Tuesday, 16 November 2004
I have been thinking. (I hear that collective groan from the audience! Hush!) Maybe you know, maybe you don't, that I have many friends of non-heterosexual persuasion. I do. I just don't think about it, but something Mr D once said to me lodged in my pointy little brain and came out the other day to pester me.
There is a produce stand near the condo where we used to live. The men who ran it were black. I used to go hang out and ogle all the pretty vegetables, and chat with the guy who managed it. He was there late, I usually was too, so we'd talk. Nothing major, just talk. He's from New Orleans, where we lived for a while, so we talked about that. I introduced him to my parents when they were in town. Once when I was walking by with my groceries at closing time I stopped and shared my beer with him. I was single, I had time and money to burn, and he's a nice guy with some good stories. I still go to that veggie stand, but he moved on to go open another one.
Mr D once told me that most people were quite wary of this man, and it was unusual that I was so friendly with him. I boggled, and I blustered, and then I thought about it. He's a fairly well-built older black man (probably in his late forties at that time, as I was in my late twenties). It's a non-black neighborhood (plenty of Asians though). So why wasn't I afraid of him?
I have a similar blind spot when it comes to sexual orientation or marital status or any of those individual "choices" upon which we're judged. I don't get it. And I don't see it a lot of the time. One of my college friends, a Jew, married a Chinese man. They were ostracized; she was asked in hushed, shocked tones if she was actually sleeping with that... that... that person. Me, I had no idea. I don't believe I've ever actually dated an Asian, but I did date a Black man (he was so hot). I grew up in some multicultural areas, I grew up among some highly prejudiced areas, and I grew up in some very white areas.
What I don't have is a sense of value, of judgement. It is what it is. It's a point of interest, some salt to the table, something to talk about. It's not a criterion in judging whether someone is a good person or not. The same goes for religion, too. It's something more to share, not something to divide ourselves up with.
And it's not that I'm so good and sweet and kind that I have decided not to judge people. I truly don't realize that there could possibly be an issue here. It always draws me up short to run into that kind of prejudice, because it so completely doesn't make sense to me that I can't even see it until I bump my nose into it.
At my uncle's party the day after the election (the night of much vomit), I was quite amused to find that almost every man I talked to that night was gay. I didn't plan it, and I know that two of my cousins being gay and my uncle being open-minded (nevermind, we're not going there) means there are plenty of them around at these occasions. The only other man I remember talking to was a republican who I managed to persuade that the Swift Boat Veterans were not actually united against Kerry (he was a veteran too). Me, I hang with the gay men and the lesbians. I've known there were such things since at least 6th grade (age 12), and I've always had the same attitude about it.
So it's been percolating for a while, this non-judgement thing I've got. I wish I could bottle it and make a spray. Just for a moment, to have someone with an irrational prejudice waver and think, but why? Where did this feeling of mine come from and why do I hold on to it? Plant that seed of thought and doubt. Because if we can perpetrate the truth that people are simply people and we're all different, we all matter, and what I have does not take away from what you have, we might be able to create a better future for this world.
Is it obvious to others that I don't judge? I don't like mean people, arrogant rude people who are mean simply because they can be. I'm not fond of spending a lot of time with people who aren't smart or who don't have any kind of intellectual life. But somehow I managed to grow up constitutionally incapable of thinking people are bad, wrong, lesser, or even really other, just because of who they sleep with or what color their skin is. I just can't. I see these things, about the same as I see age, hair color, shoe size, or taste in clothes.
I am reminded of my college reading of Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle, where I asked why the main character was always so surprised that people judged her (negatively, usually) for sleeping with women. I think I know, now. And I'm awfully glad I finally got here.
And you are all welcome in my world, as long as you're not mean-spirited or cruel.
If you want to: contact