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.

Locks on bridge.

We Consistently Pledge Allegiance to Expectations

The first time you probably pledged allegiance to anything was in your kindergarten class. You stood up, placed your hand across your heart and recited the paragraph. We did it because we were told to. In essence, there’s no real reason for a five-year-old to adopt this form of patriotism. None of us were planing any treasonous activity in between eating crayons and gummy bears.

This form of conditioning taught us to have undeniable loyalty to certain things: country, family, friends, jobs or anything really. We are expected to be loyal without a question and to a fault.

I’m sure you know a few people who could care less who they leave behind in their opportunistic quests. Others are simply presented with a choice. Self-preservation reminds us that people will almost always choose themselves over someone else. Loyalty in this condition is a faulty concept — it’s set up to fail.

Families are the first place to look for loyalty, yet that’s where the disappointment usually begins. They are structures made up of impressionable human beings — bonded by blood and strong cultural associations. We depend on our families for everything growing up and continue to seek that ‘protection’ into adulthood. The people we have around us as children are our first glimpse of how people interact in intimate settings. Blood is indeed thicker than water but it can easily be diluted by intention.

Friendships are extensions of the archetype of family bonds. A person literally adopts someone else into their life to serve as a secondary lifeline of support. Finding good friends is about as easy as picking a needle out of a haystack. You can give the most vulnerable parts of yourself to someone who has no real obligation to you. Bonds between people change as circumstances do. The same goes for romantic relationships and jobs, it’s all consumerism.

The exchange of needs, wants and desires between two people or a person and a bottom line. The truth is we all use each other for completely selfish reasons: money, companionship or goals. Through these exchanges, loyalty is the best way to keep the connection going. The brain is saying, I want this happiness to continue or I need this stream of income to continue so I will do what I have to do to keep it in my life.

We adapt and change accordingly to make this happen. By doing so we want the best outcome possible. The expectation is that we will be rewarded for all of our dedication and hard work. The time invested in a person or thing will eventually pay off until it doesn’t. Family bonds do break, relationships end, friends become strangers and people lose their jobs every day.

That’s just the way it can play out. Should that deter loyalty in the next opportunity that presents itself? No. Loyalty is an admirable trait and should be treated as such. Experience teaches us to be mindful in dealing with others and to adjust our expectation levels to coincide with reality.

The post first 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.