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Monday, April 15, 2024

It’s hard to get rid of instilled prejudices

By Makisha PetersonSpecial to CSMS Magazine  In reading Arlene’s article about race last week and also in reading Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege essay and checklist, many things came to my mind. But I have to say that the thing that troubled me the most was that it is all so true. I felt both saddened and a sense of relief. As an African American woman who has experienced both racism and the unfairness that women have to experience in comparison to men when it comes to job opportunities, one can understand the feeling inside. Contrary to some other assertions, what we are experiencing every day as a people is real, and not just a part of our imagination.            My experience as an African American woman has taught me much about racism. In the past, I have applied for many jobs for which I had great qualifications. But it was always someone who looked very different from me who got to be chosen. It happened so many times, it is hard to imagine that these were just pure coincidences. For instance, I went one day for a job interview. When I arrived, the reception was at best look-warm with not even the usual hypocritical smile. The woman, who came after me and who just happened to be white, was late. However, the difference in the attitudes of the people in the company when she entered the door was quite obvious.            Now, it is not my belief that racism is found in everyone, but definitely there are enough people who consume this venom for it to be unsettling. Even within the African American community, there is a vexing preference for lighter skin blacks than those of darker complexions. Just take a look at the music videos and TV shows. To be stereotyped because of one’s race or because of one’s complexion is an injustice that must be rejected out loud.             One instance that stands out in my mind is the day I arrived at the interview mentioned above. I got there twenty minutes earlier than I was supposed to be. My clothes were intact, and I was ready with resume in hand. The other person to be interviewed was a Caucasian lady who arrived for the interview ten minutes late. She came in completely out of breath, describing how bad the traffic had been and how ill her little one was and how she had to get him settled before she could even begin getting dressed for the interview. They offered her a bottle of water and a moment to cool down before she was interviewed.            All of this was fine with me, as I know that kids can be a handful, especially when they are ill. I even thought to myself how rough traffic had been on my way in. So I knew that she was telling the truth about that, too. I had no problem with what she was saying, but as I watched her swallow the cool bottle of water, I thought I am thirsty too and could have used a drink as well, had someone offered it to me.               I agree with Peggy for I have seen the things she mentioned on her list of daily privileges. She is right, there are things that Whites don’t have to worry about and things that are not as big an issue for them as it is for other races. I got up early that morning and did everything right. I chose the easiest driving route, with the quickest arrival time and I was friendly and courteous upon arrival. Still, I was only greeted with “Have a seat Maam.” After the interview, I was told that I would be given a call if needed and escorted out to the front entrance.               When I got outside, my car would not start. So when the other lady had finished her interview, I was still outside on my cell making arrangements to be picked up. It was then I overheard her on the phone with someone, as she walked to her car. She told the person on the other end that she would begin working for this company for which we had both just applied on Monday morning and that she thought she did not stand a chance, especially since she was so late. I was stunned when I heard she confessed over the phone that going in to the interview she thought her lack of a degree would deter her efforts to get the job.            Now by this time, I was thoroughly upset and even considered going back inside to give a peace of my mind to the manager. But after one has dealt with racism so many times and in so many forms, he/she almost gets numb. That was what happened to me. I did not bother going back inside.          There are days that you want to kick and scream and yell, thinking that this is not what God had intended.            So, I agree with Peggy and her findings, mainly because I have lived so much of it—some of it was blatant racism and some were simply camouflaged. The truth is, whether any of us wants to admit it or not, we all are prejudice to some degree—be it because of what we were taught, what we think we know or our basic stereotyping of one race or people. I think that fear is the driving force behind racism. Fear that what you think you know might be true, or the fear that it might not be, and we are all the same. Remember, perfection is a relative term. But racism is one bad habit that MUST be uprooted.Also see Race really mattersNote: Makisha Peterson is a writer and specialist in race and diversity issues. She lives and works in Suburban Atlanta. She wrote this peace exclusively for CSMS Magazine.

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