Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Judge Not, Lest You be Judged"

I have lived my life trying very hard not to judge others. Have I succeeded? For the most part, I hope so. Of course I am not perfect and there are times and situations where I have found myself being judgemental.

I was brought up to believe that we are all equal. My parents always had friends of different race, religion and family background. Prejudice was something I learned about later.

When I was in 6th grade, I got beat up for stepping into a conflict between black & white students, and suggesting we could all be friends. This pre-teen, not only introduced me to the term "honky-ass" she was disgusted that I had touched her. It was so upsetting to me. I had a difficult time understanding why she did not care for me and others with my skin color, when she did not "know" me. I felt if only given the opportunity, she would see we really had much in common. We ever shared the same name. It got bad, and eventually she was moved to another class. It was my first negative encounter between races. I was taught through out this ordeal, that it wasn't really about our difference in color, but our differences in how we were brought up and what we were taught from early on. I accepted the fact that Janice, was a negative sad person. If not the difference in our skin, perhaps she would not have liked me because of some other difference. I don't know. But I refused to allow it to change my opinion of people based on something like the color of our skin. I was Blessed to have friends of different backgrounds.

I went to high school between 1976-1980. Although I had friends that were African American, we did tend to stick to friends that grew up in the same neighborhoods and backgrounds for the most part. I had certain class and activities were we blended better, but thinking back, it was still separated with most things. I did not date outside my race, although I did outside my religion. We just didn't.

When I attended College, three of my room mates were African American. I would not have traded them for any other room mate. I loved these girls like my own sister and thought we would stay friends forever. We did so much more than just live together. We studied, played and played some more! I am so sad we lost touch. I am jealous of today's technology and the opportunities students today have to stay in touch. I am working on finding particularly Angela & Carmen, and hope that one day we will.

When I married Sergio, the thought of our different backgrounds, cultures, even religion (I converted to Catholicism right before we wed) didn't cross my mind. I was shocked and saddened by some of the comments I got. Even from our own family members (both sides).

While I encouraged my daughters to be kind, and taught them to be as non-judgemental as possible, I also tried to teach them to be cautious and smart. Okay to invite the quiet or new person to your circle of friends and get to know them and make them feel welcomed. But also know when to trust their intuition (Thank you Gavin DeBecker!) . Stay away from any meanies!

Once Emily came home from CYO camp, a happy little camper. She talked & talked about her new friend. I had asked her to describe the young friend. She did the best she could for a 10 year old. "She really pretty. She's funny. She is taller than me like everyone else. She has black hair. Oh she laughs really funny!" When Emily's pictures were developed and she shared them with me, I realized I had done well in teaching her the lessons Mom had taught me. As Emily is going through the pictures sharing stories, she pointed out her friends, and never batted an eye or thought to mentioned the new friend was an African American! It wasn't as important as, "she has a funny laugh".

When we switched the girls out of Catholic Schools and into Public, I had some reservations. Being a Gonzalez in a very small Hick town can present problems to uneducated classmates. The girls became the "tannest" girls in their school. Although their cousin also attended, she did not have a Hispanic last name. My girls got a taste of being teased, called "dirty Mexicans" as well as a few other choice words. They took it well, toughened up and barely batted an eye.

Once Em had a ridiculous Spanish teacher that often said things that were unacceptable. Emily handled it all well, Until the teacher crossed a line. He was making a point that "most Hispanic men come over to America and marry "Fat Ugly Women" to become citizens". Emily, shut her books, said she had heard enough. That he had no idea what he was talking about. That he was feeding into the stereo type problems, being disrespectful, and wrong. The teacher, told Emily, "he was just telling the facts." So, Emily, said something like, "let me tell you the facts, My DAD is from Monterrey, Mexico. And not only was his wife, My MOM, beautiful but she was also skinny!" With that said, she walked out of the class. The teacher at her heals, begging her to come back in and discuss calmly, that he did not mean it literally, etc. He realized he screwed up! What a loser! But, what a proud moment for us that Emily stood up to him and his stereotyping.

I feel this way about people that have different educated backgrounds, financial differences and lifestyles. I give everyone the same equal chance. I don't care what you come from. As long as you give me a fair chance, I will do the same. You don't have to be just like me to "like" you. I don't have to look just like you or be just like you. I love variety. I love making friends of different ages, backgrounds and cultures. I love to learn and I do my best learning around those that are different from me.

I won't judge you.

Well, I guess, I should say I wont cast the first stone. If you are crazy, mean, or just really annoying, I may secretly judge you, I may even blog about you, but I won't call you out or maliciously attack you!


A human kind of human said...

Oh Janice, what an excellent post. I live in South Africa and if you want to learn about racial and cultural differences and problems, this is the Harvard University for it. I find my self very much in the same boat as you. Colour, culture and origins do not define a person for me. The nature of the person does. However, over here you just do not form friendships over the colour/culture line. There is just too much baggage from our past still present, but I hope that we will learn to accept one another better in the coming generations.

Lori ann said...

If only we could get past this. Excellent post Janet.

I can imagine how proud you are of your girl. :)

JC said...

I've been very lucky to live on the West coast where everyone is blended.

I have always judged people on who they were and what they did. Never ever on the color of their skin.

I am amazed when I do hear someone say something out of line ..

My kids are like me. My son likes a girl with darker skin. I asked him where her parents are from. He said I don't think it's India but somewhere over there. As I walked away, I thought ... way to go .. he likes her for her .. I did good.

Oh, did you get the teacher fired ?

Anonymous said...

It is rather interesting for me to read the post. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read more soon.

Anonymous said...

It is extremely interesting for me to read that post. Thank author for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

Reya Mellicker said...

This is very powerful, Janis. Thank you.

Have you read Lynda Barry's book, "the Good Times are Killing Me" ?? All about her friendship with a black girl. Amazing story, like yours.

thank you!

sheri said...

Although I think we have come a long way since our childhood, I still find myself facing stereotypes every day.

♥ Teresa ♥ said...

What an amazing post. I have tried very hard to teach my girls the same thing and I have been very proud of them as well. God bless you.

Teresa <><