Surprised By “isms”

On January the First of 2019, I will be seated in car pointed west, driving into the future to confront and overcome my past. I expect that this journey will provide bushels of content for this blog, and my writing in general. Until that time, I worry slightly about this blog. I believe that much of my writing is similar, both in style and conceptually. The style aspect perhaps makes sense, it is one of the essential ways in which a writer is defined. But writing, if it is done consistently and meant for others to read, must be kept fresh in order to capture, and keep under lock and key, the imaginations of the readers. And so, I will try my utmost to do so.

Today, I was struck by something: the seemingly inherent racism and sexism that seems to exist in many of those whom I know, people who are known to me primarily as a result of my family’s status and way of life. These people tend to be white, high middle class, Christians. One might think, as I would, that people who identify as Christians, a religion founded on the notion of loving others, would do their best to look at all individuals in the same way. This just doesn’t seem to be the case however. What I noticed today was the seemingly harmless habit of throwing a persons’ ethnicity or gender out when describing a situation, making a joke, or just in daily conversation. I’m not talking about the scenarios that exist, although I believe them to be fairly rare, when ethnicity or gender would actually matter. Instead, I’m referring to the story you told me about how you were walking to your car and a guy asked you for a bottle opener. Why do you need to say: “and this guy, a black guy, came up and asked me for a bottle opener”? What does that have to do with the story or anything at all? This is one example, but I’m beginning to really notice these caveats more and more.

Like I said, while growing up I assumed such clarifiers, if you can call them that, were merely harmless little details. Now, I’m not so sure. Instead, my mindset has slowly been transitioning to the belief that this habit is rather offensive at best, and very dangerous at worst. What purpose do they serve other than to consistently remind us of the non-essential differences between people, as opposed to focusing on each and every individual as a unique human being, united in their humanity? Becoming fixated on these differences, needing to know what color the person is or whether or not they were a man or a woman, seems to be either the prelude to a more extreme level of racism or sexism, or perhaps the aftermath of a society that has not recovered from a distorted past. Either way, let’s just look at each person as just that, a person.

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