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|When "Them" Become "Us" - Page 10|
Anyone who wishes to move outside the consulting room to address racial, ethnic, or sexual differences must rely on the bedrock belief that everyone has redeemable parts, and you can find them if you have the will and the patience to look. The biggest lesson from my South Carolina meltdown was recognizing my assumption that there was nothing in any of the participants that could be redeemed: they were all 100-percent "other"—belligerent, resistant, recalcitrant, closed-minded bigots. That they'd shown up for the training, were engaging in the process, were expressing their views in ways that were (God knows) honest and transparent, and had long since committed themselves to the helping professions hadn't registered with me.
To do this kind of work, we must learn to see through the myth of otherness: we must recognize that all people, no matter how flawed, have redeemable capacities in their being. It's our responsibility to find their virtues and connect with them. Admittedly, when facing hostility and rejection, our task poses formidable challenges, but failing to look for the redeemable qualities in "the other" amounts to a retreat from the possibility of relationship.
Once we move outside our offices, idealism and good intentions aren't enough. We must bear in mind a fundamental principle of our work: whatever the seductions of the "otherness process," our apparent enemies have the potential to be fair, just, kind, and true—in other words, genuine human beings, just like us.
Kenneth V. Hardy, Ph.D., is professor of family therapy at Drexel University, director of the Eikenberg Institute for Relationships, and coeditor of Revisioning Family Therapy: Race, Class, and Gender and Teens Who Hurt: Clinical Interventions to Break the Cycle of Adolescent Violence. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the Editor about this article may be e-mailed to email@example.com.