Overcoming the need to create outsiders is our greatest challenge as human beings. It is the key to ending deep inequality. We stigmatize and send to the margins people who trigger in us the feelings we want to avoid. This is why there are so many old and weak and sick and poor people on the margins of society. We tend to push out the people who have qualities we’re most afraid we will find in ourselves—and sometimes we falsely ascribe qualities we disown to certain groups, then push those groups out as a way of denying those traits in ourselves. This is what drives dominant groups to push different racial and religious groups to the margins.
And we’re often not honest about what’s happening. If we’re on the inside and see someone on the outside, we often say to ourselves, “I’m not in that situation because I’m different. But that’s just pride talking. We could easily be that person. We have all things inside us. We just don’t like to confess what we have in common with outsiders because it’s too humbling. It suggests that maybe success and failure aren’t entirely fair. And if you know you got the better deal, then you have to be humble, and it hurts to give up your sense of superiority and say, “I’m no better than others.” So instead we invent excuses for our need to exclude. We say it’s about merit or tradition when it’s really just protecting our privilege and our pride.