Today as I was browsing Facebook, I saw this quote and wanted to share it. I hadn't intended to address this topic, at least not yet, but I thought, what an amazingly self-confident approach to something that has happened to almost all of us in our lives, being discriminated against.
Being seen as weak because you are a woman, poor because you are wearing old jeans and driving a 15-year old car, a racist and bigot because you are a white man, or unintelligent, lazy, or a threat because you speak the local language with an accent and just don't look like the locals. Someone or a group making a snap judgment about you as a person, your skills, or simply your value as a human being only by what they see of you in a few seconds.
Discrimination as a topic is perhaps most visible today when we speak about immigrants to a country or people of a different color, gender, sexual orientation, culture, habit of dress, or class than the group holding power. Immigration is one of the hottest debates in many countries today, with the negativity primarily driven by fear. Fear driven by insecurity, whether it is financial, religious, or cultural. That by opening up our society, our schools, ourselves to someone who we don't know or understand, we will somehow ourselves suffer by that opening. That fear becomes strongly routed in our minds, so that we make snap judgments about others and fail to see the person.
I am not innocent in discrimination myself, rather I see myself as a student under continuous improvement. Recently in reading Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink", I reflected on my own snap judgments of others, and also the way I have successfully overcome some of them. "Our first impressions are generated by our experience and our environment, which means that we can change our first impressions by changing the experiences that comprise those impressions. ...it requires more than a simple commitment to equality. It requires that you change your life so that you are exposed to minorities on a regular basis ... and familiar with the best of their culture, so that when you want to meet, hire, date, or talk with a member of a minority, you aren't betrayed by your hesitation and discomfort" (Gladwell 97).
For every person who has instill some fear or threat in me, who I have come through that fear to see the human underneath, I myself have grown from the experience. This is why Ms Hurston's quote touched me, because for each of us who still has that fear and discrimination within us, it is we who lose knowing a beautiful person.
A true friendship never happens. Love doesn't blossom. Businesses are not as efficient as they could be, because employees are not brought to their full potential and made to feel less worthy. Wars are fought because we are pawns of the positions in power and are taught to hate rather than love (or at least respect) anyone who is different.
There are still jerks, or assholes, corrupt thieves, terrorists, and psychopaths, but they exist in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Only by enough interaction can we really determine an individual's value.
I love and admire the self-confidence Ms Hurston has to say this (and hopefully mean it). If we could all build that self-confidence ourselves, to brush away the hurt that comes from the (often unintended) discrimination of unaware people, maybe there would be a chance that we could, one by one, interaction by interaction, stop the conflict, educate each other, bridge the gaps between us, and see each other as the amazing individuals, not labels, who we are. Think of what we could accomplish then, if we turn our energy and focus to healing and building rather than subordinating and weakening!
Note: If this topic interests you, pick up Malcolm Gladwell's Blink.