Saturday, May 13, 2006

We've still got a ways to go

Though I am not often surprised by racist, prejudiced, ignorant, or clueless statements anymore, I am much more aware of them than I used to be.

The other day I took my film to Walgreens to be processed. Once I had gotten home and finally had time to look at the CD, I realized that the pictures were of people I had never seen before. I took the pictures back the next day in hopes that someone else had returned my pictures as well. When I walked in, the White lady behind the counter very excitedly said she had been waiting on me to return my pictures. She started looking through a couple batches of pictures that had been returned. As she flipped through them, she looked a little disappointed as she said, "Oh, nope. These aren't yours." I wasn't quite sure how she could be so confident that they weren't my pictures if they didn't have my name on them and she didn't know me or the people who might be in my pictures. I asked her if I could look at the pictures myself. She, very confidently, said, "They're not yours. They can't be." I pressed a little more and asked if I could just look. In a much lower voice, she then said, "They can't be yours...unless you know a lot of black people." When I assured her I did, she let me flip through one of the rolls. Unfortunately, they weren't my pictures.

I guess her comment struck me so much because of her assumption that because I am White, the people I know and interact with must be White as well. It wasn't that I was offended. Instead, the comment made me very aware of the fact that our country is still very segregated--to the point that we don't even assume that different ethnicities would mix and mingle. The lady simply voiced the reality: Most people don't interact with people who are ethnically different than them (we could also extend this to economics or any other difference). From what I can tell, we like to stay in our comfort zone. We like to find people who agree with us and see things our way. We value sameness.

Because we are still so segregated and because we value sameness, it takes a big effort on our part. No one...Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, disabled, able-bodied, etc...can wait around or expect the "other person" to make the move. In order for us to move toward an inclusive society, each of us must make the effort to get to know the "other person's" personality, their struggles, their joys, their fears, their goals, etc. on an intimate level.

It takes time.

It takes effort.

It requires openness.

It is sometimes uncomfortable.

If you don't already have these diverse friendships, I challenge you to genuinely seek them out. If your friends are anything like mine, it's so worth it!
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