Prejudiced

I don't know what it says about the world we live in that I was so deeply moved by this simple exchange of humanity between two people on the television, but since viewing this video I've had a hard time getting it out of my head.

How difficult is it to just say "I'm prejudiced"? Very, turns out. I know this from experience because up until I viewed this video my response to the recent discussion of race in our country has been one of two things: I'm not a racist; #BlackLivesMatter.

And while I still believe both of those things to be true, it turns out that I don't get to let myself off of the hook quite that easily. I've added a third response to throw into the ring on this matter: I have prejudice.

I grew up in a tiny town in northern Wisconsin. I call it a tiny town rather than a small town because people who claim they grew up in a small town see the town that I grew up in and think that they've reached the ends of the earth. I had less than 50 in my high school graduating class, and not a single one of them was a person of color. In fact, save for a Jamaican nanny briefly when I was around 10, I didn't even meet a black person until college.

I'm not some prodigal child - I was 18 years old when I first stepped foot on my small, Liberal Arts, college campus. Slightly further south and in a small, rather than tiny, town in Wisconsin, I spent my next four years, save for one semester in Queensland, Australia, at an institute of higher learning that boasted the highest diversity of student body in the country, per capita. That being said, the student population at the time hung somewhere around 4,000.

So, what is my point in telling you all of this? For 18 years, that only information that I had about people of any race different than mine was from the media - TV, newspaper, the occasional magazine. I distinctly remember getting internet in the sixth grade, but even then it was mostly used for playing games and illegally downloading music (sorry).

You may also remember hearing recently that the worst place in the U.S. to be black is Wisconsin. The 90's and early 2000's were not any different, so suffice to say, the information that I was consuming was not of a positive nature.

I don't say this to shame or blame anyone or anything, it's just the factual nature of my existence. I have 18 years of conditioning to overcome, and while I think up until this point I've just assumed that the path I've chosen to take over the last 10 years has washed me clean, that is surely not the case. It's not that easy, and to claim any differently is to do an injustice not only to yourself but to everyone else who is effected by the choices and actions that you make (everyone).

To not actively be a racist is surely important, and honestly embarrassing in 2016 that I even have to say that, but it's not enough. To deny that we have prejudice - whether it be toward someone of a different race, religion, or zip code - is to deny that we have any room to grow, or anything else left to learn.

I'm proud to be closing in on my first year as a resident of one of the most diverse cities in the country. I've learned a lot about myself this year, and that is only because of the opportunities I have had to learn from others.

Get to know black families. Turn off the news. Join an interracial organization. Know your history, and the history of African-Americans. Foster conversation.

"This fear and set of ideas that we only get from the worst possible news - it's tearing us a part. And we know that in order to be the people of a nation that is united - we have to foster relationships." - Heather McGhee


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