Discrimination

I wrote regarding race in the entry Entitlement.

Another article has me thinking. It began with this post on Ebony and a few of the comments there. A minor epiphany today in response to another commenter whose entry hit on something that has itched at me for some while.

What if discrimination of all kinds is three-fold?

1) That we are aware others like ourselves are discriminated against, therefore we watch for subtle signs (as [the commenter posted] the word paranoid).

2) That our personal and collective histories tell us discrimination against ourselves and our collective is going to happen, setting up the expectation, and therefore the defensive stance, which others can perceive though they may not know exactly what it is.

3) That our preconditioning to separateness, different-ness rolls from our beings as a cold forbidding, a waist-high wall we can and do hide behind, and therefore aren’t seen normally.

You’ll find my other comments in that Ebony article as well. Set the sort to “newest first” and look for Sandra Davidson. Please, tell me what you think. This is important to me, as it is to all of us, really. Who doesn’t see themselves as set apart at times?

©2012 Sandra Davidson

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One response to “Discrimination

  1. Well said.

    I think there are layers of complexity: how we dress, how we express ourselves, our body language, etc. all contribute to how others perceive and subsequently react to and treat us.

    Most of the time, our mode of dress, behavior, attitude, etc. is completely subconscious; years of habit, etc. become natural and instinctive; as do our own experiences.

    Your first point is one I know well; being taught the hard way when I was in kindergarten that Native Americans were considered dirt, that half-breeds were considered even more so, being rejected by both sides. That definitely impacted how I interacted with everyone, including my family. Exacerbating the discrimination we experienced is the fact that we were considered to be “poor white trash”, and told that by many in the community and schools.

    Your second point, for me, is spot-on. School and society taught me that Native Americans WILL be mistreated, poor white trash WILL be mistreated, and the law would do absolutely NOTHING because that was expected AND accepted by society as a whole.

    Subsequently, I became wary every time I went out into public; and, the public picked up on that. It was an instinctive, subconscious attitude on my part, yet I watched for those subtle signs of discrimination from that age on and still do – though I am somewhat more conscious of that now.

    Add into the equation that I am ADHD, which I found out very late in life (1990), and was always “different” than my classmates – always ahead of the curve, always “getting it” before the rest of my classmates when teachers were describing new ideas (well, new to us kids at the time) – and I was subsequently hazed, made fun of, harassed, bullied, and beaten up all through my school years.

    Thus your third point: The public, in general, picked up on the subtle signals I subconsciously gave off; as she said, that separateness, different-ness rolled of of me as a cold, forbidding barrier, indeed a waist-high wall over which I could see “them”, and “they” could see me.

    Class mates, neighbors, acquaintances, and co-workers have labeled me “distant, aloof, intense, wary, loner, independent, rebel” and much more; I found this out from those with whom I eventually became close friends.

    I agree with your points because I’ve become aware over time of how each of us give off subconscious signals – “tells” – that others pick up on and react to. The article to which you linked on Ebony illustrates that very well; the “tell” in the Ebony article being that the author is black.

    The big problem, as I see it, is the majority of people are literally not aware at all of their “tells” nor of the reaction of others to those “tells.” Instead, the majority of people wonder why they got the “cold shoulder” from a clerk or a co-worker, and the one giving the “cold shoulder” has no idea of why they did that other than a vague feeling of dislike.

    Most of us do not intentionally set out to induce a negative reaction in others, though there are some that do – online trolls come to mind, as do some societal groups that intentionally dress and behave in a manner designed to shock the general populace.

    Me? I didn’t start recognizing until the late 1990s why I always “people-watched” all my life, nor why I always preferred sitting in a restaurant in the back, with my back to the wall, facing the windows; nor why I always felt very uncomfortable in malls, grocery stores, theaters – any public place with lots of people. I understand some of that now, but there’s more to learn.

    To this day, I am still watchful, still expecting overt and covert discrimination from my fellow human beings, still on a defensive stance when in public, and yes, I still exude those various “tells” instinctively – though, since the late 1990s, I’ve become more aware of them, and of the “counter-measures,” that I’ve developed to prevent the public at large from reacting to them: mainly being finding something to get them to laugh or at least smile.

    Bottom line for me is that we may not be intentionally setting ourselves up to be treated by others as we expect to be treated; however, that’s the net effect due to the subconscious and instinctive reactions that we’ve learned all of our lives because of experience, the social attitudes in which we were raised, the history lessons we’ve learned in school, life, cultures, and the media, and much more.

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