I had my first experience with separatism in elementary school when the teacher was handing out flyers for an afterschool activity and pulled mine back because it had a fee involved. I was in the free lunch program.
I would glimpse racism in my repeated visits to the Peirce County Jail in the early 90’s as methamphetamine took over my world. At that moment, Caucasian women were the minority in my particular cell block and we were very aware of it.
Trying to turn my life around after a rough start was a difficult process. It was even harder when creditors added snide remarks to their denials because of my owing back child support and felony conviction, ever reminding me of my inferior social standing.
Advancing in my career, it was all too common to have salesmen flirt with me when they walked in the door until they learned my position as owner of the company. Then their behavior frequently, but not always, changed to what amounted to ‘Isn’t she cute sittin’ in that big office?’ and ‘Come here darlin’, let me show you how this is done’.
In business networking, there was sometimes a visual expression change when I answered that I had not attended a four-year college or when I asked for clarification of business terminology I wasn’t familiar with. This was commonly followed by asking what our annual revenue was, which I perceived (at the time) to be a qualifying question of whether I belonged there.
I have been ridiculed by my family for having good fortune ‘land in my lap’. (I truly have been blessed by God, but He has also required me to break a sweat).
Somewhere around 50, I was criticized for having a nice home, car, and husband. “What would you know about struggle? You have never had a bad day in your life!”
Most recently my role as a volunteer at church was to help families move with ease through the photo line on Easter. I had been at it for hours when a woman (rather loudly) informed me she didn’t need my help; she wasn’t an idiot. “It’s because I am black, isn’t it?” I had no words for her other than to wish her a Happy Easter. Her battle wasn’t with me, she brought it with her. She was in a great deal of pain and we added her to our prayer list that evening.
Every one of us has these types of experiences, of being either misunderstood or singled out. Treated as different, and often, ‘less than’. Some more than others, for sure. The question becomes, how much power am I going to let people have over my thoughts and emotions? Would I allow them to alter my behavior toward others in the future?
Today, I seek to understand if I played a role and if an apology is in order. Sometimes it is. Often, however, we just wander about life and accidently hit someone’s tripwires and others trip over ours. I choose to believe there are more good people in the world than those trying to hurt us. If we are always guarded and trying so hard not to offend (against things we know nothing about), we might never get to know each other in a deeply satisfying way. A way that recognizes and celebrates our uniqueness.
“It was just another one of my emotional muscles getting exercised. I couldn’t be responsible for how other people behaved. It was not my role to correct them. I had acted with as much integrity as I could. That needed to be enough.”
Excerpt – Chapter 10 – The Girl in My Wallet