Color Blind? –
This morning our staff attended a lecture on the Understanding Your Implicit Bias. The takeaway is that we all have biases, ways of looking at the world, groups of people, each other. These biases come from our parents, other role models we had as kids, extended families, the neighborhoods we grew up in, friends we hung around, and countless other influences. It wasn’t a lecture on “if” but “why” we developed biases and how they impact your interactions with people you encounter each day, what you think when you hear certain words, see certain images, and how deep these biases are rooted within us.
One of the more interesting topics the lecturer spoke about was the idea of being “color blind.” In other words not seeing a person’s skin color but their character. On the surface, this seems like a great way to connect with each other. The challenge with this way of thinking, according to the speaker, was that you strip a person of part of their identity. As a Christian, white, middle class, middle-aged, southern, heterosexual, male, each of these traits are part me. Along with the unique experiences of my life they make me who I am.
I found this a wonderful and a too often overlooked idea. Sometimes, in order to make everyone “equal”, we take away parts of their identity or neutralize them. When we do this we are doing a disservice to them and ourselves. People, fully known, recognized and loved, connects us in a balanced way that honors the breadth of humanity and the amazing uniqueness present in all of us.
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Yesterday evening, Beth and I went to pick up an antique desk from a friend who isn’t using it anymore. We placed it in the back of the truck, tied it down and headed home. We were a little over an hour from the house when a few rain drops hit the window. “Uh-oh!” we thought and both said. It was raining and we didn’t have the desk covered for protection against water. The sprinkles stopped and we breathed a sigh a relief. As we continued the drive we talked about how most days, especially evenings, we wanted rain and were thankful. However, because we had the desk we desired the rain to “go away and come again some other day.” We both agreed we were fickled human beings.
Fickled is a funny word but it can be a difficult obstacle to overcome. I’ve known and have been fickled in my life, vacillating back and forth between opinions, ideas, and judgments. Most of the time being fickled can be overlooked but there should be, must be, things upon which we would stake our possessions, livelihood, and lives. If we are fickled about everything then we will stand for nothing.
This week, perhaps more than any other week in recent history, being fickled about bias, hate, bigotry, and racism has been on full display. I believe these are areas in which there can be no wiggle room, no area for retreat. This is where people must draw the line, stand at the risk of everything because if we don’t there may be nothing left to protect.
Weeds are those things in our yard we try to get rid of, permanently. Last weekend my wife sprayed a lot of weeds in our yard which were growing out of control. Most people don’t like weeds because we’ve determined they don’t have any value. They’re unwanted, unloved and disposable.
I came across the quote in the picture (included) by Ralph Waldo Emerson and it gave me pause. It didn’t change my view of weeds but it did make me think of the men I work with on a daily basis. Most of these men are seen as unwanted, unloved and disposable. Those who are incarcerated speak of being lonely not receiving any visits from family and friends. There are many whose wives, girlfriends, and kids have begun to discover life without them in it.
I was speaking with another man this week who has a bias toward a particular group of people. When I inquired if he knew any of them intimately, had sat with them, talked with them, ate with them, gotten to know them, he admitted there wasn’t many. It’s easier to group them together and declare they have no value.
Our world is full of “weeds,” people who are looked at and disregarded for many reasons. Whether it’s their religion, skin color, accent, dress, tattoos, sexual preference, they are seen as less than and lacking virtues such as goodness, grace, and kindness.
No one is a weed. To think and act as if one person or group isn’t worthy reduces the value of us all.