Conversation around equality is uncomfortable. To begin with.  This is not a fresh circumstance. Equality has been a core component of conflict over the ages. Race. Age. Gender. Belief. Economic state. Land ownership. Ownership of all sorts.  It is disturbing for so many reasons. The way chauvinism shows up in all the layers of our culture is so ingrained it becomes virtually invisible.

I complimented the lovely young woman at the AT & T store saying she looked very much like their national spokesperson on television.  Laughingly I said, “Or perhaps she looks like you.”  Her response?  “Well, she is really OLD.  I hope I don’t look THAT old.”  My many decades tucked into my pocket, I  smiled at her.  I recognized the opportunity for affront on both sides. I’d apparently insulted her by suggesting she  shared a “look” with a woman she  believed to be really old.  And since I beat  both their ages  added together I had the opportunity to take offense. “If you think THAT’s old…”  Instead, I decided to be observant instead of offended.

So the concept of equality is informed by so many elements, both observed and unobserved.  I  was raised by a bigot and an inadvertent misogynist.  I think my father would have told you that he loved his wife and respected women.  And yet he raised me with, “It’s too bad you aren’t a boy – you are just a waste of a good brain in a girl.”  If a program on television featured any face besides  pasty white, it was turned off. Unless it was Sammy Davis, Jr. who, “Wasn’t bad for a ______.” It was not until I was 11 that I learned that the n word was not the preferred way to describe an  African American.  I bring this up for a significant reason.  My father has been dead for 24 years.  His prejudice still, accidentally, informs my first view.  A driver in a turban cut me off in traffic yesterday.  Because he drove so close, right in front of my car, I could see the texture of his turban.  Was it annoyance that brought my father’s  voice to my ear, whispering, “towel head?”  The instant I became aware of that rolling around in my brain (which took seconds, by the way) I was appalled. Ashamed of myself, actually.   After decades  – those derogatory labels still float in my DNA.  They rise up, unbidden, at unexpected moments. IF my father was an inadvertent misogynist, I have to conclude that I am an inadvertent racist.  It is from this realization that I want to provoke conversation, thought, examination.  {I am not pleased that an ethnic assessment of that sort comes to my thinking at any time.  And yet, it does. It is topical as I begin to explore the nature of creating a personal path toward justice and equity.}

Noticing difference is not racism.  I am an artist.  I noticed yesterday that there were more silver cars parked in the bank lot than any other color: 5 silver, 1 white, one blue, one red.  That’s noticing.  Thinking that silver cars are better than white, blue or red cars is judgement, at best, and has the opportunity to be a manifestation of prejudice.  I wonder about the line between judgement and discernment. Have for years.  I know there’s a line, I just don’t know where it is.  And there’s a line between noticing difference and experiencing prejudice.  I don’t know where that is, either.

Do you?

More from Beliefnet and our partners
error: Content is protected !!