You Are Not Your Conditioning

thTruth time is often embarrassment time. Sometimes it’s an uncomfortable time. But often it is necessary time. So here goes.

This morning I read an article on ESPN.com about the Minnesota Vikings investigating a confrontation where one fan demanded to know if another fan was a refugee.  http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14332031/minnesota-vikings-review-refugee-confrontation-fan. 

With all the bombings and shootings taking place recently, I knew it would only be a matter of time before knuckleheads started beating on anyone of a different skin color.

The truth is even more upsetting.

I went to a football game on Sunday; our group stands around on the first level, watching the teams warm up, before we go to the nosebleed seats. As I stood there, this “dark-skinned” man came up beside me, and the first thing…the FIRST THING…I thought was…is he a terrorist?

Turned out his wife came around soon, and they took pictures of each other with the field and players in the background, laughing and posing and having a good time. They took off to seats unknown, and I was instantly ashamed of what I thought.

I had no idea of his nationality, where he lived, what he did for a living. But with the media pumping fear into all of us all the time, I slipped into the same mud millions of others do. I judged a person by the color of his skin.

And I am ashamed.

I know better, I believe better. Yet years of reinforcement of prejudice from all around me had me acting like Pavlov’s dog. Bring in a trigger and your mind instantly goes to the same place. Every time. Now, the guy in the above article was an idiot; he confronted the guy openly, became unruly, and security had to be called. This is what the fellow said:

“…somewhere in his mind, all he saw was a terrorist, based on nothing more than the color of my skin. He was white, and I wasn’t. He didn’t see anything else. He didn’t know that I have lived in Minnesota for the past four years, that I was born and raised in New York and that the words ‘Never Forget’ may mean more to me than to him.  He didn’t know that when I went home and my children jumped on top of me and asked ‘How was the game?’ that I’d be holding back tears as I told them about racism instead of touchdowns.”

Is that what the world has become? A world of suspicious anti-terrorist spotters?

Yes, we have to be  aware of what’s going on around us. I learned to be alert and watch what was going on when I worked in downtown Chicago many years ago. Keep going on with your business, but don’t get lost in your daydreams until you get where you’re going.

But this terrorist threat is hurting a lot of decent people. People who keep their religion to themselves. People who work beside you and shop beside you and are as frightened of someone gunning them down as we are.

Yet extremists go far beyond stupidity and want to ban all refugees from entering the country. Want to do triple checks on their backgrounds and family trees. Why not corral them all and put them in pens like the U.S. did to the Japanese after the war?

The original point of this post was that I let my mind go to the deepest, most embarassing part of my psyche and I prejudged someone with absolutely zero facts. I admit I sometimes do that when I’m around African Americans and Mexicans and other ethnicities.  And I am ashamed.

I am spooked by weird people and giant people and people who talk too loud.

I shouldn’t be spooked by people who just came to cheer the Bears at the game just like I did.

Be aware of your knee jerk reactions. Maybe you can’t stop them, but you can at least realize them for what they are. They say you are not your conditioning — let’s hope that’s true.

And anyway — I’m sure those people who were taking pictures of themselves at the game share my sentiments about football in general and the Bears in particular. (Insert head smack here…)

 

 

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11 thoughts on “You Are Not Your Conditioning

  1. Generations of prejudice involves “knee jerk” reactions. We’re all guilty of it. Perhaps after generations have died out, peace can be imagined. Maybe. Just maybe. Here’s hoping…

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  2. Amen Claudia. Well said. I must take time (that I really don’t have) and tell you a little story. It is a life lesson that has always stayed with me. Back in 1978 a friend of mine and I decided to take a drive out to New Jersey and visit a college friend. At the time I had a 1973 Dodge Charger. Pretty hot stuff, but unfortunately there was a problem. It would stall out every time it rained. We were nearly to our destination when I took a wrong turn and ended up in downtown Newark NJ. Then it started to rain. The car stalled and we stopped in an area where we were probably the only Caucasians in miles. (okay slight exaggeration). Anyway two African Americans came along and wrapped on my window. We were of course, very frightened. Turned out they were a couple of mechanics who just happened to have a can of starter fluid. They got the car started, gave us directions and we were on our way. Whenever I start to let fear take over, I remember that day. Judge not.

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