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My Hair Color is not Who I Am

Clarksville, TN – How many times a day do we look at another person or hear him speak and judge who we think this person to be? Our prejudices filter people when we first look at them.

If that other person has on baggy pants or has a hair style we consider wild, we may even cross the street to avoid him. If we hear someone speaking English with a foreign accent, we may have preconceived ideas about that person even if we’ve never had any interaction with her.

Our experiences form our prejudices based on the type of interactions we have or those our family has instilled in us. Most racial prejudice is learned at home. Overcoming our fears—and fear is the basis of all prejudice—is not easy.

We form these ideas—many of which are totally mistaken—as a means of self-protection. We believe that harm can come to us through interaction with those who look, sound, and behave differently that we have been taught is the proper way to behave.

How many times a day do we look at another person or hear him speak and judge who we think this person to be? Our prejudices filter people when we first look at them. If that other person has on baggy pants or has a hair style we consider wild, we may even cross the street to avoid him.

If we hear someone speaking English with a foreign accent, we may have preconceived ideas about that person even if we’ve never had any interaction with her.

Our experiences form our prejudices based on the type of interactions we have or those our family has instilled in us. Most racial prejudice is learned at home. Overcoming our fears—and fear is the basis of all prejudice—is not easy.

We form these ideas—many of which are totally mistaken—as a means of self-protection. We believe that harm can come to us through interaction with those who look, sound, and behave differently that we have been taught is the proper way to behave.

Overcoming our prejudices can be attained only by replacing them with new knowledge. It is documented that in hiring, the greatest prejudice is against people who are overweight. Weight and intelligence have no correlation whatsoever. Some of the most intelligent people I know could be considered even obese, but that has nothing to do with their powers of reasoning on subjects other than how much to eat!

Each of us dresses according to customs of those around us. If I were a Southern lady in the 1950s, I would not have gone shopping without wearing a dress, hat, gloves and high heels. That was the custom of “refined” ladies during that period. If I wore that today to shop, I would be considered someone who might need to be locked up in a mental institution for my own safety.

None of us can ever truly know another person in every aspect of that person’s psyche. We can’t see the secret desires of the hearts of others. We can’t know the fears that drive them to behave in certain ways.

What we can do is give the other person a fair chance. We can withhold judgment until we get to know the person.

That doesn’t mean that we ignore a person who is headed towards us with a knife pointed in our direction. The old “fight or flight” response is still valid in that situation.

It does mean, however, that we don’t automatically assume that a person whose skin is not the same color as ours is an evil being. It does mean that even if a person came from a different culture, we couldn’t learn to be friends.

Each of us wants to be valued; in order to get that kind of response from others, we need to be willing to give the other person a chance to be valued too.

We aren’t who we are on the outside; we are all spiritual beings temporarily in our human body. We are all traveling the school of life, seeking wisdom, and growing day by day.

Be careful in choosing the filters through which you see others; those same prejudices will come back when people value you.

The first chapter of my book, Seven Keys to a Successful Life, contains the following poem I wrote:

I am not the color of my hair,
Nor my eyes, nor what I wear,
The skin around me covers me
But I am not whoever you see.

My home may be a tent or cottage small,
Yet where I live does not tell all
Of who I am or why I’m here.

The words you hear me speak today
May n’er reveal what I could say
Of all the depths inside me hidden
Or the truth I know, now written.

I am a spirit, soaring free.
I came to Earth to learn, to be.

What is my name, it matters not.
The Truth of me is what I sought.

My life is but a school for me
To grow, become
To seek
To be.

Sue Freeman Culverhouse
Sue Freeman Culverhousehttp://culverhouseart.com/
Author of Tennessee Literary Luminaries: From Cormac McCarthy to Robert Penn Warren (The History Press, 2013) Sue Freeman Culverhouse has been a freelance writer for the past 36 years. Beginning in 1976, she published magazines articles in Americana, Historic Preservation, American Horticulturist, Flower and Garden, The Albemarle Magazine, and many others. Sue is the winner of two Virginia Press Awards in writing. She moved to Springfield, Tennessee in 2003 with her sculptor husband, Bill a retired attorney. Sue has one daughter,  Susan Leigh Miller who teaches poetry and creative writing at Rutgers University. Sue teaches music and writing at Watauga Elementary School in Ridgetop, Tennessee to approximately 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She also publishes a literary magazine each year; all work in the magazine is written and illustrated by the students. Sue writes "Uncommon Sense," a column in the Robertson County Times, which also appears on Clarksville Online. She is the author of "Seven keys to a sucessful life", which is  available on amazon.com and pubishamerica.com; this is a self-help book for all ages.
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