By Alan Sorensen
Have you ever suffered from prejudice, bias, discrimination, segregation?
You funny looking? Speak with an accent? Not as coordinated as others? Tall for your age? Short? Got dark skin? Real pale? Too skinny? Too fat? Pimply? Featureless? Flatfooted? High arched? Slow of foot? Slow of mind? Out of control? Too controlled? Got your mothers butt? Your fathers ears? Bald? Hairy back and palms? Catch jeers in the locker room because youre under endowed? Over endowed?
You may suffer as the butt of jokes or revel in the laughter you bring to other people. You may hate looking in the mirror or see yourself as the next great odd-ball movie icon.
Is there anyone out there who hasnt had to adjust his self-image in response to the gibes?
My brother and I got plenty of that from a lot of different people growing up, primarily for our size.
Some lady gave Scott a tough time for playing with Gary, his best friend with shorter genes. She said it wasnt seemly for such an old boy to be playing with such a young child. Didnt seem to matter that Gary was older and much, much smarter. I think hes an international financier today with homes in places like the Bahamas, Long Island and Europe, and probably a seat on the World Bank.
I got the same thing from an older kid up on Sixth Street when I was playing war with another kid. He said I was much too old for toy guns and should be playing ball instead. I was about 5 and seven blocks from home. I was feeling grown-up until then.
These people thought they were being wise and thoughtful. The fact is, though, that prejudice, bias, discrimination and segregation are owned by those who are subjected to them, not those who do the subjecting. I doubt that woman or boy remember our brief encounters.
My friend Ruben came into the office a few weeks ago to complain about racism in Harlem and throughout the area. He said the abusive treatment of Indians is blatant and ignored by the establishment. (One of the things I like best about Ruben is that when he gets his hair up about something he snarls until that something backs down or dies.)
I recognized immediately that some of his complaints were and still are real. He said a large percentage of the school staff at Harlem lives somewhere other than Harlem. He also claimed that several Harlem kids attend school elsewhere, primarily in Chinook.
Ruben was upset that a white guy wasnt going to be prosecuted for an offense he already admitted to because the case would cost taxpayers more to try than the $200 fine he faced. At the same time, Ruben said, officers from four jurisdictions spent a whole lot more chasing an Indian across three counties on suspicion of a $20 offense.
He had trouble understanding the reasoning there.
Ruben also was surprised by a teachers reaction to his outrage that his son wore a sign as part of a class project. The sign labeled the boy as a minority and was intended, the teacher said, to teach students about prejudice.
Ruben said he thought highly of the teacher, but that he was upset by her denial that she subjected the boy to discrimination by having him wear the sign.
Thats apparently the problem who decides what is discriminatory behavior and what isnt.
When my wife and I went through marriage counseling years ago, our counselor began by telling us not to assume in our relationship. Assuming makes an ass of u and me, he said.
He went on to say that if one of us had a complaint about the others behavior or attitude, the one accused should react as though the allegation were true.
Denying that I was out late or didnt appreciate her cooking was merely another barricade to our relationship, he said. I must accept her feelings and promise to do better in the future.
The same with prejudice and discrimination: Ill accept rather than deny my culpability, and promise to do better in the future.