Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday's Mental Musings

Ask most American’s what they are rather than what they identify as and most will say “my mother’s family is this and my father’s family is that”. Explaining the complexity of our history can become tedious and boring to those who prefer the simplicity of pigeonholing everything and everyone.  It is often easier for us to identify with one group and if the selection of that group cannot be determined by the hue of our skin, the skew of our features, the texture of our hair or the carry of our person who we identify as is often determined by our own selection. Because of this many multifaceted beings can “pass” without issue and most of us do.
And then there are those of us so mixed that we begin to reflect too many peoples and ideas. We proudly claim our heritage and refuse to allow others to make us be who we aren’t. We explore our history and accept our varied faiths and customs creating a personal story that makes us no more or less than those who hold fast to one claim. But because we refuse to define ourselves in a simple manner there are those who find us ambiguous enough that we given both the privilege and pain of being exposed to their prejudices and fears.
I have heard ethnic slurs, sometimes followed by “oh, excuse me; I hope I’m not offending you”. I have listened to the opinions of others in regard to “those-people’s” tendencies and behaviors as if embracing more means I am “neither/or” and gives me carte-blanche to their “privileged” thoughts. I have been shocked by comments of ignorance made in the name of religious beliefs and political views and I can tell you I am never grateful. I have had people befriend me believing that my choice to be “me” is exotic and odd and that I, not my friendship, would add to their bland collection of friends. And I always find myself shocked, angry and finally saddened by being privy to such behavior.
Sometimes I believe because of my ambiguity (“What are you anyway?” I mean, we’re all American”) I am seen as someone who can take these spiritual and emotional assaults but that is not the case. Each time I run across someone with such ingrained prejudicial views a part of me suffers for them as well as for those they have chosen to push outside their understanding and acceptance. Each time I am privy to others who believe that each of us has a place that is not based on personal choice but is based on the color of our skin, the ethnicities of our ancestors or the religious customs of our forefathers and mothers and that place is beneath theirs a part of me dies. And the fact that they often do so by by holding themselves superior in the belief that “those people” are the issue makes me even more angry and insulted.

I tire of discussing our similarities, the often linear history and development of our faiths, the mistreatment of all groups at the hands of the privileged and the current repetition of that history. I tire of trying to ease in understanding with hope that a wall will crack so that the choice of allowing it to crumble is easier than it was before. I have come to a point where all I can do is say a prayer for peace and understanding for all of us involved and move on in the best way I know how.
Sometimes it’s not easy, fate plays a cruel hand and forces me to be in the presence of those who wear their prejudices like shields far longer than I care to and must learn to stand without reaction while not being silent.  

I still can’t decide if that lesson of tolerance is for me or for them.

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