Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why I Own My Prejudices

Recently, I have offended a few people with some of my social media postings. Not because I took part in a highly politicized discussion thread.  Not because I "liked" a controversial page.  But for one reason and one reason alone:  I own my prejudices.  Not all of them, and not all at once.  Good Lord, I do have real feelings (that may or may not have had me crying in fetal position in a corner at various points in my life).  But as a general rule, if there is ever an opportunity for me to publicly share my own limitations, I do - and today I'm going to try to articulate exactly why I do this.

So I'm that person who talks openly about what feelings the confederate flag symbol incites in me.  I talk openly about those things that have come to define me as "Asian" and I don't apologize for claiming them as my own.  I talk about how complex social systems like poverty and privilege have come to frame my perspective on so many things - sometimes in valuable and necessary ways.  Many times in non-productive and hurtful ways.  

This blog has provided me with an extraordinary space to do this.  But why on earth would I want to expose my personal vulnerabilities and my despicable prejudices to the world?  It's simple.  Because I want to change it.  I want to help make it a better place where hate crimes don't exist, love is universal,  gender-based violence is eradicated, heck, where all violence is eradicated, and the opportunity to live a safe and happy life is equally accessible to everyone. 

And I just don't think I can do that without taking a long, hard look at myself.  As you know, I don't claim to be anything but ordinary.  And let me tell you, this ordinary gal did not grow up in a bubble, immune from prejudices, hate speech, divisive thought, THE MEDIA, all the "isms", or her own privileged status.  But the beauty in all of this is that EVERY SINGLE TIME that I publicly admit my shortcomings and prejudicial thoughts - EVERY SINGLE TIME - someone on my friends list, or someone who follows my blog sees themselves in my story.  Someone stops working, scrolls down on their phone, and pauses to reflect on their own story.  Someone right there and then, vows to make an intentional change in themselves, in their children, in the world around them.  See for yourself.  Here are 6 blog posts where I am making generalized assumptions about entire groups of people.  And here I am owning my shortcomings, sharing my lessons learned with the world, and making a personal (and highly public) commitment to do better.  To BE better.

The Confederate Flag

Girly Girls

"Unsafe" Neighborhoods

Special Needs Kids

 Ron Paul Supporters

Other Asians

So here's my challenge to you.  How much progress are you making in your social circles and communities by suppressing and denying the existence of your own prejudices?  Perhaps, (like me for the first three quarters of my life) you are constantly walking around on eggshells trying NOT to offend anyone and everyone.  Perhaps you are constantly secretly beating yourself up when a racist, sexist, or just plain mean thought creeps its way into or from your subconscious.  Perhaps, like me - you attempt superficial ways to ease your burden of responsibility by buying your kid inclusive books, volunteering at the homeless shelter, wearing that "love sees no color" t-shirt.  But at the end of the day let me ask you this:  Do the people sitting around your dinner table still look and act exactly like you? 


I do have a bit of good news.  You are not alone.  You are not a horrible person for becoming a product of your environment, your upbringing, your social dynamics.  Your character however, may be in question if you think you are walking around with NO prejudices and that you are NOT contributing (either personally or systematically) to disparity, inequality, and injustice. 

And so I challenge US with this:  Let's own it.  Let's do something about it.  Let's change the world by first changing ourselves.