Thursday, September 17, 2009

This is an honest program

All the talk on news shows about racism has made me examine my own thoughts on the subject. I have always considered myself to be open minded and yes...liberal in my ideas. I like to think that I don't judge people and have great compassion for others.

But this is an honest program. And in doing an inventory of myself last night, I realize that there are some elements of racism within myself. And that I do have some judgmental thoughts. These are not thoughts of hatred or dislike but thoughts that come up almost as a reflex when I see an interracial couple, or young men with baggy pants hanging out on street corners. These same thoughts of judgment come up when I see a morbidly obese person. And yes, when I see two men kissing there is a bit of feeling uncomfortable. I don't like this about myself. So I decided to look deeper at some of the reasons.

I suppose the overriding factor is that I have been exposed to the stereotyping of others. I grew up in the South where there were lots of racial tensions. I believe that the element of fearing those who are different from me and viewing them in a "less than" way was something that I heard a lot about on TV, in schools, and even in the church. It's almost as if there is a hypocritical thought process that occurs--yes, you are my equal but only up to a point.

The south that I grew up in and inhabit today continues to hold up white America and its cultural values as the right, good, and ideal. I hear it all around me, not overtly, but with insidious overtones. I think that being self-righteous is dangerous. It is designed to create discontent and can lead to making people feel that they are "less than". I know because I have felt "less than" over many years. And that is why I developed an attitude of self-hatred as well.

Thankfully, I know in my mind and heart that no race is superior to another because superiority amongst any race, culture, gender, class or even individual doesn't exist. We are all God's children and we are one species Homo sapiens. But there are differences in culture, religion, artistic expression, and a host of other attributes that make us who we are. I find that when I accept the differences, embrace them, and am in awe of them my judgments disappear.

Just as I don't sit around and contemplate whether the oak is more beautiful than the maple or the lion more powerful than the tiger, I realize that there is much good that comes from having diversity in nature and in our cultures. I don't fear diversity in nature, in fact I find it fascinating. I realize that the differences amongst us humans teach me much more than if we all had the same thoughts, ideals, intellect, and culture.

So my self-realization and inventory showed me that I need to continue to work on accepting and not judging. I do know that if I let fear, ignorance and hate separate me from others, I am not practicing the principles of the program in my life. It is only by embracing others with open mindedness that I'll be able to garner the appreciation, respect, and awe for not only the differences that exist among us but also for the uniqueness that exists in myself.


  1. Syd,
    A very brave and important post. Well written. Did you see the movie, Crash? Just wondered.

    Sending love,


  2. Wonderful post Syd. If we all look inside I believe we can all find some type of predjudice for the very reasons that you mention. It is something for all of us to work on.

    SB mentioned Crash and I have seen that movie. It was extremely eye-opening!

  3. I agree and feel much the same. Having lived in many 3rd and 4th world countries, I learned to be accepting of my differences, not theirs.

  4. I really liked this post.

    It's really ok to not be perfect. If we sometimes question whether or not someone is something that we do not wish to be -- such as a loudmouth, morbidly obese, cruel to animals, terrible at math or a drunk -- it isn't necessarily the mark of our being a horribly judgmental person. It is human nature to measure ourselves against what we know, and we cannot determine what we wish to be if we have nothing to compare that we do not wish to be.

    I agree with you that this shouldn't mean we shouldn't confer respect to those other humans even if they possess characteristics we don't wish to have ourselves. Even with the basest of people, I can't help but think that everyone was somebody's baby once.

  5. I have watched crash. I liked it very much but I love A Time To Kill. This is a must see for ANYONE who "thinks" they are not a racist, predjudice, bigotted etc.

    I do not consider myself to be racist however I do find myself judging at times. Such as, why do I have to look at your underpants because you seem incapable of pulling up your britches? Why do I have to be subjected to loud noise coming from your car and you call it music? How do you know throught he static? Is this color? No, it's kids today who think it's okay to walk around, ride around and sit around doing these things and subjecting others to it.

    BUT, then I wonder in turn, how do they see me listening to my "moody" music or 60's hits when in the car with me? Do others judge me because I refuse to dress up for church when I attended? So many simple questions one can ask themselves. Usually if something bothers me I ask myself why, "self, why is this bothering you so much you feel the need to speak up over it" When I feel I can give a clear answer, I do so.

    The "crowd" never influences my thoughts, emotions or actions. One of my favorites movies in the world is Color Purple.... you know what syd, i'm going to use the this for my own blog today. The color purple....

    LOVE YOUR HONESTY. I wish I was half as eloquent as you in stating it. Hugs. Tammy

  6. Over the past couple years I have grown immensely in acceptance of others. It has not come easy, and that snake still rears its head now and then, not in the larger issues, but in little things.

    My recent trip gave me a huge "assist" in thinking along the lines you have expressed.

    Your blog Syd, has verified, solidified, and given credence to my newer openness to all who might think or behave different from me.

    Thank you SO much.

  7. Thanks for your honesty Syd. My first trip to Africa was a realization that racism is suttle leaving it's mark in our thoughts quietly. To realize we may hold those racist thoughts is to free us from them....
    Glad I have the program to helpe me look at all aspects of my life

  8. great post, i know i used to use racial jokes all the time, learned them from my father. i used to say gay jokes and use the "F" word when referring to homosexual people.
    i know the shame you feel about being honest about this. i too sometimes feel these old thoughts creep back in when i see people settling to be less than they should be, or i think that they should.i think though this is my inner addict trying to keep the negativity going.
    this is one of the reasons i have stopped attending several meetings in town. it is hard to listen when others decide that because they were raised with these biases or prejudices, that they are always going to be this way. today i know this is a choice.
    i am not going to continue the cycle of ignorance and violence. i will not allow that type of language around my children and i will not participate in one more joke. not one, it has to stop. i have seen over and over the senseless deaths in our schools of children afraid of each other and knowing nothing of diversity.
    for me that means it stops here, i need to be the example, and if that means not attending meetings where people choose to live with these behaviors, so be it, it is not my job to change anyone but myself. like i said,
    great post.

  9. Syd,this is a great post,thank you for it.the message in it is something that every one can take a piece of.Me Included.

  10. Your self-examination is a fine example of the honesty we need to practice within ourselves if we want to recover the insanity that has ruled our lives.
    That judgmentalism and subtle sense of superiority rear their heads in all kinds of moments when dealing with, thinking of, interacting with others.
    The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is a righteous read when it comes to working on such defects of character. I've learned that my poor self esteem likes to treat itself to feelings of superiority. The more I accept myself and my own flaws, the better I can tolerate and feel compassion for my fellow flawed human beings. And freedom of fear is a gift I don't always accept when someone makes me feel uncomfortable. I agree with Vicariousrising that human nature often measures itself against others, makes judgments, and reveals our imperfections. Love and tolerance is our code, but not our natural state.
    I loved your thoughtfulness. Thanks for raising my consciousness level today.
    Chris A

  11. It's funny that not too long ago I found out how someone had judged me without knowing me. It really shocked me as they lumped me into a category that is the total opposite of who I am. It really proved to me how wrong I have been to do the same thing. It was a slightly hurtful, immensely eye-opening lesson.

    Thanks for sharing.


  12. Nice processing and very well said.

    A few years ago (~12?), I came to an awareness that "my judgments of myself and others are not a contribution" - like many similar thoughts, I was not prepared to the layers and intricacies that this would be revealed and lead me down. It seems to be my constant learning mantra for a big part of this lifetime...

    Blessings and aloha...

  13. Wow, Syd, GREAT post!! I know when I look inside of myself, there are the same reflexes and I have to work to change my thinking.

  14. Great post Syd and a very brave one, too. Made me think about this issue (my own judgmental thoughts).

  15. yep! Judgement is my biggest challenge even though I DON'T WANT TO JUDGE.
    It is something I am grateful to have found honesty about, however.

    A wise person I know always says that once we ACCEPT an aspect of ourselves as part of humanity, it seems to lessen far more effortlessly.

    blythe and sammy

  16. Syd, great post on a subject not touched on very often.

  17. Great post! Judgement seems to be my biggest lesson these days. I find that I judge myself so completely that it pours into other areas like black ink. I find that when I happy in my own skin, I accept others and see them with light and love. jeNN

  18. As others commented, there is nothing like being the outsider to make you open minded. I lived in many other countries, where I was the "different" one. Since I know what that feels like, I'm less judging of others. Good post!

  19. Ditto what Lou said. As someone who has lived as a "minority" a couple of times, I sure didn't like it and I endeavor to never treat anyone that way. In AA I have learned to suspend judgment - sometimes to my detriment.

  20. I know my Higher Power is without judgment. I, on the other hand, am human and was raised in the South. My father was very bigoted and my mother was color blind to races. I got some of both along the way. I have strained to drop my prejudices and it is difficult when I can judge someone or some situation instantaneously. I am much, much better than I have ever been at reaching some neutrality, but I have a ways to go.

    Very open and honest piece. Recovery teaches us we are to change if we are to become a different person. It's hard and watchful work, but well worth the effort.

  21. After reading all the comments about the south, I'm happy that my mother continually told us (as she raised us in the south) that we were to think of ourselves as Northerners and behave accordingly.

  22. This is such a brilliant illustration of how a searching and fearless inventory really does change us. I find I am most critical and judgemental of myself. Love and tolerance is so much easier to come by, when I am okay with exactly who I am today.

  23. As someone who lived in apartheid South Africa, I realise that unlearning racism is essential and more complex that it seems.

    I like what black poet Audre Lorde said: 'It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.'

    Thanks for raising this issue --

  24. being non-judgemental is good. being accepting of differences is good. racism is not an easy topic in these times, but you've got a good angle on how to handle it!

  25. I think in general if you see young men with those ridiculously baggy pants loitering on a streetcorner, no matter what color they are, chances are they are up to no good.
    I know this because i used to be a teenager and i was often up to no good.
    that's not racism, that's just common sense.
    yes, i'm being a little sarcastic, but I sort of mean it to be true. Teenagers scare the shit out of me sometimes.

  26. These divisions black/white, male/female, regional, age, body shape...these divisions are an inevitable consequence of living in a capitalist society. No...seriously. I truly believe this.

  27. I feel the same. I know that we are all equal and don't consider myself very judgemental but I do get "uncomfortable" feelings in certain situations.


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