This is a guest column written by medical and mental health professionals at the Wellness Center. To explore their website, click here.
Ways of thinking that can lead us astray into prejudice & racism:
- Going by what we’ve always heard at home, and not pausing to question its validity
- Making determinations based on any previous experiences/encounters that were negative, and attributing those negative qualities to an entire population
- Considering the other, because they look different, as, in fact, different
- Dissatisfaction with our own lives, and feeling the need to explain it to ourselves by creating a scapegoat
- Dissatisfaction with ourselves, and attempting to feel better/stronger, by making another inferior. With that comparison, we get a momentary boost of self-esteem
- Fear of the unknown
Here are some things you can do to break out of these ways of perceiving:
- Individuate. You are at an age when people typically start to question the wisdom and assumptions of their parents. Sometimes this is contentious, with bitter arguments, and sometimes it’s simply a quiet noticing that something doesn’t seem right, and then reevaluating that. This can be a little unsettling, and you might feel like you’re being disloyal. Don’t worry. This is a really healthy thing to do, and it’s okay. This is a natural process wherein a child begins to separate from the parent. The love remains, that doesn’t change, but one now evolves into adulthood, as an individual with one’s own beliefs and stances.
- Be present in the here-and-now. Any experience you had at an earlier time doesn’t necessarily speak to the current situation. You are now facing an individual who is not the individual you encountered before. Consider the person before you as a person very similar to yourself, with the need to be recognized and validated.
- We are all complex people , each with our own histories, ideas, and feelings. Don’t be thrown off by the wrappings of a person. The difference between a blonde and a brunette, or a honey-colored person and a silky black one, is only skin deep. Don’t be swayed by an exterior presentation. Surely you are more sophisticated than that. Find the person within.
- Life can be frustrating, and it’s hard to accept when the path we’re on isn’t the one we expected to take. Life just isn’t fair sometimes. It can be comforting, in a perverse way, to blame someone or something as the reason for our lack of success. Take a breath and follow it with a long exhale, and re-evaluate where you are. Your mind is a brilliant thing. Figure out what you can do to get just a little closer to where you want to be. This is your life to create.
- I think we are all aware, to some degree, that bullies became bullies because early on someone threatened them. It’s a way of trying to ensure this won’t happen again. We puff ourselves up big and scary, and we speak strong words. After all, the best defense is an offense. Right? Well, maybe not. We may not realize it, but when we do this, we tend to alienate people. Of course, some people will gravitate towards us, but they’re likely to be those who are just as frightened inside as we are. When we shun people, we miss out on fun and unexpected stuff. Life is to be enjoyed and shared. Broaden your circle; it feels really good.
- We all have different ways of doing things, even within our own cohorts. It’s pretty cool to learn how other people approach things. We learn from each other; it’s how we grow. It’s how we as a people have survived and thrived on the planet. We are all the human race.