Today began differently than most of my Saturday mornings do in which I bask in the mellow steam of a cup of hazelnut coffee. In the process of looking for investment properties, I went to view a building with a couple people this morning on the northwest side of Chicago. On paper, the property looked great. The reality was everything but. There was a reason the asking price was so in reach. We made our way through three units, one of which was vacant. It was earlier in the day and the two tenant-occupied units had the families in them during the massive one hour allotted group showing. Each of us pardoned our way through living rooms with sleepy-eyed kids in pajamas and chemical-doused doorways, disconcertingly peering into bedrooms where people's personal lives unfolded. Both of the occupied units housed people of the same race. Although they were unrelated, their layout was much the same: black metal bunk beds, mounds of clothing piled in corners, the static notion of not quite being settled, a single mother with puffy folds under her eyes attempting to be cordial through a group invasion...
To me, this could be anyone. Bunk beds are always a good option when you have multiple kids, between having a job and the second shift, single moms are always tired, and if you have kids, you are bound to have clothes all over the place. That's a human thing, has nothing to do with race.
I knew the place wasn't for us as soon as we were shown the basement. Trying to find a place to invest in is less about how the people who inhabit it have chosen to decorate their home and more about the maintenance of the property itself. Tenants seemed fine, but the place needed work so I was out. When we finally left and regrouped to discuss the property outside, someone whom I love dearly and had come with me said something that shook me. "I don't know why these [insert type of people] live this way." This wasn't a thought or a whisper, she said it out loud with clear repugnance. I was embarrassed. I was peeved. I was so beyond words that all I could muster were small grunts of acknowledgement and murmurs of response to her thoughts during the car ride away. Once I had dropped her off, I delved into my mood and how it had changed completely. I have known this person for a long time and knew her to verbalize preconceived ideas about various races often, even though she is a minority herself. I would attempt to rectify her thinking whenever she did this, but hearing her say this out loud to someone who she barely knew has made me realize just how big of a problem this is.
In my last post someone asked me a tough question. What can you do when you have a racist or prejudice friend or relative? There is no easy answer. My solution is to verbalize your opinion to let them know where you stand but also realize that you won't be able to change the way most people think. This seems to hold true for me. I have expressed countless times to this person how wrong it is for them to lump an entire group of people into a box of stereotypes and preconceived notions but I have essentially gotten nowhere. Truthfully, as a minority who has encountered racism and battled people's prejudices against people of her race for so long, I think she thinks it's okay for her to do the same because people haven't shown her much mercy. Many minorities have probably found themselves in a place at one point or another where they are not being discriminated against but they still carry it with them and end up hyper-aware of themselves; their race, skin color, sex, etc.
I'm not excusing the way this person speaks about others. I am beyond disappointed in her but also in myself for not being able to elicit change in her way of thinking.
A curious thing happens to people who have been persecuted. Some become so enlightened that they make certain no one else is made to feel that way, at least by them. Others become so tired of being victimized that they interpret it as acceptable behavior and join in.
Is there a chance that a person who has experienced prejudice and racism shows no change at all?
How much difference is there really between being blunt and being prejudiced? Between keeping what you're thinking inside of you and saying it out loud?
I don't have the answers.
It all seems unjust to me.
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