Thinking Space is both a book title and an event which takes place at the Tavistock Centre in London. I’m not sure if it’s still going on because I’m not studying there, but it sounds like a great concept: people getting together and discussing important and important topics.
The book came out of the discussions: several people who gave presentations at the Tavistock Centre have written about their experiences with discrimination, from both sides. One thing I really enjoyed was the level of honesty with which the contributors wrote about their lives.
In a relationship in which the point is arguably to understand what someone is saying as fully as possible, things like cultural differences and internalised prejudice can really get in the way. Lowe’s aim is to bring these challenges into the arena and speak about them openly.
It is all too often the case, Lowe says in the introduction, that people come at things from the perspective of insisting that they’re not bothered. I don’t mind if we’re different racially, culturally, or in terms of our gender expression or anything else, most people say.
But it’s not that simple. We live in a society where discrimination and prejudice are so pervasive that a lot of the time they aren’t even noticed. And often, the more we refuse to look at questions of difference and diversity, the worse those negative prejudices become.
“In order that we could work together, D and I had to hold two positions simultaneously, of “remembering” that she was black and I was white, and of “forgetting” it,” elaborates Helen Morgan in her chapter of the book.
It’s not enough to insist we “don’t mind” if someone is different from us, because society at a deep and systemic level does mind. And that plants seeds of prejudice even when we don’t know they’re there. Only by acknowledging where we’re starting from can we hope to move forward.
So, yes, this is a very important (and interesting!) book – but also, it’s an important topic to keep talking about. It’s not enough to just read a book and think you’ve understood what it’s saying: it’s important to apply it to our own lives, as difficult as that may be.