By Jason Johnson
I am a racist. I do not mean to be, I just am. I do not overtly hate anyone. I do not belong to any “alt-right”, extremist groups, and otherwise known as a white nationalist movement. However, I was recently hit in the face by my own racism.
There is a store I frequently visit on a daily basis and there is a young black lady who works in this store. We talk frequently, just casual conversation you have at a register, and the topic of raising kids came up. She told me she had three, all of them about a year apart.
Sadly, I made some immediate assumptions.
She had made poor choices having three kids at a young age. She was obviously poor and trying to make ends meet working as a cashier. I even caught myself wondering if the father was involved.
As we talked more, I found the truth.
She wasn’t as young as I thought. She was 31. I assumed she was 22 or 23. Her husband had a very good job, but she had worked with this company so long she had garnered good benefits. She also mentioned she didn’t mind having the extra money.
In an instant, my vision of this young lady was shattered. For all intents and purposes, this lady had the 1950s version of the nuclear family. The only difference was skin tone.
Oddly, my original thoughts had no malice. I would think to myself about helping this young lady out. I would wish there was a way to give to her and her children and make their lives a little better. But, she is doing better than I am.
At this point, I had to reset and examine why I had thought the things I had.
First, the media, the entertainment industry and our peers have driven this narrative down our throats. When constantly bombarded with this negative stereotype, we begin to think it is the norm. It just becomes part of our society and we never question it.
Second, I had bought into the narrative. I had stopped questioning what I was told and just accepted it. I had forgotten a lesson taught to me by my mother we all have heard: never judge a book by its cover. I had lost my belief that we are all individuals and have a story to tell.
I wholeheartedly believe in speaking out against oppression of any kind. Social commentary, protests and outright intervention against these things are paramount to our growth as a society. However, I want all of you reading this to do as I had to and look within yourselves.
Find those bits of injustices living within you and clear them out. Remember what Gandhi said so eloquently, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change toward him. We need not wait to see what others do.