Board game pieces divided by color.

Imagine if Someone Could Tell You the Root of Their Racism

Racism is the pink elephant in the room, that everyone vehemently ignores. We know it exists but we don’t challenge non-minorities to have real intellectual discussions about it. Prejudice is so embedded in the fabric of this country, that talking about it hardly seems useful.

A discussion in today’s America, happens only to humor us black folk. A formal response isn’t likely to curb racism. People will still roam the public with their prejudices and discrimination will result.

Imagine playing outside your home in the neighborhood you live in as a 7 year old. A non-minority neighbor screams something from his mailbox and throws rocks, trying to hit your head while you stand at your mailbox a couple yards away. He keeps yelling and throwing while all the other non-minority kids stand behind him until you retreat back into your house.

Imagine you are walking into a store with your very small child. From the second you walk in, the sales woman greets you and immediately asks you if you need a shopping bag. Then instead of letting you shop, she comes from behind the counter to follow you from rack to rack, literally standing within 5 feet of you the entire time. She indiscriminately shuffles through neat racks and refolds clothes until she cashes you out.

Imagine walking into a job interview to greet the interviewer whose face immediately shifts in disgust as she turns the corner and sees you. She follows up after the handshake, “Oh, you’re so and so?” The interview is short and cold. You leave with a strong inclination that you won’t get a call back.

Imagine standing in a long line behind a non-minoritiy woman to have her turn to see you and immediately move her purse to a more protected position.

Imagine coming out of your job in uniform and a customer who just saw you in the store is sitting in their car with their engine off. You make eye contact while walking by the car and you can hear the doors lock.

Imagine having a jovial conversation with a non-minority coworker outside of your store while she smokes a cigarette. A person comes outside, looks at her and asks her if she’s okay and needs help. Your coworker waves them off and they drive away.

Imagine standing at a bar waiting for a friend and while waiting for your drink, a disorderly person comes up to you and says, “We don’t want blacks here!”

These are some examples of things I’ve experienced over the last thirty years of my life. They may sound trivial and they very well could have been, if they weren’t a constant occurrence. I cannot tell you how many times I have walked away from the smallest situations feeling demoralized and less than. These microaggressions try to take a piece of my dignity every time.

I’m okay with someone getting to know me, and then deciding I am not their cup of tea. What I’m not okay with, is someone seeing me and instantly changing how they would treat me if I looked like someone else.

In those instances, I just want to ask, “Why? Why did you do that?” I genuinely want to hear an answer that’s articulated without a barrage of talking points. When it comes to racism, people rationalize their behavior by talking about black on black crime and throwing around the words: looters, thugs and lazy.

Visceral displays of hatred should, at the very least, come from trauma. It’s unfathomable that racism could be so prevalent in society and most people have no real reason for their prejudice. I understand that it’s hard to just abandon your belief system if it’s all you know.

I could almost accept someone being harmed by a black person as a valid excuse for bias because it’s hard to argue with a tangible experience. But in many cases we aren’t even afforded that luxury. Beliefs can easily be formed by the media and the rhetoric of people around you.

The running joke is “I have a black friend/cousin/brother-in-law” as a mediator for crude jokes or comments. The gag is, it’s never an indicator of someone’s actual experience with a black person. This proverbial foot in mouth phrase can’t save you from transparency. The truth of the matter is most people, if not all, will have trouble identifying a specific reason that justifies their own prejudice because it isn’t real.

Race is a social construct—it’s arbitrary. Imagine telling someone you don’t like them because of the way UV rays hit their ancestors skin. Targeting someone on the basis of color along with sweeping generalizations is archaic and immature. Until we start challenging people as a collective to identify and explain the root of their racism, it will continue.

The next time you feel the urge to degrade or hurt a black person or any person of color, stop, and ask yourself—why am I doing this? Make it make sense because right now, racism in 2020 doesn’t.

Emotions on faces. Happy, sad, indifferent.

Accountability is Only for Regular Folk

Earlier today, I had a conversation with the management of the building that I live in. I have been trying to get them to take care of a reoccurring problem that they insist on just putting a patch on to send me on my way. The problem is that the patch is an inadequate and temporary fix to what is now an annoyingly painful problem to have to address every few weeks.

The people who work in the management office of my building are doing what they are paid to do—absolve and even deflect responsibility while spending the least amount of money. They are the disposable pawns of accountability that the owner put in place to distance himself from having to deal with said problems. In reality, that’s the face of success; you get high enough on the totem pole that you can delegate people to be relay a false sense of care.

I could complain until my face turns blue but holding this type of entity responsible for their inadequacy is a long game. Trying to get someone to right a wrong is already hard enough and our culture has different expectations for a regular person. If your sister, son or friend does something, you want the truth. Possibly even a believable explanation and an action plan to prevent it from happening again. I can easily stand on my soapbox with my powerpoint presentation and perfectly organized print outs of what went wrong and force you to acknowledge it. Maybe even force you to do something.

But I cannot take that same energy to my local town hall along with my poster boards of grievances because they will probably just take down my name, then shoo me off the premises. We have created barriers between the little people and the avenue of change to prevent there from being any. These roadblocks exist to discourage you from actually fighting for things that help you.

These tactics are meant to keep us small and compliant. Regular people take these positions and are just trying to get home to their families. I get it—it’s just a part of life but in the end it puts everyone at a disadvantage.

The notion of being too big to fail is a real thing because it’s systemic. As long as thirty people exist between you and a person that can actually help you, you are probably in for a long journey of run arounds.

Accountability is not only a means of acknowledgment and correction, it is a symbol of respect. That’s the main focus when it is brought up among peers. Do you respect me or my complaint enough to deal with this problem without incident? For the issue in my building, the management likely sees me as a talking checkbook. Their only concern is whether or not that electronic check is processed on the first. I am their guarantee of a paycheck every two weeks so it’s in there best interest to run me in circles until I give up.

I thought about all the times I was seeking action from acknowledgment. In some instances holding someone or something  accountable gave me peace of mind or improved my life in someway. In others, it made more sense to just let it go. The question remains, should you allow yourself to go away quietly? It depends on the scope of the issue. Sometimes it makes sense to let the principle outweigh the stakes. There is integrity in fighting for yourself and what you know is right, even if it means you will lose. Accountability matters and in a few cases it only takes one person to champion change. 

 

Frog giving flowers to another frog

Forgiveness is an Illusion of Empathy

Say the words, I forgive you. It’s easy to convince yourself that you have, because you have said it countless times before. That phrase lingers daintily after heated arguments and broken hearts.

Can you really? Is it truly possible to sit face to face with the person that has wronged, lied, hurt or done things that caused you to question your own humanity and believe it?

For most people I would say, no. In order to access these feelings, you have to have a sense of peace that mirrors a monk. Their is certainly power behind emotion that moves us in ways we don’t always understand. In order to truly forgive, you are admitting to yourself that you can live with it; the hurt and the pain without constantly mustering feelings of animosity.

We often give ourselves too much credit and hold pride in trying to be emotionally elevated. In reality, very few people are equipped to deal with the emotional maturity that it takes to forgive someone.

If the person responsible for the event evokes extreme feelings in you, it will be nearly impossible to separate them from said event. You have to make peace with the person, in light of their indiscretions to move past whatever it is that hurt you.

For example: relationships that have dealt with infidelity, tend to circle endlessly around the cheating because the jilted lover hasn’t truly forgiven the person. The actions that resulted in the confrontation are long gone, but the semblance still remains.

The pressure to move on from situations and deal with them in a timely matter is a condition of society. Holding anger in any situation too long can get you labeled bitter, petty or just incapable of letting the past go. So, in order to side step the labels most people rather pretend.

It’s easier to rise to higher elevations by faking the healing, rather than actually taking the time needed to sew up the wounds. Friends and family will undoubtedly come to give you the proverbial pat on the back for taking the high road and finally getting over it.

If forgiveness doesn’t work for you, that’s okay too. Maybe in certain situations, it’s okay to deduce that some aren’t meant to be forgiven. For everyone else, we will run the mill and before you know it, that phrase will be ready to surface again.

…Before you say those words again, have you convinced yourself?


This post originally appeared on Medium

People standing in a crowd.

Are You One Dimensional?

When meeting someone new, how long does it take for you to decide whether or not you want to know more about them? Five, ten or even twenty minutes? First impressions count for reasons we may not want to admit; interactions between people are highly superficial.

I am not positive if we are socialized this way or it’s instinctual. Maybe its some type of a desperate ode to the survival of the fittest. It is easy to get caught up in the semantics of it all. Who are you? What do you do? What have you done? Never realizing that we are weaponizing triumphs and failures against each other.

Learning these facts about someone else, aid in the stuffing of their entire existence into a category. Often times getting out of these assigned seats leaves someone subject to being criticized and even shamed. An example: celebrities have no place in contributing anything useful to society other than what their brand peddles.

One aspect of someone’s life is just that — one. Defining someone by arbitrary things and then punishing them when other parts are revealed, is too common. Reputations are built on this exact premise. One must exude perfection 24/7 without skipping a beat. We all have come to expect it.

The life of a person is made up of many complex factors. The different parts of you are allowed to live separately but in the same place. The pressure that we put on one another to uphold these ridiculous expectations is unrealistic.

I always find myself coming back to the line in the animated movie Shrek, where he tells Donkey that ‘ogres are made of layers’. Donkey misses the point completely but that line always resonated with me. Many times we’re so busy trying to sell our identities to people that we fool ourselves; falsely correlating to things that we aspire to be — not necessarily to who we are.

Then consequently, we apply the same rules to anyone who crosses our path. Are we buying what they are selling? If so, that’s the version of that must upheld. The cycle repeats and continues to breed superficiality. Society is robbing itself of deep and meaningful connections in the name of vanity.


This post originally appeared on Medium.