I was visiting my brother, Zach, in California, and we were walking around Venice Beach, and he said, "I've counted so far, three women that have given you a dirty look. Why don't they like you? You're very nice, but apparently, they hate you. So before you return home, I'll give you a tally of how many people looked at you with disdain." My only explanation is that I must remind others of someone they were not particularly fond of in the past. I don't have any other reason because I didn't know any of these people.
I've had, over the years, heard others say that everyone is prejudiced in one way or another. I've come to believe that's a way to justify labeling a group of people in a negative light; somehow, everyone doing it makes it okay. If you know you hold an intolerance against others, why don't you take a look at the reason for this? Is it fear-based? Was it ingrained from childhood? Or is it simply a way for you to feel superior over someone else? We'll only evolve into a more understanding community once we address the underlying problem of racism. Why does it exist, and how can we develop to the point of finally being rid of it?
Everyone grows up experiencing life through their perception of events, people, and places. For example, it's not unusual for siblings to talk about their upbringing, which can vary widely from the oldest to the youngest. You would assume they grew up in separate households. Another example has five witnesses to a car crash, giving the police five different accounts based on where they were standing and what they believe they saw. We tend to forget that we see the world through our filters, which keeps us from seeing the other person's point of view.
Bigotry, left unchecked, can become a festering wound that infects our life and the lives of others. Well, that's quite a visual, but the reality is ugly. I will never understand a mindset that can easily disregard a group based solely on their age, gender, religious beliefs, ethnicity, height, weight, or any other category that puts people in a box to make them feel less than others. We must be better about having an open dialogue and listening to and acknowledging each other's perceptions. Shaming or denouncing each other without at least an attempt to understand why this hate exists keeps us in a vicious cycle of blaming instead of educating.
We can admit we each have flaws in making snap judgments of people (I thought for sure that young man in front of me wasn't going to hold the door open, but he did!) Then, we can remind ourselves to give everyone an opportunity to know more about them before reaching the wrong conclusions. Nobody is perfect, and sometimes we say or do something stupid that we wish we could take back. But our lack of common sense at that moment shouldn't condemn us for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, this is the basis for misunderstandings and a disconnect in communication. We would be better off giving each other 'do-overs' when we mess up. We could also take that time to listen and understand why someone is fearful or angry at us. Developing compassion and empathy for each other would go a long way to seeing we are more connected and alike than we know.
I had a great time in California, and the tally for 'looks of disdain' in my direction only reached five. I'm still unsure why, but I will try my best to smile, make better eye contact, and hold the door open for them.