Sunday, January 24, 2010

You Know What They Say About Assuming

See here’s the thing. I was born and raised in Washington DC. Dunno if you know this, but it’s a majority African American city. By like 65 to 35 percent. There is also great ethnic diversity there, being as we host the diplomatic missions of the countries with which the U.S. does foreign relations business, and being as there’s a significant immigrant community from Africa, Asia and South and Central America. And DC is only sixty square miles. That’s not much land when you consider a good deal of it is federal property and/or national parkland. Translation: we all get along not because it’s politically correct but because we have to. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it most of the time (or at least no worse than several other major cities I could name).

Then there’s how I was raised. Which was to judge people not by their appearance but by the content of their character. That’s not open for debate in my household. (And I would argue that it’s neither liberal nor conservative to hold such values—it’s human.) Oh, and I’m Italian American and Catholic too, a background that has historically been treated less than kindly by the white Protestant majority. Just sayin’…

So here’s the thing—why do you continue to say hateful racist crap right in front of me and act like I’m supposed to agree with you? Why do you do it when I’m at work where you know I can’t answer or even acknowledge such comments because I’ll be fired, where my silence looks like assent but is anything but? Come on; don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

I don’t know if you have gotten the memo, folks, but there’s a man of mixed racial background in the White House. A man duly elected by a majority of the people who bothered to vote. I don’t care if you agree with him. I don’t care if you like him. I don’t necessarily like or agree with every policy coming out of the Obama White House either. But here’s the thing—I respect the office, and I respect that the will of the American people put him there. And further, I form opinions about him based on fact, on reading different points of view, applying my own life experience and insight, and coming to my own conclusions. I know you probably will just accuse me of being a “socialist” or whatever because I say such things (whether or not you understand what such labels really mean is a whole other question). I don’t expect that you’ll see me in any way except the way you’ve been taught to see me, to judge me as you seem to be judging our president and people of color in general--solely on appearance.

But here’s the thing, and it’s the only thing I’ll ask of you: don’t put words in my mouth, and don't assume. Don’t assume you know jack about me or who I am or where I’m coming from or what I believe based on what I look like, where I work, how I’m dressed or anything else. Don't assume that you speak for me just because I am silent. Got me? Don’t assume. Because I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a saying about assuming things, and frankly it doesn’t reflect upon you very kindly. So the next time you see me, kindly think twice before you open your mouth.

That is all.

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