I've been looking for a new home for my family, so commercials for the various real estate websites and apps have been catching my eye. Some are touching, some surreal, some try to be funny. But there's one particular set of ads that I find disturbing in their message—and the message isn't about finding a house.
The ads in question are Realtor.com's Not You series of ads. They center on the idea that you had better use their website before someone else gets the home you want. It's the way those other people, the not yous, are depicted that's the problem.
Over the course of several ads, we learn that the not yous:
- have no respect for your boundaries
- are not as attractive as you
- want what you have and will take it
- are odd or different
- are off-putting or possibly disturbed
- are unpredictable
- are sometimes threatening
- are possibly violent
- are a possible threat
- outnumber you
- are less worthy than you
- are not worth your empathy
- are someone to ignore
- are not as smart as you
- are not as human as you
In truth, the not yous are just people who were also looking for a home and roof to put over their families' heads. But the ads dehumanize them.
Sadly , this is a message we hear constantly. It's this idea that there is you and them—and anyone who isn't exactly like you is the "other" and is therefore, a threat to you. If a person's skin color, gender identity, marriage, religion or even income level doesn't look just like yours, they are a threat. And in the Realtor.com ads, even the people who DO look almost just like you are "other" so really no one is safe.
This is the last idea we should be investing in today. There's a problem with this way of thinking and that is that we are ALL not yous to someone. So if this is how we insist on seeing the world, then we will always be divided, always outnumbered, and always threatened. . If we constantly fear new ideas, different viewpoints, and the rich diversity that is humanity, then we will be forever stuck—unable to truly reach our potential as human beings.
Frankly, that's the way some people want it, because it preserves their position. If we're constantly worried about people getting "what's ours"—when all they're really trying to get is basic human dignity—then we won't notice that people in power are taking away our right to speak freely, to worship as we choose, to control our own bodies, love those to whom we're called to love, educate ourselves and children, be safe in our jobs and in our schools and homes, and have a clean environment to live in, and even just clean drinking water.
Every one of those things is inconvenient to those who would prefer we be docile worker bees, just filling their coffers.
We were taking baby steps toward a better world—a better world for everyone. But then too many people bought in to the idea of the not yous. They gave power to those who would have us divided. Since then, families have been torn apart, clean water has been threatened, free speech is constantly under threat, people who have put their lives on the line to protect us have been made unwelcome in the military, and now other people who have done nothing wrong are facing the threat of expulsion from the only home they've ever known, and from a country that benefits every moment of every day from their presence.
You may not be worried about any of this, because it's not happening to you. But, as I said, we're all not yous to someone. Even you. And someday it will be you crying out for dignity and respect, because the people making the decisions see you as a not you, because even though you may look like them, you don't have the power or resources they do. So you are not the same as they are and therefore not worthy of respect, consideration, or dignity.
So what can we do?
We can stop and look for what's common between us.
We can see that the other people looking for a house share your need to find a home. We can see that the person in the grocery store who doesn't look like you just needs to feed his family. We can see that woman on the street whose clothes are more modest than yours, or more revealing, is just a person who wants to be comfortable in the world.
With just a little empathy we can show ourselves, our friends, our neighbors and our kids that there are no not yous. We're all just people trying to get by. We can show our leaders that we won't tolerate walls or division of any kind. Show them we want to help each other. Show them we insist on respect and basic human dignity for everyone.
We can make the world a better place if we stop this not you nonsense and just realize we're all in this together.