Seeing people as people

I guess this started a while back during a conversation I had with my friend Pat about the prejudices we hold against others based on qualities we don't like (whether it be homosexual lifestyles, race, age, ect) and how it keeps us from seeing things as they really are. She said something to the effect of "They are human just like you and that's what matters. Whatever differences are there are trivial when you look at the beating heart beneath their skin - the fears, the hopes and the dreams - almost everyone shares these basic emotions and that is what ties use together." A week or two later I was reading a passage in the book 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life about empathy. It mentioned how we often hold grudges against others and end up, rather obviously harming ourselves more. What it suggested was to imagine that person - to get inside their head. To realize that just like you, they want to be happy, and that they deserve it. Just reminding myself of that on a daily basis has helped tremendously when dealing with disappointments from others. That was a good start, but it still didn't begin to help me to realize that I carry quite a bit of preconceived notions about lots of different types of people (some might be accurate, but it doesn't do me any good to dismiss them because of it - I often change who I am in response to it).

It kind of bothers me that it took drugs to actually apply those new insights, but I guess I should thank Tylenol PM anyway and just be grateful. A few weeks ago I was driving home (probably shouldn't have been after Tylenol PM) but through the mental fog I saw a group of black guys from the local black college walking across the street. Rather than scoffing that they were blocking traffic (which is what I would have done) I actually noticed that they were laughing and smiling and looked really, really happy. I saw them as healthy, strong people. It was subtle, but it was entirely different than any way I had seem them in the past. I know had I had I seen some strong athletic white guy in front of me I would have felt some mix of admiration/envy. I usually don't get these feelings towards black people. I think this is for two reasons - one I have been so blinded that I don't even recognize basic good, desirable qualities in other people (deep seated racism) or that I know that I know I have no desire to be a black person in American society (though it's certainly possible that both are true). If either is the case I shouldn't be happy with the situation.

I guess I just wanted to write this down, because I have been rather amazed at how quickly posting on here translates to a real change in my life. Even if only a few people read it, there is something very cathartic and therapeutic about saying it "out loud."  I guess I want to examine my own potential prejudices more closely. I should probably sit down with Tom and Judy Turnipseed sometime soon as I know they both went through similar transformations (from working with George Wallace to working to fight for black homeless people here in Columbia.). I am sure they have much to reveal.