Tag Archives: Racism

AWAKENING TO OUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” Aldous Huxley

Have you ever noticed a prejudice you have?  How did you deal with it?  Do you accept your preconceived notions as the only truth?

There is a street in my neighborhood that I use as a convenient cut-through from a major street onto the road that runs to my subdivision.  The street has modest houses on it and a small park.  Just before I reach the park is a house that always attracts my attention.

The house and yard are similar to those around it but it is quite different in one way.  It has lots of “junk” in the yard including a group of shovels, hoes, pitch forks, and other items surrounding and tied to the mailbox.  Other miscellaneous items are grouped in different areas of the lawn – not just dumped there, put arranged in a somewhat artistic order.

I know there is at least one man who lives there because I’ve seen him working in the yard in his jeans and hat.  As I drive by, I scan the yard to see what new items may have been added.  I think, “A ‘red neck’ must live here” and smile to myself as if this is a joke.  “Still, he is rather creative.”

Perceptions Not Based On Reality

But yesterday as I approached the house, I saw the heaps of things on the lawn and thought, “I bet he’s a “red neck.”  Then I hit the brakes.  Hanging underneath the mailbox was a sign, Black Lives Matter.  I was stunned.  Clearly, I had made a very wrong judgement about the man who lived there.

Then I realized that I was perceiving “red necks” as racist.  I was shocked.  I’m not a racist.  Even as a child growing up in the South with a racist father, I had a mother who taught me to care about all people and see them as equals.  I’ve taught Black and Native American teenagers and loved and nurtured them when dealing with administrations who couldn’t have cared less about them.

Defining People Who Differ From Us

But this time the sign’s message slapped me in the face so that I could not avoid the reality that my perception of a person I had never met was tainted with cultural prejudice.  What did I mean by “red neck?”  Well to be honest, I see that as a person who is rural, uneducated, very conservative and narrow-minded.  But of course, I’m not prejudiced!

I explored my thoughts further.  In my mind “red necks” were white people who attacked black people, carried guns, and wanted to fight anyone who disagreed with them.

So what did I know about the man in the house with the Black Lives Matter sign?  Mary Browne once said, “Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.”  I had decided who this man was when I had only my perception to guide me and I had clearly gone down a back alley.

I think of myself as a liberal, open-minded person, yet my perception had veered into a place that shocked me.  As I continue to think about this incident, I feel humbled by the experience.  I’m not so different after all.  I have a weakness for imagining another’s life with only superficial information.  How often do we all do that?

Changing To Create Equality

Now is a critical time.  How many of us who are white think we know what racial justice looks like when we have never been racism’s target?  Fortunately, the present protests and actions around racism have taken on a new power to educate us and hopefully will change the structures of our nation to create true equality.  It is a potent time for us all to explore in depth our own thinking and clean out the muck!

As Mary Browne suggested, it is time not to judge so that we can open the locked doors of our preconceived notions and allow wisdom to enter.  It is time for us to find peace and experience love for all humans, knowing that there is a reason why people feel as they do based on what they have experienced in life.

I will probably never meet the man whose sign stunned me, but I don’t have to.  I just have to remember to open my mind to all possibilities so that wisdom can enter.

©2020 Georganne Spruce

Additional Readings:

DANCING TO THE DANGER OF ASSUMPTIONS

AWAKENING TO RACIAL EQUALITY

AWAKENING TO LIVE HONESTLY

 

 

 

DANCING TO THE DANGER OF ASSUMPTIONS

“Begin challenging your assumptions. Your assumptions are your window to the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile or the light won’t come in.” Alan Alda

sun-through-tree-leaves

Have you made any assumptions lately that turned out to be wrong? Are you quick to make assumptions or do you explore a situation before deciding what you believe?

We all make assumptions every day and many of our beliefs about life are based on assumptions. We may make judgments about people based on little evidence and proceed to take action based on those judgments. If our assumptions are wrong, they can lead to disaster.

Assumptions May Hide Lies

When I was teaching in high school, I had a student who frequently told dramatic stories about her parents. Having taught for many years by that time, I retained my skepticism because I knew teenagers often embellish the truth to their advantage. When I met the parents and talked to other teachers, it was clear that her parents were not the people she described.

I have to admit this student was very convincing and I had sometimes assumed a story was true. It isn’t always easy to sort out the truth or to even be clear that we are making an assumption. For example, I recently made an assumption about outdoor mural artists that I discovered was incorrect when I attended a religion and arts conference a few weeks ago.

sytleweekly.com

styleweekly.com

We May Not Realize We Have Made An Assumption

I have always assumed that most artists who paint on buildings are basically graffiti artists, often talented but untrained, but I wasn’t consciously aware that I made this assumption. At the conference, when Ed Trask, a very successful, talented and well-trained outdoor mural artist spoke to us about the people who do this art, I realized how ignorant I really was about the subject.

Based on Ed’s presentation and our tour around Richmond that day, I learned that most of these artists have studied art like any other artist and are often well-paid for their work. Looking closely at the murals, I began to appreciate the detail and artistry of these paintings. With accurate information, my assumptions about mural artists changed.

The Danger of Assumptions

Unlike these two examples, there are other places in our lives where making assumptions may be dangerous. Sherman Alexie points out his concern: “In the middle of the night when you are ambiguously ethnic, like me, when you’re brown, beige, mauve, sienna, one of those lighter browns in the Crayola box, you have to be careful of the cops and robbers, because nobody’s quite sure what you are, but everybody has assumptions.”

What we are seeing right now is how deeply assumptions around race permeate our culture. The number of recent murders of black men by police is staggering, and I suspect they are based on any number of assumptions. One assumption is that whatever the police do, they will not be held accountable, even if they kill an unarmed, non-violent person.

Another assumption is that if a person runs away from the police that means he is guilty of something illegal, and it’s okay to shoot or harm him physically. It never seems to occur to the police that a young black man may run away from them simply because he fears them. Our assumptions are often based on such stereotypes that are not truths; they are distortions. But the problem is that we may not always know the truth, and we often have to dance around it, hoping for the best rather than ask the questions that needs to be asked and assume the suspicious person is innocent unless we have proof the opposite is true.

beaver lake 1 2014

The Danger of Assumptions Is That They May Be Lies

As a woman born at the end of World War II, I’ve seen many changes take place in the treatment of women. It is hard for me to even grasp that for part of my grandmother’s life, it was not legal for her to vote. When I was 27 years old, the Supreme Court struck down the laws that prohibited blacks and whites from marrying. A few years later, when I was divorced, the credit my husband and I had both worked to earn belonged to him only.

All these laws were based on the assumption that one group of people is inferior to another so that the “superior” group can retain control over the other. But this assumption is a lie. The reality is that we are all supposed to be treated equally in this country and the law is supposed to support that. Clearly we have still not reached a time when this theory is a reality because many people still cling to these lies of inferiority as truth.

We Believe In Lies Because We’re Afraid

Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The FourAgreements says, “When we believe in lies, we cannot see the truth, so we make thousands of assumptions and take them for truth. One of the biggest assumptions we make is that the lies we believe are the truth.” So why do we choose to believe these lies? Because they serve a useful purpose for us or simply because we are afraid of the truth.

Fear is at the base of all negative emotion and behavior. When we can release it and look beyond it, we can come to a place where that emotion does not color our experiences. When we find ourselves believing without a doubt that something is true, it is worthwhile to question what information this is based on. We must learn to challenge our own assumptions.

Wildflower Walk 2014 025

Our Intuition May Help Us Avoid the Danger of Assumptions

There are two times when I know I need to challenge my assumptions. First if I start defending my view point and “digging my feet in” I know I need to stop and question why I am being so insistent. That leads me to the second awareness. In that case, I feel an uneasiness or a sense that something isn’t quite right and my intuition is suggesting I reconsider my assumption.

In the areas of our lives and society that are not working, we need to examine what is at the core of the issue and challenge ourselves to explore it until we are sure the path we are taking is the best one. It may require learning some new steps in this dance of life. As Alda suggests, we need to be open so that there is room in our thinking for the light to come through.

© 2015 Georganne Spruce                                                      ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5

Related Articles: The Dangers of Your Unconscious Assumptions About OthersExploring the Psychological Motives of Racism