When you are around someone for many years, you think that after a certain amount of time you know about all there is to know. You have been friends, and like friends do you have probably argued, parted ways and made up, eaten out and visited together for movies and gone on vacations and such.
But then something deep -seated reared its ugly head- prejudice. And just like that, old ways intruded, the old ways promoted by our government, using our tax dollars, and funding the Census Bureau.
Representation is good, but not if someone is hurt or injured or further singled out because of the present laws and codes of the Census. It really is only for the purpose of counting the population, and no more. Anything else is an impediment to progress and achievement of a truly united United States.
If you have lost a friend thanks to prejudice and bias, thank the government. If you have lost business or been falsely accused because of those “protected status” labels, thank the government. If you have had it “up to here” with someone else labeling you and singling you out, thank the government.
I cannot begin to imagine how many potentially good relationships or even long – standing friendships and other unions have been damaged or completely broken and dissolved because of the biases and prejudices this nation has come to deem as acceptable.
II. WHERE YOU WORK SHOULD BE FREE OF BIAS AND PREJUDICE
Americans sometimes take for granted the privilege of having a job, and will put up with goodness knows what in order to keep it and grow in it.
Still, our government wants to make it complicated for people to begin and own a business. One look at the regulations dealing with the Census and the Small Business Association and those dealing with surveys of business owners shows that even though the owner might not think about his or her employees in terms of anything but a dedicated team, the surveys have something else in mind. The enumeration questions are hard deal with at times, especially when you as an owner pay no attention to race, color, gender, ethnicity, nativity, or other factors, when thinking about your staff. But the government wants to ruin that progressive thinking by sending you surveys that make you consider your staff in just those terms. Now you have to remark on who is what and what they do and such like items that in a way divide your staff in your mind.
But you can choose not to fill out the questions – you can say that such biases compromise other principles, or your ethics or morals or religion. You can take a stand against legalized prejudice.
The regulations of the Census Bureau have led to racial profiling and so much “legalese” that whenever we are out in busses, businesses, trains and when we fill out applications, we see the tangled web of the Census Bureau. Everywhere we turn we are buffeted by those signs posted and those disclaimers written, that the business or transit system will do its best to provide good service and not base the quality of service provided on “race, color, gender, national origin, religion or disability…”
But isn’t that what is happening in a subtle way? There is the wish not to discriminate, but the labeling words are right there in plain sight. We don’t want to treat you poorly because you look and act and dress differently from those who made those census act schedules that direct that the questions be answered and submitted with those categories in mind. You have to think of yourself in those terms because someone wants power over you or to regulate or categorize you for their own selfish and arrogant ends.
And then what happens? When you walk down a street, what does the approaching person do – pull their purse closer? What does the paranoid shopper do when you approach to look at something? Do they appear to guard their purchases or their bags? Thank the government and the Census Bureau. You could be just minding your own business or trying to see something on a shelf, as I was doing at a local liquor store yesterday. There was a man and a woman with a cart that had bags in it, and I came to look at something on a shelf. The guy could have moved the cart out of the way or asked if he could move it, but he moved very quickly as though to block me and guard the bags, like I was going to take them. I said nothing but went back around another series of shelves as I realized I had passed the item I sought.
It is a pity that we have allowed the terminology of separation to ruin our lives and our potential so awfully. So much has been wasted on the categorizing, the attempts at clearing out the collective conscience, the departmentalizing of the human being and the ruin of the human spirit. So much waste.
III. ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR PREJUDICES… AND CONQUER THEM
Most of us have grown up in a world riddled with prejudices, some of the effects of which we can see and some that are subtle in presentation and appearance. We see on the news, on the media spin that gives us more information than we need and that we sometimes want, the conflagrations arising around race and gender and certain preferences that cause some among us to be judged as having “alternative lifestyles”. Well, everyone to some degree has alternative lifestyles to someone else; we do make choices, every day, alternates… every day.
But when we use those biases and census schedule factors as excuses to not help someone or to perform a degrading or derogatory action and call it right or acceptable “because it’s on the census form and the government dictates that you are… this or that”, then there is a problem. Indifference and avoidance and denial take the place of compassion and love and grace, and someone might just die because those who stand around and who could help “do not look like that person”. “That person isn’t from my community so I don’t want to help them.” That is bigotry, and there is nothing good about it.
What does need look like, then? What does pain look like, then?
Many people take the stand for a post – racial America, and it is high time. The only race we need to think about is that which circles the athletic track.
When you can look at someone with civility and with compassion and with the caring thought of “sure, this is another person, and I am a person… cool deal.”, that is progress. When you can welcome everyone into your school or business or church or club with civility and understanding, that is progress. It is more than just being tolerant because “the government says so”; it is real and genuine peace of mind, no problem, no analyzing, no details needed. You are a human being, the person in your store or on that bus or in that airport or in your restaurant is a human being.
Civility – pass it on; don’t pass on it.
Divi Logan, Chicago, 2015.