Perception Dictates Your Reality: My Personal Lesson from the 2016 Election
When I write a blog post, there’s a section in the web site editor on the right hand of my screen that says Categories where I can select the general topic I am writing about. These categories are created (by me) from over a decade’s worth of posts about a variety of things. Do you know what category doesn’t exist on my blog?
That’s because I don’t really post about politics that much. Those of you that know me in the “real world” have had chats with me about my views, the failure of the Electoral College system, and other elements about the education level of the general population of the United States for years. Speaking of Electoral College fails…
That’s right kids: the popular candidate with the most votes didn’t win. You don’t live in a democracy.
But I digress.
I already knew those things. I already know a LOT of things thanks to education, a regular diet of reading, and usage of critical thinking. Ego and arrogance for my intelligence are all well and good, but they are useless if I can’t admit what I don’t know.
This election actually educated me in a way I wasn’t expecting. Knowledge isn’t always in the form of good news, however, and sometimes information can be a hard pill to swallow.
I live a pretty amazing existence, and I’m thankful for it on a daily basis. Part of that amazingness (a large part) is due to the people in my life. My daily interactions put me in touch with a variety of humans from a diverse world. These people in my life, while varying in certain points of view, all tend to gravitate the same things I believe in: equal rights; non-discrimination; etc.
You know: common sense.
Now, there will always be extremes when it comes to opinions, and I’ve learned to accept that among my friends… even when I’ve felt that some of their viewpoints have been a little excessive.
(Stay with me; this is where things get interesting.)
I have black friends, gay friends, and other “politically categorized” friends in my circles that post regularly about discrimination and the hate that exists in the world. Now, I’m not stupid; I know that I’m sheltered from it thanks to being white, male, and living in the United States. I know that racism and bigotry exists… but not to the extent some my friends would post about. I mean, it’s not THAT bad, right?
Our perception dictates our reality, and I chose to believe my friends were seeing the world based on negative experiences; individual experiences don’t necessarily indicate the whole world, though. Just because on guy has a bad meal at a restaurant doesn’t mean the restaurant sucks, right?
Again: it’s hard to swallow for someone in my position. I did get a taste of being on the receiving end of this a couple of years ago when I visited Japan. While most of my interactions in that country were positive, I did experience the sense of exclusion that comes from people not wanting you around based solely on your skin color. One of the standout moments: I watched a Japanese family refuse to get in an elevator with my wife and I because we were white.
So where is this going? To the point: I thought the remnants of racism and misogyny were fragmented parts of society in the United States; I thought the people that still accepted the mindset that it’s okay to discriminate based on gender and race were few and far between.
Up until last night, I thought my friends who posted about/spoke about how horrible these issues were in our country were inflating the issue and were “paranoid”.
Well, as the saying goes, it’s not paranoia if it turns out to be true.
Almost 50% of our country felt it was okay to back a man who is openly misogynistic AND racist. While they might not all agree with that part of him, and just voted for him wanting “change”, it doesn’t hide the fact that we, as a country, are okay looking the other way on purely transparent discrimination… if it serves our needs.
In 2016, the United States Electoral College selected the lesser of two evils, and in doing so educated me that I’ve been sheltered in by an ecosystem of associates and friends that aren’t that ~50%… but now I’m fully aware that that other half isn’t a myth.
And it scares the hell out of me.