Would You Scold Me For Letting a Repairman Into My House?
I have unlocked my car door when passing a vagrant to prove to him, and myself, that I wasn’t judging him to be a criminal just because of his circumstance. I try very hard not to live by pre-conceptions, because they are almost always uninformed. I say hello to anyone in my path, regardless of what they look like. I may even overcompensate. See, crazy-looking dude! I’m saying hello, not averting my eyes. I abhor profiling whether it’s based on sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or what your favorite stuffed animal was when you were in elementary school. (I loved koala bears until I realized they were vicious little bastards.) I dream of a world that embraces equality and diversity. I want everyone to be able to marry whoever they want to. I think dogs and cats should live together. I am not threatened by the practice of different religions. I believe we all benefit from inclusion, not exclusion. I don’t think anyone is going to hell based on their beliefs, or mine. I breathe, therefore I judge, but I try not to pre-judge. I am an educated, middle-class (whatever the hell that means) caucasian woman. My worldview is based on my experiences as such. I’m cynical, but trusting. I try not to take shit too seriously.
So here’s what happened. Over the course of my morning, I read a very thought-provoking article about Rape Myths by Beverly Donofrio. She pointed out that as a society, we subliminally hold ancient prejudices about a woman being at least complicit in any rape by dressing or acting provocatively, by not being sufficiently wary, or by incautiously walking down a deserted street, among other “offenses”. I live in a condominium building and was working at my desk alone when someone unexpectedly knocked on my door. I opened the door and a muscular gentleman wearing a florescent yellow utility vest emblazoned with a company logo I didn’t recognize greeted me. He introduced himself and explained he needed to read the electricity meters in the basement, which only condo owners have keyed access to. I quickly offered to let him in the basement, which is slightly creepy (the basement, not the gentleman). I thought about the foolishness of escorting a stranger into a basement with a door that locks behind you and multiple rooms and spaces. I’m also a defiant person, and I refuse to be rattled by an irrational fear that all men must want to rape all women when given the opportunity. It would be as ludicrous as thinking a woman consented to rape because she was drunk or wearing a tube top. As if men think, “You know, I’m getting sort of a rapey vibe from this lady, and she did let me into the basement after all. I’ve got a little time to kill. I think I could squeeze in a rape this morning.” I suspect most men are probably more interested in doing their day job and watching Sports Center. The stranger followed me to the basement, read the meters, thanked me and left in his work truck. That’s all that happened. That was the sum of our exchange and short relationship.
Only in my mind, there were all sorts of rogue thoughts I couldn’t control. It was like the Stay-puft marshmallow man from Ghostbusters. The thoughts jumped into my head before I could stop them, and I felt ashamed. You see, the man was black. I wanted to say something to him. I wanted to acknowledge the ancient prejudices about black men and apologize for the times I suspected someone didn’t open the door to him precisely because he was a black man. Fresh from reading an article about rape, I would also have been wary if I’d opened my door to a white man, but that’s not the point. The point is how does anyone stand a chance? If a highly-motivated, self-proclaimed open-minded and tolerant person still has an instinctive thought about someone based on their gender &/or appearance, even if I instantly dismiss the thought and refuse to act upon it, how are we, as a society, ever going to truly know each other? Refusing to act on it doesn’t make me evolved. I will only be truly evolved when I think about what a bright vest the dude at my door is wearing.
I accept your Mother Stick! I KNOW we have evolved beyond our parent’s generation.
OK, now I’m going to shake my Mother stick at you and say, NEVER go down in the basement with someone you do not know. Sorry. Having made that decision many times, I am sticking with it.
Have you ever read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell? Great book…works all around this issue.
We can only try to evolve, REALLY try. But we are limited. I think we have evolved beyond our parent’s generation, and our children will be better at this than we can be. But we should just keep trying, all of us.