These words have been the buzzwords of my life over the past few weeks with recent events in the next town over (Sanford) and in my personal life.
A person’s perceptions warp their reality. A persons perception can
warp your reality even when you don't care for another’s perception. In
other words, sometimes you end up playing to that perception even when you
don't want to. Perception changes how a human being reacts to certain stimuli.
It colours their behavior in ways they don't even recognize. In ways they don't
analyze, until something makes them sit up and take notice.
The simple act of picking up a basket when entering a store or taking
nothing in with you that might be mistaken as the stores property is in grained
before we're old enough to walk. The fact that as a woman I know there are
certain places I don't go to at certain times or at all. Or as a brown skinned
woman I know to be cautious in certain areas because that skin colour might
just be offensive to some.
I'm raising two children, both girls, One Brown like me and One Pale like
her Father. Both with a brown mother coming from a Caribbean background. Which
means I'm many things including black. I teach my girls to be colour blind,
that race is not an issue for us.
Yet we live in a world where the perception is that we as a country has
risen above racism but the reality is that while we're working very hard at it,
some of us at least there are others who haven't. Much to the shock and dismay
of the rest of us.
A word of warning Racism goes both ways and comes from all sides. I see
it when people look at my girls and realize that they're sisters. One brown,
One White at least that's what it seems on the outside. Then they determine
they must be adopted, or whatever else comes to mind.
Do I let this get to me? Do I pay attention to it? No because I'm raising my
girls to never let anyone's negativity hold them back. Why am I bringing it up?
Because I had one of those perception shaking reality changing moments as we
all did. It wasn't a recent thing.
No it happened when my six year old was one. I walked into a department
store and while I stood in line to pay for some shoes the woman (Caucasian) in
front of me whose child happened to be of east Indian descent and looked to be
about the same age as my daughter turned to me and said.
"Oh you could have gotten my kid and I could have gotten her."
Puzzled because I had been minding my own business I took a look at her and
realized that she assumed the Alexandra was adopted. (Her reality colouring her
perception of things.)
So I smiled politely and said. "That would be a bit hard since I gave
birth to her."
She twittered and looked about. Eventually she paid for her item and left.
I've never given much thought to incident, until a cousin of mine who lives
in Europe called me up to ask about the "Trayvon incident." We
got into a discussion about a societies perception of itself and the fact that
occasionally something with happen to force the reality to displace the perception.
Which led into a discussion on what people in general do subconsciously to
protect themselves, whether it be attempting to make themselves feel safe and
appear unthreatening by pulling up a hoodie. Or as she has discovered, she
herself makes sure to take up a basket when entering a store, or doesn't carry
anything but her purse into a store so that nothing she brings in can be
considered stolen merchandise.
Why does she do these thing? She does them because she was once searched
without cause in a store that she frequented. Why? Because she, to the minds of
the people running the store would be the type of person who would steal. It
didn't matter that she is a young professional married to another young
professional, who had no need to steal because she had the money to purchase
the materials in her grocery bag or that she'd just paid for them.
She felt violated and as such, her subconscious created a way for her to
cope. A way for her to survive. These coping skills or many like them are being
passed from generation to generation in the hopes that children of those who
have felt violated or powerless don't have to feel that way ever again. So
there you have it.
Reality colours perception and perception sometimes hides the reality, but
the reality will never stay hidden.