Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Understanding, not toleration

My current workplace environment is 90% minority.

I am one of four white males.

I'll be honest with you. When I started working here, I had the same thought that many other white people have in similar situations.

I bet they hate Whitey. I bet they resent me being there. I bet they will be militant and angry and and and...


It wasn't that way at all. I stand corrected.

In all honesty, I like black people much better than I like lots of white people. White people are so uptight. We are type A to the max. Black people let it all hang out and don't worry about it. Instead of obsessing about this or that, they live in the moment. Instead of being anal-retentive and micromanaging the future, they are content to live in the present.

I had a friend of color as we say in white liberal circles who asked me point-blank once: Kevin, why do white people kill themselves?

Damned good question.

The problem is that we have built all of these walls around ourselves. Black people weren't angry at me. Black people didn't automatically assume much of anything about me, except for the fact that I wouldn't understand them because I was not black myself.

We speak different languages. They have their language, and we ours. If we really wanted to change things for the better we would learn to be bilingual. And then language would cease to exist. It just wouldn't matter anymore.

Ignorance stems from a lack of understanding. Ignorance stands from prejudice.

Prejudice. Pre-judge.

I am pre-judging you before I know you.

I'll tell you another story.

I was talking to a woman on the phone from a prominent southern state.

The call was going so well until the very end. She said,

You sound like a nice guy. I'm so glad you're not a Mexican.

I mean, don't get me wrong. They work hard. But they come over here and drive up our taxes and and and...

Naturally, being that I must be friendly and courteous with all customers I was not allowed to tell this woman what I really thought about her.

But I understand where she's coming from. She's afraid of change. People fear change, particularly as they get older. Change means adjustment. Change is uncomfortable.

But without change, we will make no progress.

Without understanding, we will have only tolerance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Prejudice caused by repression is an interesting idea. I always thought that prejudice was caused by whites owning blacks as property, willing them to their children, viewing them as lower than animals (Borat's guide to women comes to mind...) and so on. Then again, I'm an uptight white. Maybe I'll do a little bump and grind and re-think my position.