Commentary: Acts of Exclusion

Exclusion. 

It is a tough word to stare on a page. Merriam-Webster defines this word two ways. One, “the act of the instance of excluding.” The other, “the state of being excluded.” 

Drilling down, the “legal definition” of the word “exclude” also provides two definitions. Again, one, “to prevent or restrict the entry or emission of…” And, two, “to remove from participation, consideration, or inclusion.”

The second set of definitions make more sense. It is because our society does this a lot for many reasons. 

I should know. I’ve been excluded many times in my life. 

You probably think of the classic ways of being excluded. Being the last kid to be picked on a team during physical education, because no other team wanted you. There had to be many reasons: Lack of athletic ability, supposed behavioral issues, other things that cause the other to tease or bully you. 

That often extended to picking groups of learners to do projects. Maybe it’s a track record of not learning or other things that would exclude a child from such activities. 

When the stakes get higher, the exclusions may hurt deeper. It might be not becoming class president or getting a scholarship. Once in college, you might not get into the fraternity you wanted to join. Or, to not get that job you wanted out of college because they picked someone else over you. 

Being an adult, now you try to find friendships outside of your relationships based on common interests. The car community is one such outlet. You connect with other people who appear to be like-minded. Or, at least try to. Depending on your experience, you might be excluded for a few reasons. Your car does not meet the standards of the community for some reason. Maybe they don’t like you for some other reason – personality, hygiene, or your looks. Maybe you simply do not vibe with the scene, even you’re trying your best to spectate, learn, and, even, participate. 

Exclusion in this arena also extends to photographers, fans, significant others, and even entire clubs and cliques. 

Then, there is the ultimate form of exclusion: To find yourself discriminated for being who you are.  This is indeed a very sensitive area, due to the explosion of social justice messaging stemming from the powder keg that was ignited on the streets of Minneapolis last year. 

It has always been there – the exclusion of the “other” because they are not like you in any way, shape, or form. You can fill in the blank as to what the “other” is.

Could it be someone else’s fault that they have been excluded from something? Only if they did something that would hurt the community. More often, we see people hurt each other individually. Sometimes that does not impact the “community,” as defined by mutual friends and ancillary people in their lives. We all know how dominoes fall. When one wants to exclude another person, all others will follow. A shame, really. 

As I mentioned before, I’ve experienced being excluded. I’ve also witnessed my fair share of exclusionary acts. Unfortunately, I am just as guilty as everyone in this. Perhaps my reasoning was valid at that moment – concern for safety and security, a history of being burned when you let folks get too close to you, and some other stupid rationale for some consideration that seemed reasonable at the time. 

So, be honest with yourselves, have we learned something in our exclusionary acts and behaviors?

On some level, we still exclude. It is perhaps a defense mechanism to maintain some order personally and collectively. On some level, it is indefensible. Perhaps, frivolous? 

What we do about it? Good question. In some cases, we can go back to some semblance of an equal playing field. Regardless of which “equal playing field” that needs to be accomplished, it is a monumental task to execute. 

Let’s not forget how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this notion of exclusion. The pandemic exposed divisions that caused further exclusion – both in real life and in the virtual arena. 

Also, we must recognize that we could have something that is preventing us from being a part of the culture. Mental/emotional/behavioral health is a real issue are often given lip service without any real solutions for a good number of us. It is easy to exclude someone who is suffering both inside and out. That is perhaps the worst part of living with a mental/emotional/behavioral health condition.

All of this is not really helping towards creating a quick and easy conclusion. Once we recognize a problem – especially among us who share common bonds, such as our love for the automobile – we often try to seek a solution. Sometimes, these solutions are simple. However, they are complicated to rectify and will take time to resolve. 

Talking about it is a good start. Talk is cheap. Actions towards solutions are not. It is all up to you and your community to consider. 

All photos by Randy Stern

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