Ignorance is not bliss—just ask Wendy Bell. Or, ask me for that matter, because there’s no doubt I’ve perpetuated speculation. I’ve also been on the receiving end of some rather presumptuous assumptions, too.
A white person from the great state of Mt. Lebanon, I’m approximately as fluent in race matters as a Smurf. My experiences are very much those of a person who was raised in a bubble ... But here I am weighing in.
While I wish to talk about matters of race as much as I look forward to addressing the birds and the bees with my kids, I do want to talk about the difference between what I think I know, and what I actually know.
No, I don’t think for a second that Wendy Bell has a white hooded robe in her closet ...
but I do believe that she made assumptions about people based on the color of their skin that serve no valuable purpose.
I also know that it’s not about being right or wrong in our assumptions, but in making the assumptions themselves.
Yes, I’ve assumed many things about people based on what I see on their outsides. I have routinely sidestepped the part about judging others by the content of their character, because, well, that’s time consuming.
And while I don’t ever recall feeling judged based on the color of my skin, I know I have been judged for other reasons. What this whole Wendy Bell debacle has afforded me is the opportunity to explore my own judgments and those that have been thrust upon me ...
And I have tales to tell:
“You must live with your parents.” --My first boss
So, my living arrangements, which were not what he assumed them to be by the way, somehow rendered me less deserving of a salary increase?
He might as well have said: Why should I give you more money? You’re going to get pregnant and quit anyway.
My 25-year-old non-litigious self walked out of his office thinking: What was that? My 43-year-old non-litigious self knows I could have made a huge stink about our little chat.
“She’s a moron.” --Me
I judge books by their covers all the time. It’s been awkward, mostly because I’m usually wrong. I like to think I know things about you. I don’t. It is only when I seek to understand you that I have a shot at establishing a real relationship in which I try to accept our differences and let you be exactly who you are.
I’ve always found it easier to put people in boxes where I think they fit best. It’s safe and protects me from cognitive dissonance. Turns out, cognitive dissonance is a really good friend to have. It is precisely when I think I know anything for sure that the universe steps in to remind me just how little I actually know for sure.
“You’re lucky. You don’t have to struggle with your weight.” --A hungry person doing Weight Watchers
I didn’t feel it was the appropriate time to launch into the horror story of my decade-long struggle with compulsive eating/exercising, anorexia and bulimia.
It didn’t seem like the moment to discuss the period in my teens and twenties in which every day and every meal was the kind of epic waking nightmare that made me wish for death.
No, I would have no idea what it’s like to struggle with my weight because I looked “thin” and “fine” and when things “look” a certain way, they must be a certain way ...
At least that’s a safe assumption to make, right?
Feel free to ask Wendy about that. But, for me, assumptions have never worked out very well, whether I’ve been the one making them, or on their receiving end.
So that Facebook Community that wishes to “Save Wendy Bell,” the one that’s selling t-shirts, at the very least, it’s reminding me how much I need to be saved from my own oft-misguided assumptions.