In the words of the late great prophetic songwriter and singer Marvin Gaye, “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” When will we stop judging people and stop determining their value and their worth, based on what we see when we look at them, including the color of their skin (race), where they live, where they work, what they drive, what they wear, who they are connected to (class), their gender (sex/sexual orientation), and their youth or time etched on their faces (age)?
It might seem hard to believe that in the year 2013, people are still being treated less than human; they are hated, mistreated, and maltreated, based on the color of their skin, who they are, what they have or don’t have, who they know or don’t know, as well as where they live. But, unless you are one of the people who has been on the end of the hate spectrum, it would be difficult for you to understand their walk and their trials, all because they were made different. Just imagine if everyone looked like you or acted like you; what a boring world this would be!
And because there are differences in people, for over several hundred years, there have been too many people who have taken advantage of others by discriminating against them, based on their differences. On too many occasions, not only do these perpetrators discriminate, they tend to denigrate, and keep others from getting ahead in life, all because of their race, class, sex/sexual orientation, or age. Hence, Isms were born...racism, classism, sexism, and ageism. It is often perplexing to find that those who are in the habit of practicing Isms see nothing wrong with it, and cannot seem to understand why the victims of these Isms feel the way they feel, and act the way they act. Think about it; if you awoke everyday to find a target on your forehead, and others on your chest and your back, and a ton of hatred aimed at you, all because you are different; you would probably understand their feelings and their actins.
I know that for many, having to admit that there are major Isms infecting and affecting relationships within our country on a daily basis is quite difficult to accept. And there are many who would like to sweep them under the rug and pretend that they don’t exist. There is too much pain, shame and guilt associated with the Isms that have plagued our nation for so long. It seems easier to move through life, leaving cracks in the doors of life, rather than to talk openly and candidly about these Isms from the perspective of the victim. And if you are a perpetrator, you probably don’t want to hear it anyhow. But until we talk about racism, classism, sexism, and ageism, and decide to confront them, they will continue to destroy the very fiber of our nation.
If you are looking for evidence of some of the current Isms staring us right in the face within this country, here are a few. The Trayvon Martin case, which involved the murder of an unarmed African-American teenager who was literally stalked by his white perpetrator after the perpetrator was told by legal authorities not to follow him. But, because Trayvon looked different—black, young, and wearing a hoodie, he was singled out and labeled as a threat.
Further, this case included the prosecutor’s so-called ‘prime witness,’ Rachel Jeantel, a nineteen year-old African-American female, who was not only miseducated by the educational system, but was improperly prepared for the trial by the prosecutor, and had racial jokes made about her on social media. The culturally inept and culturally insensitive defense attorney, who opened the murder trial with ‘knock-knock’ jokes, disrespected her during cross-examination.
Sadly, those who have never been the victim of any of the aforementioned Isms find it difficult to see the racism involved in this case. If the perpetrator was black and the teenager was white, would this case be handled in the same manner? Most people tend to avoid talking about and admitting the truth about racism for fear of admitting that they are not perfect. Who is? If the shoe fits, it’s time to wear it and find a way to take it off for good as you confront your own Isms!
To talk about the Isms would involve talking about the truth. The truth is that we, as a nation, are still stuck in the throws of power, control, hatred, malice, disrespect, and the belief that there are majorities and minorities, and some who are not only privileged, but also entitled, at the expense of others. There are still too many who believe that the haves and the have not’s should be identified based on race, class, sex, and age. Although this is their truth, they are hampered from seeing and hearing the truth of those who are directly affected by these Isms.
Take a look at the racism and classism played out in the Paula Deen case, which unveiled a continuous disrespect and disregard for others in her employment. She used the ‘n’ word and other power tactics to keep her foot on the heads of others, all because they were different. Because of her race and her class, Ms. Deen began to believe that she had a free ticket to berate others, based on their race and their class.
A classic case of sexism played out in front of our eyes. It involved Texas State Senator Wendy Davis and the disrespectful attacks by Governor Rick Perry. Because of his position of power and his sex, Governor Perry believed he could use his words to not only disrespect, but to also disregard the accomplishments of Senator Davis and publicly humiliate her as a female who struggled as a single parent hood in order to become a State Senator.
There are many who still believe that one’s gender (sex and/or sexual orientation) should determine the value, the worth, as well as one’s lot in life. Come on; it’s 2013! When do we stop discriminating against others and stop excluding others from opportunities because of their race, class, se/sexual orientation, and/or age? For the victims who experience Isms on a daily basis, their idea of the American dream has become their American nightmare. It is time to take a stand and fight the Isms, particularly racism, classism, sexism, and ageism. Either you stand for something or you will fall for anything!
It is past time for us as Americans to take a panoramic and realistic view of the Isms within our own lives, especially racism, classism, sexism, and ageism. These Isms not only impact those you choose to disrespect, ignore, exclude from opportunities, and not include in your realm of reality; they impact future generations and our nation as a whole. The first step of healing and moving forward is to admit that there is a problem; then to admit your role in the problem.
It is time to recognize that without love for each other, hatred and discrimination will continue. We can begin to love others when we feel comfortable with loving ourselves. If you respect yourself, love yourself, and accept yourself, it makes it a lot easier to respect others, love others, accept others, and allow others to be themselves. Confront your fears of insecurity about who you are, and you will be able to move forward on the path to healing and accepting others for who they are. It is also important to recognize that what belongs to you belongs to you. You don’t have to fear that differences will allow others to encroach upon what you have. There is enough of everything for everyone!!!
Marcus Garvey once stated, ‘hurt the nose and the eyes cry.’ Hopefully, one day each of us will come to recognize that every time you engage in the practice of Isms, you not only hurt others; you hurt yourself, your children, and the world in which you live. None of us is as great as all of us!
Who have you discriminated against or do you continue to discriminate against, minimize or berate (knowingly or unknowingly) in an effort to elevate yourself while deflating others? The only time you should look down on anyone is when and if you are helping him or her up!
I challenge you today to become culturally competent; to stop perpetrating that you respect and accept people who are different from you, based on their race, their class, their sex, or their age. Just because you THINK you KNOW someone in these areas who is different from you because they work with you, or who has been to your home, does not mean you are Ism free! I further challenge you to rid yourself of hatred and take on the armor of love for all people, no matter what race, what class, what sex, or what age; this is what God created us to do!
Recognize that you are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Which do you choose today?!
· RACISM: The belief that race is the primary determinant of human capacity… especially the race of the person who holds the belief.
· CLASSISM: The belief that the economic/social status/class of the person who holds the belief is the primary determinant of human capacity.
· SEXISM: The belief that the sex/sexual orientation of the person who holds the belief is the primary determinant of human capacity.
· AGEISM: The belief that the age of the person who holds the belief is the primary determinant of human capacity. This could apply to the young as well as the elderly.