Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What I think in my head is not always so...

Don't you hate it when an ugly truth just smacks you in the face?

For years and years and years I have told myself I am not prejudiced. Not me. I talk fair, I believe fair, I believe in equal rights and opportunity. I believe that all were created by God and all are loved the same. We all have the same worth.

So, when I realized the other day that I was choosing white over black I was shocked!
And I started thinking. Given a choice I choose a white clerk over a black one, a white friend over a black one, a white anything over a black one. Not pretty.

And I started wondering why. Not to excuse, but to understand. I had a teacher in college that taught that prejudice is caused by lack of communication. I would agree, but I would also say it is cause by lack of understanding. I just don't understand the culture; the way of thinking, the things that are important in their lives. It's not for lack of trying - it just is. I have no problem sitting and talking to an African American. I have no problem being fair and kind and helpful. I just don't choose to watch a show about an African American family, or read a book about an African American family, or go to a movie about an African American family - I just don't get it. I don't understand the humor, the nuances, and the thought process. And so I am uncomfortable and just choose to watch or read something else. Again - not pretty.

Growing up I was raised in an all white town. There were no African Americans in my school. I remember when a black girl moved in on our street - I was the first to befriend her and we did a lot around the neighborhood...until I did something to offend Lydia and she dumped me. Over something I just didn't get. She had something to prove, she felt discrimination, and chose to prove it over something trivial.

No African Americans in my church. Or my high school. None. And in college, just a handful. I was friends with them, but it was pretty superficial in hindsight. I wasn't their friend to prove anything. I honestly thought I was unprejudiced. In my brain I was. In my thought process I was. When I talked to others, I was. I raised my children to be unprejudiced. But evidently in my heart of hearts I guess I wasn't.

The other day I was playing some dumb game on face book and you have to add friends. I found myself adding all the white friends and not the African Americans. I didn't even realize I was doing it until it hit me in the face. And then I realized I had seen an ad for a movie that sounded good. But it had an all African American cast. Changed my mind. Kinda like if it had an all male cast and a definite male slant I would also change my mind. Not because I don't like men, but because I don't understand the language, the thought process, the things that make them tick.

So apparently, I am prejudiced - maybe not in the same way that others are. But prejudiced none-the-less and it is still ugly. I'm not fooling myself. So, the question is: now that I realize it, how do I fix it? It's obviously deeply seated. So deeply seated that I was unaware that it was even there....

1 comment:

twila said...

Hi Karen! I came here from Kelly's place. I like the honesty you expressed here. That took courage, both to see it and then to verbalize it. I think of what Simone Weil said, something to the order that we change not by an act of will, but by attention. Noticing is huge. Plus, you seem so naturally curious and inquisitive, so I'm thinking you will probably take this up as a project, right? Learn about the culture, etc. Read the poems, novels and essays and watch the movies you would have avoided. Immersing yourself in a culture can be so liberating!

Any way, just stopped by to say hello. Namaste!