Posts Tagged ‘prejudice’

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Sincere Reflection

May 3, 2017
I am biased. I think the new catch phrase is “implicit bias” and as a new para-educator I am supposed to be looking at that.
I am prejudiced too.
I think I resist even admitting those two things because usually someone will also throw in that I am closed-minded, racist, bigoted, Bible-thumping, hateful and hate-filled.
But I was having a conversation (if you want to call it that) with another parent volunteer the other day and at the end of it, I felt convicted and rightfully guilty.
It started simple enough. I was propping my feet up because they were swollen and hurting and as a responsible and reasonable adult I could not take any meds to allievate the pain and still drive my child around. This began my discourse into my current medical state–a journey that began last December when on the job I picked up pneumonia. This parent I was speaking to had indicated a fairly decent amount of medical knowledge so I knew she understood when I named my condition and the medications I take that weaken my immune system. And I know everyone understands that a school is a cesspool of nasty germs.
My assignment at the time was a difficult one with the most challenging students. I actually learned a lot about myself–that I could do something I never had the intention of doing before, that I could be an advocate even if I didn’t have the license or title behind it, that I had things to offer.
But none of that matters if I say, “This has been a horrible year for illness and THOSE PARENTS, you know, they send those kids to school so sick.”
I think that is the moment I lost all credibilty and respect in my listener’s eyes. It didn’t matter what else I said. Because after she let me ramble on about how the pneumonia turned into three back-to-back sinus infections followed by tonsilitis and now because I couldn’t take my necessary meds I was in the worst flair since I was diagnosed…. she told me she had one of those kids. Not school-aged yet, but she was one of THOSE PARENTS.
Usually I reserve my bias and prejudice until I have multiple interactions to form an opinion. I am an introvert that avoids anything that makes me uncomfortable so I gravitate to what I know. It doesn’t mean I fear or hate or whatever people that are different from me (be it looks or lifestyle or status). It just takes me longer to get to know others and feel comfortable. Often I really have no opinion or feelings either negative or position about people I meet.
But my negative bias, prejudice, opinion, comes from a negative experience. I would like to say often I give people and experiences multiple tries before I write them off or have negative bias and prejudice. But not always. Rather than expressing any kind of sympathy or understanding for THOSE PARENTS, I blamed them for my current medical condition and swollen, painful feet.
Just by labeling them THOSE PARENTS.
And I can’t even say it was the pain talking. I had used the phrase before. While I may have had nods of understandin from those listeners–I wonder how many were thinking, “Wow! I can’t believe she said that!”
I don’t think there is any “politically correct” and un-biased way of saying parents who send their children to school put many at risk without really considering that maybe, just maybe, some of those parents (and children) do not have a choice. I have sick leave that, while precious given my health, I can take and not worry about losing my job. What if THOSE PARENTS don’t? My children are healthy–what’s the phrase “neuro-typical” and in fact are high achievers. I’ve never not known what to do with them, really. Only once post-op did I call the grandparents to come get them because I couldn’t physically take care of them yet. What a luxory!
It is okay to have opinion. It is okay to have and to exercise judgement. It is okay to have a preference for what we like and do not like. But when we do not “walk a mile” in their shoes and we say things to separate ourselves from individuals or groups just because we had an unfortunate experience… we are biased and prejudice and we may not even know it.
And I did not like the mirror held up to me because of my own actions. And she didn’t have to say a word.
I truly hope I learn from this and grow in compassion and understand how my biases and prejudices shape me and influence what I say and do. And I hope that I will be better and set a better example for my children.
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My daughters and I have had conversations about race and prejudice. Sure I don’t know what it is like to have anyone look at me in fear and distrust because of the color of my skin but please don’t make a blanket statement that I have to be racist because of the color of my skin. If anything, I’d say I’m “situationally biased”. If I were to find myself in a dark alley–I’m not looking at your skin color; I’d be fearful of anyone I’d meet in that alley from the smallest Asian man to the tallest white woman. I’d even say I’m probably a classist–is that a thing? Again, it doesn’t matter the color of your skin if you look the part. Are you dressed like a homeless person or a contributing member of society? Are you dressed like a prosti-tot or an honor student? Are you dressed like a thug or like a entrepreneur?
And it is these attitudes that I need to temper and soften and give people more benefit of the doubt and stop seeing it as me (or us) and THOSE PEOPLE.
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