Brb getting on my soapbox.
Prejudice. It’s ugly. It’s not as blatant as it once was, but it’s no less virulent. Because it’s so under the radar, it can make its way into everyday life and conversation and no one really notices. But words are said and actions take place every day that show that prejudice is far from dead.
No one has ever called me the n-word to my face. No one has ever said I couldn’t go a certain place because I’m black. And because of that, it’s tempting to think, “Cool! Racism and prejudice are gone now!” But they’re not. It’s not necessarily what you might traditionally call racism, but it’s just as bad. Example: All my life, I’ve been told I’m “not black enough”. I’ve been called an “Oreo” (Black on the outside, white on the inside) or been told I’m “the whitest black guy ever”. It could be because of the way I dressed, the way I talk, or the music I listen to. But whatever it is, I don’t act “black enough” I’m sorry, but how am I supposed to act like a pigment? I’m person, not a crayon.
Prejudice isn’t so in-you-face anymore. It’s more of a systematic set of assumptions. Assumptions that are hidden under the guise of tolerance and acceptance. These assumptions go far beyond skin color. It’s like as a society, we’ve said, “Look, you can do whatever you want but you have to stay inside this little box we give you.” If you’re smart, you can only do “smart person things”. If you’re good at sports, you’re only expected to do “jock things.” It’s like that scene in High School Musical (Admit it. That movie used to be your jam.) where everybody’s like, “Stick to the status quo”. As long as someone doesn’t rock the boat, everyone can coexist.
People place assumptions on others based on skin color but that’s only one of a million things people use to put people in boxes. It could be the way you dress, the way you talk, or who you hang out. If I’m totally honest, I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. If I meet someone and find out they’re a member of a fraternity or sorority, I’ll usually write them off as someone who I don’t want to be friends with. And that is so messed up. I’m placing my assumptions about people involved in Greek life above getting to know an actual person. They could be fantastic people who could become my best friends but I’d never know because I wrote them off because they happened to be in a fraternity or sorority. That premise, pushing people away because they’re different, is the same one that racism is built on. And that’s not a path I want to travel down. It’s wrong and I’m ashamed at having gone down it for so long.
I’m not on some huge “End Prejudice Now!” campaign. Although that would be sweet, that’s not the point I’m trying to make in this post. What I’m saying is that as a society, we’ve allowed ourselves to stay in our comfort zones by making assumptions about anyone who is different than we are. We say to ourselves, “Oh, that dude is white/black/greek/GDI/nerdy/smart/dumb/whatever. I know what they’re all about so I don’t really have to get to know him as an individual.” That’s lame, y’all. I challenge you to join me in stopping making assumptions based on stereotypes. See each person you meet as a unique individual who brings something to the table that only they can bring.