The way we move through our everyday experience is aided by our ability to discern what is in front of us. The survival wavelength of our ancestors has carried us through to present day where our judgment still plays a necessary role in staying alive. Identification and categorization have gone hand in hand and to be able to judge something we must first be able to identify and name it, in order to decide how we will react to it (says science). This skill was important for the civilizations before us whose livelihood depended on being able to recognize danger in a different and possibly more direct way. This is not to say that we do not call upon this instinct in the 21st century, but in todays world there are more factors clouding our judgment than sheer survival. Most of the time, this cloud has more to do with the prejudices we have allowed to control our perception of the people around us in relation to our individually complex identity. In the current social milieu it seems increasingly harder, if not almost impossible, to distinguish our survival judgments from our civil prejudices.
As a black woman, I navigate this world with a strange combination of confidence and fear in relation to the people I find myself surrounded by or confronted with but I have come to a point in my life where I can openly admit, to myself and to others, that I have acted negatively based on prejudices I hold. Some of which I was raised with and some of which I have developed through experience but nonetheless, they need to be dealt with.
This is different for each one of us but I often find myself asking the question of how do we begin to address the judgments that we make based on perpetuated stereotypes and misinformation? How do we move forward with individual and collective healing when these barriers present themselves in all physical and subliminal spaces?
In the past four years I have had to confront myself and unpack the problematic things I have said and thought about other people, and to be responsible for checking yourself is hard. I have had to check myself when it comes to expressing passive-aggressive and negative energy towards the people I disagree with, while reminding myself that everyone has the right to their opinion. I have had to confront the depressive parts --anger, jealousy, etc.-- of my personality that feed on the hurtful assumptions I make about other people, which only encourage further damage to my self-esteem. I have had to change my language around subjects that deal with the identities and personalities of others, recognizing that if I do not truly know what life is like for them, I have no right to speak for them.
The fat-phobia that I was raised with is no longer acceptable because I have realized that there are so many other factors that contribute to our struggles with body image, and at this point in time, being able to “eat right,” is definitely a privilege.
Sometimes I slip up but I am learning to catch myself before I fall too hard.
I have often heard people talk about how hard it is to change, without realizing that affirming that reality is a part of what is preventing them from being able to change. It is extremely difficult to fix what you’ve never acknowledged is broken. It is honest to admit not knowing where to begin, but recognizing our faults and doing nothing to change them is what keeps us stuck hurting ourselves and other people.
We are all in this together. Our minds have collectively been programmed and conditioned to default to the unimaginable for the truly achievable. Change is not impossible, it is constant, and everything in and around us is constantly changing. The idea of stability, in certain contexts, has made us wary of transformation because we so often associate it with negative destruction.
This aversion to change has kept us locked in a deadly game of oppression/repression Olympics where we allow our own pain, suffering and insecurities to cast a shadow of doubt on the truth of other people.
I experience different levels of discrimination on a daily basis but this does not give me the permission to invalidate the discrimination of anyone else I meet.
Just because I am a person of color does not mean that I am not guilty of cultural appropriation, and upholding the racial prejudices against other minorities on conscious and unconscious levels.
The socially divisive tools of classism, sexism, racism, ableism, sizeism, homophobia, transphobia (and any other “ism,” “ist,” and “phobia” that could possibly be added to this list), each come with their own complex relationship to prejudice and discrimination, often intersecting and triggering multiple points of marginalization. Being able to see that all forms of discrimination are related is an important part of the empathetic puzzle that we are currently missing. We have been searching for ages and putting our faith into the outcomes of elections to determine when we should care for and allow each other to have rights. The biggest challenge we face is recognizing the internal process that must actualize before an external change can truly manifest.
It is easy to write about (sorta lol) and even easier to read but if we don’t collectively start making the time to investigate and heal our own wounds, we will lose everything.