allowed me to understand my fellow Ugandans better. It also helped me recognize how much culture was tied to my identity and self-esteem. In the book, Whose Shoes Are You Wearing, the authors (who happen to be my sisters) discuss how confidence comes from knowing who you are and being comfortable in your own “skin.” However, this isn’t possible if you‘re not accepting of every aspect of who God made you to be. It’s only by accepting yourself that you can learn to accept others. It’s only by being accepting of yourself and others that you can finally recognize the person standing in front of you (no matter their differences), as part of the magnificent artwork that makes up the human tapestry. Because, if you really think about it, would we appreciate the beauty of a red rose if that were the only type of flower God had created?
This guest post by Mary Kiganda, an avid writer and lover of music. Using these tools, her goal is to help others grow in the knowledge of our Creator and recognize the purpose for which each one of us was made. She uses her gifts to build bridges, educate, and bring healing to the broken spirit.