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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Today, I had a meeting at a discreet location in a women’s shelter. There was no sign and the house was off the road down a long driveway. Blink and you would miss the driveway and the house couldn’t be seen from the road. The meeting was one of our county’s Community Action Board which is made up of several organizations who partner together to reach as many families in need and/or in crisis as possible.
The leader of the house was a nice woman who talked softly but her love for the women in the house was obvious. The women who are enrolled there are from all backgrounds, religions, and nationalities. Some have experienced abuse at the hands of others and some abused themselves. Under the roof of this home, however, all were welcomed, loved and given the skills to start life anew with a sense of belonging and purpose.
Written on a huge dry erase board were the rules of the house, encouragement and motivational sayings, practical applications of the lessons being taught to those who stayed in the home. On one board, almost in the middle was the name of the leader and one of the tenants wrote; “She rocks!” I thought this was awesome. Here is a woman who has given her life to helping those in need. It did not go unappreciated.
I hope each of us can find a place where we can offer love, kindness, time, patience and give worth to those whom life has overlooked or discarded.
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.