Because sometimes what you think is a dirty racist look isn’t really a dirty racist look at all:
I feel like people don’t give this country enough credit to show truly how embracing of people it really is.
[...] Last year, we were driving down the highway in Georgia and we found this Confederate flag shop and we pulled inside and we saw these three guys sitting outside giving us this dirty look, right in the heart of southern Georgia. I stepped out of the car and as soon as I stepped out these guys were like “Hey! Welcome! Make yourself at home! Great weather today, isn’t it?” And we had this great conversation.
And here I was thinking that these guys were gonna be prejudiced towards me, but I was actually the one being prejudiced towards them, thinking that they were racist or bigoted and backward, that kind of thing. Granted, this was a Confederate place, we all know the history of the Confederacy. These guys were very kind to us, and I can only hold them accountable for how they were treating us.
So this whole idea of what is the cultural baggage that I bring to the table [...] was something that I was reflecting on a lot — this whole idea of [...] how I am perceiving other people that view me as opposed to what is actually happening in reality.
That’s Aman Ali — co-creator, with Bassam Tariq, of the video project “30 Mosques in 30 Days” — telling The Takeaway host Celeste Headlee what he thinks of a new Pew study showing that Muslim-Americans are more optimistic about America than the general population, despite the very real hardships and discrimination they experience. And what caught my attention was the point Ali raises, which in my opinion isn’t raised often enough: that sometimes, sometimes, we perceive prejudice where none exists. That’s something that, as a minority, I’ve been guilty of myself; it’s taken me a while to realize that an argument or frosty relationship can’t always be blamed on the imagined bigotry of the other party. Sometimes it’s not about race. And sometimes it’s my fault.
Yes, racism remains a real problem in America — less open and virulent than in times past, but a serious problem still. Yes, it’s important to have debates over what is racist and what is not (see, for instance, the conversations around whether The Help, a movie that criticizes racism, unwittingly engages in racism itself). And yes, it’s important to listen to minorities when we describe our perceptions and experiences, to make sure we have the space and time to air our views without being dismissed or drowned out by dominant white perspectives.
But I think it’s just as important to remember that we are none of us infallible saints. And the color of my skin alone doesn’t automatically make my views correct, any more than it invalidates the thoughtful, well-considered opinion of someone who happens to be white. The conversation is what’s important — and in a grownup conversation, everybody has a turn, and everybody listens.
Sometimes we need to recognize and call out prejudice not just in others, not just “in society,” but in ourselves. And that’s true no matter what color we are.
(Photo via Arabian Business)